A clean slate, fresh as the fallen snow. With the Yuletide bacchanalia and oh-why-not-it’s-the-holidays overindulgence behind us, we open a brand-new volume full of blank pages and resolve to do things a little differently this year.
When this annual chapter of the tale gets recorded, we’re not going to have nearly as much messy scribbling between the margins, trying to obscure passages we’d rather forget.
No pages full of random, boredom-borne doodles because nothing interesting happened to take down. No cringe-worthy typos will sneak past our internal editors, and loose, unresolved, often pointless plot threads will be eliminated.
This is the year our personal narrative’s going to start making a little more sense, be just a little more polished, amirite?
Truth is, we can choose any given day of the year to make a resolution to change ourselves for the better.
We could declare on, say, March 15th, from that point forward, that we’ll stop inhaling every morsel of junk food that isn’t nailed down so that our wastelines stop expanding like urban sprawl.
Or on August 22nd, firmly state that we will not, under any circumstances, get involved in a personal relationship that involves a borderline sociopath as our ‘better half’.
September 17th: solemnly swear that there’s no more giving into that strange and inexorable compulsion to shave geometric patterns into the fur of yaks that we come across.
(I know, it’s amazing — it’s like I just looked into your soul, right? You are not alone, friend.)
But we pick New Year’s as that perfect time to try to make a contract with ourselves. There’s a psychological power in that date: 1/1.
Comic book fans know all about the pull of number ones, or first issues. This is why publishers continually restart and renumber even long-running and historic series, because no one wants to jump on board and feel like they’ll forever be trying to catch up with what they missed.
A first issue is a clean start, exciting and new. There may actually be extensive backstory involved — decades’ worth — and the characters could be well-worn icons, but that number one on the front somehow feels new and fresh.
It’s hard to resist the lure of getting in on the ground floor of The Incredible Hubert #1, or the all-new, all-different Astonishing Caroline #1.
Amazing Bob #478 or Uncanny Susan #694 may have attractive, appealing covers, but in the end . . . those series up in the triple-digits have an awful lot of back issues to make reference to and deal with.
Sing along, kids! You know the melody:
Sleeps in as much as he can
Has a latte, venti-sized
If be-fore noon, he must rise
Look out! Here comes the Blogger-Man
Is his alec smart? Listen, bub:
He’s got dripping sar-casm for his blood
Can he zing? Any-time!
He can even write a catchy rhyme
In the dead of night
He’s up most the time
Fresh air gives him fright
He’ll be in-side, on-line
Nerdy internet Blogger-Man
Wealth and fame he would hoard
He may be broke but never bored
He got so many hang-ups
Wherever there’s a post up
You’ll find the BLOOooOoGER-MAaaaN!
That was fun. Now, where were we?
Oh, yeah. New Year’s resolutions.
I’m not bothering with them this year.
Not because there aren’t things I want to change about myself, and my life. There are, and a lot of them. But I also know myself all too well.
I’m not going to bother making promises to myself that never seem to stick. It’s the equivalent of a peaceful protest, marching back and forth with hand-lettered signs and chanting cute slogans in front of the problem areas, in the hopes of somehow shaming them into submission.
Those fatcat problems inside, sitting up there in their swank boardroom on the top floor of my mind?
They don’t care about bad PR, and they’re not threatened in the least by that show of passive-aggressive behavior down below. They’ve been installed there long enough to know that all those hippie change-the-world types, no matter how ferverent, eloquent, dedicated, and passionate they may seem, will eventually lose their resolve.
It’s January now, so the dissenters are fresh and full of vigor and vinegar. Give them until March, maybe April. The pro-get-a-life supporters’ numbers will dwindle and eventually the rabble rousers will pack it in and go home.
And then the Board of Dysfunction can get back to business as usual: enforcing the status quo and keeping me on the same dissatisfactory path that I’ve been on the past several years. The Procrastination Party has been in power for quite some time, and the idea of a regime without them seems completely and unfathomably alien.
Nope, this year, the chanting and sign-making is all done.
Deeds, not words is my motto for 2013. I don’t need an overanalyzed, hyper-detailed, well-researched action plan full of bullet points and slick Power Point presentations.
I need action. Psychological bullets.
Revolution, not resolutions.
Light the fuse on a philosophical molotov and hurl it right through the boardroom window.
Disrupt my own modus operandi.
The Board has had their chance to gradually acquiesce to improving the conditions around here, and negotiate a more peaceful and painless transfer of power.
Now they can just scatter like singed cockroaches and wish they’d have taken the time to meet with the protestors, because the rabble milling around outside now is armed with more than just posterboard stapled to sticks, and their mood is downright ugly.
The problem is, though, is that someone has to lead the revolution, or you just end up with mass anarchy and random looting.
I’m a nerd, and one of the key personality traits of a nerd is a sense of hyper-self-awareness. My default setting is to overanalyze things. If I have a decision to make, it usually has to go past an entire subcommittee for debate and ratification, while they try to extrapolate all the possible permutations and outcomes.
This process, if visualized, would look something along the lines of this:
That’s not going to be very effective, or nearly efficient enough for my purposes. With them, it’ll be late spring before we even get the ball rolling, and I want this year to end with me looking back and being fiercely proud of at least a few of the things I’ve done and accomplished.
So, what I’ve done is pointed to one of the advisory voices in my head and said, “You. You’re in charge. We’ve temporarily suspended the constitution and the system of checks and balances, and for the time being, we’re giving you absolute power.”
I call this little personality construct ‘el Presidente’.
el Presidente is a mash-up of bits and pieces of my psyche that don’t normally share synaptic space. He’s unflinching resolve in the face of adversity. This dude will stand there and stare down the barrel of a tank without blinking. He does not care what the hey-chill-bro-relax easygoing parts of my normal demeanor reflexively want me to do. He eats anxiety for breakfast with a side of extra crispy stress and washes it down with a huge mug of don’t-give-a-damn, then goes about planning his day.
He’s the egotistical, narcissistic bits of me turned up to eleven. Rumor has it he may be just a smidge sociopathic. He’s going to wade into the chamber where my OCD tendencies are like an out of control laser apparatus, swinging wildly and gouging deep scorch marks in the walls, and use that as weapon to obliterate obstacles and melt them into slag.
el Presidente wants nothing less that the little banana republic I call a brain to be acknowledged and recognized on the world stage.
And the only thing he’s looking to negotiate is the bullhorn around the ever-present cigar he’s chomping on as he barks out amplified orders to storm the gates and take absolutely no prisoners.
If he has his way, each and every member of the Board of Dysfunction is going up against the wall.
No blindfold, no last cigarette. If they’re lucky, they’ll get bulldozed into a mass grave instead of their rotting corpses left for the wolves.
Now, this probably sounds a heck of a lot weirder than just, you know, making New Year’s resolutions like everyone else. (And thank you: I usually take ‘weird’ as a compliment. Seriously . . . scroll and click around this digital clubhouse for a little while.)
It makes perfect sense to me, though, to cultivate an inner dictator.
The biggest reason is I’m not going to like or enjoy some of the things I’m going to need to do differently or change about my attitudes or my daily habits. I have a pretty large end goal in mind, so short-term ‘punishment’ in order to hit a milestone isn’t easily justified.
And I’m *real* good at bargaining with myself to give me an out. I’ve had forty years of practice. With ‘el Presidente’, I have a scapegoat.
” It’s not me making us uncomfortable, ” I can turn to myself and say when he issues edicts and the groaning and whining starts. ” It’s him. You got a problem, take it up with him. And while you’re in his office, confidently and rationally stating your position as to why we shouldn’t change and things should remain the same-old, same old, and he’s slowly reaching for the desk drawer while not breaking eye contact with you . . . ”
Handling el Presidente as if he were a character in a story I was writing is a much more attractive proposition, and very appropriate, since writing — or lack thereof — is what brought this whole inner conflict to a head.
To be continued . . .
Thanks for swinging by Public Domain, and welcome to the first installment of our new ongoing feature, The reWrite Chronicles, which will be debuting all weekend. Check back Saturday, January 26th for Part 2.