My third and final word for the year is “Today.”
Kim and I went on our first date thirty years ago today.
Seven months after that we decided to just see each other and a year after that we were married but those are stories for another day.
Our journey towards a long and mostly happy marriage didn’t begin with that first date. It started with little conversations in the hall and stopping by her office for coffee.
We didn’t have text in those days. We barely had email. If you wanted to have a quick chat with someone you either picked up the phone or you went to see them.
I don’t remember us ever talking on the phone a lot in the early days.
When I got serious about losing weight last year I discovered that, no, I’m not big boned - I’m actually overweight.
The bones weren’t really the issue so much as all of the stuff between them and my outer skin.
Anyway, people with my build don’t need to be told we’re heavy. We know. And we don’t need to be told what to do about it - generally, we know that too.
But there are disagreements about the right approach and one of the biggest disagreements are whether to make big changes or small changes.
I’ve seen both work.
Dean Ornish argues that it’s easier to make big changes than small ones. Say you’re trying to give up sweets. He argues that if you just reduce the amount that you eat that yes it’s better for you but you don’t lose your appetite for them.
I’ve come to believe in big commitments in small steps.
Go ahead and decide to give up meat. That’s a big commitment. But do it meal by meal. Say to yourself, tonight at dinner, I’m not going to have meat. Or more positively, tonight at dinner, here’s what I’m going to have and enjoy - where those things aren’t meat.
I don’t know how Kim got interested in Reiki but I know that when the nuns at Ursuline College’s Sophia Center began offering courses in it, she decided to sign up.
When she was pregnant with Elena, Kim asked me to take the class as well and so I signed up.
I never could look at someone and see the colors that characterized their energy. I don’t know that I ever bought into all of the ideas behind the practice - but I do know that I was able to calm people by using it.
Perhaps a comforting hand on a shoulder without using Reiki would have had the same effect.
But the thing that I liked the most about Reiki were the way you committed yourself to the principles.
Never mind what the principles were. You started each one by saying, “Just for today.”
I wonder if this was familiar to Kim as she’d spent much of her youth repeating some version of “give us this day our daily bread.” A prayer repeated at least daily that focused on making adjustments for today.
Big commitments. Small steps.
What happens when we say, “I’m never …” finished with whatever bad habit we’re trying to kick.
What happens when we say, “From now on I’m going to …” finished with whatever good habit we’re trying to adopt.
We mostly prepare ourselves for failure. Someday we may repeat our bad habit or fail to do our good habit.
But if we say, “Today I won’t …” or “Today I’m going to …”
Then on the day that we don’t live up to our promise, we pause and acknowledge it. And tomorrow we say again, “Today I won’t …” of “Today I’m going to …”
Maybe we reflect back on our successes of yesterday - but when tomorrow becomes today, we have a clean slate to work with. Yesterday’s accomplishments may prepare us for today’s successes but we have to do the work today.
Maybe we reflect back on why we had difficulties yesterday - but when tomorrow becomes today, we have a clean slate to work with. Yesterday’s failures may inform us for today’s successes but we have a fresh chance to get the work done today.
At the end of each show, Charles Laquidara used to sign off with his riff on Hank Williams lyrics from “If the good lord’s willin’.” Charles would say something like, “If the creek don’t rise and the good lord’s willin’ and there ain’t no meltdown, we’ll do it all again, tomorrow…”
At the end of each day while I’m laying in bed listening to podcasts about the fall of our democracy it might be nice if I’d turn off my phone, take a breath, put a hand on each of my shoulders and remind myself that if the creek don’t rise, I’ll be doing this again tomorrow.
Thirty years after my first date with Kim, all I have is today.
Tomorrow it will be the same.
And those are my three words for 2022: Something, Deliberate, and Today.
Essay from Dim Sum Thinking Newsletter 96. Read the rest of the Newsletter or subscribe