Neat

I am not a big fan of New Year’s resolutions. Grandiose goals doomed to failure.

And January 1 is just another arbitrary day, not much unlike any other. Birthdays, anniversaries and holidays never seemed particularly unique to me either. Over-emphasizing certain days only seems to under-value other days. I think every day is special.

Not to say I don’t have resolutions, for I certainly do. However, they are not specific items in list-format, only to be pondered at the turn of a calendar. Rather, it is a frame of mind that permeates everything I do, every moment of every day.

Simply put, for the last several years, my goal has been to be a better man. Easy to remember, not always easy to do. A beautiful ambition, flexible as necessary; what is good for one context may not fit another. For example, being a good father has meant not always being the best at my career, or even personal relationships when tough choices had to be made. Life is a constant balancing act. Yet the aim persists…be a better man.

“Better” implies a continual effort to improve. I don’t say “best” because it’s a journey not a destination. And it is livable ambition not trying to be perfect. Nor can I ever say “okay I’m there” and become complacent.

I’ve made a substantial improvement in my fitness and obviously know I need to keep at it. Don’t need an annual resolution for that. I already know what I must do, it’s built in to the concept of better. I’ve certainly improved my attitudes and behavior, most notably dealing with anger and depression. I guess it took losing a 25-year marriage for me to take a hard look inward and identify problems. I may still be shy and socially awkward, but I seem to be better at making and keeping friends. Even relationship-wise, despite evidence to the contrary with my recent crash-and-burns, I know I have what it takes. Feel ready for a fresh start with the right girl. Just have to find her.

Lately, I identified and have been working on “neatness” as the better-man aspect most needing attention. “Neat” is a deceptively simple word. Covers a number of critical realms for me. Upfront it means personal cleanliness and hygiene. Duh. But neat also encompasses the fitness angle, being out-of-shape appears slovenly, the antithesis of neat. Neat also includes housework. Another duh. But I want to move beyond cleanliness with a decorating style that shouts neat. Even when things are picked up, a room can somehow still appear random and messy. I’ve had enough messy, I want to be done with messy. I know life with kids and pets can be messy by default, but even so, I want neatness.

Neat also means organized, Traditionally a problem area for me. I could use organized as a keyword, but it just doesn’t cut it. For example, I could organize papers on a desk into distinct little process piles, but it still wouldn’t be neat. What is called for is a systems approach, with the old-fashioned theme of “a place for everything and everything in its place.” Organizational tools are called for, whether trays and files for paperwork, a closet system for clothes, or bins, shelves and cabinets for the garage.

Decluttering must go beyond mere organizational tools to a state-of-mind. With paperwork, try to handle each document once if possible, and be done with it. Don’t shuffle something from one back-burner to another indefinitely. Face it, deal with it, file it. Don’t let dirty dishes pile up in the sink to be dreaded. Wash ’em as you go. With clothes, take a hard look at what doesn’t fit right, what doesn’t get worn, cull and donate the surplus.

The garage is the biggest challenge, with a lifelong collection of parts and tools. Borderline hoarding. Too much like my father for comfort. Having to deal with all his crap has been an eye-opening experience. No, we don’t need old parts for 2-cycle Saabs we haven’t raced for over 30 years. The fine art of throwing things out. Applying this lesson to my own life. All in the name of neatness.

Also working on mental neatness. I have always been a little scatter-brained, with random ideas flying all over the place. And not smart enough to be considered an absent-minded professor. Never had an attention-deficit diagnosis, being from a time before such labels, but I suppose the shoe kind of fits. Sadly, the condition has seemed to worsen as I’ve gotten older. However, with carrying a little notebook and writing stuff down as I go, my focus has improved. Not trying to juggle so much mental clutter frees me to concentrate more, and live in the moment. On my journey to being a better man.

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