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World peace, all around

“What’s your goal for 2014?” my 17-year-old daughter asked yesterday. We were waiting for an audience with her orthopedist, an appointment I moved up a week so it would still be under the 2013 medical plan and thus covered in full. A goal? After the year we had, I was not thinking in terms of goals. I’m typically in survival mode. Caretaking is not exactly in my nature, and we’ve gone through two surgeries and subsequent recoveries for Grace, and another surgery for my mom. One fledgling left the nest while the other ponders her options for her departure next fall. It’s another one of those winters when hiding under the covers, if not actually under the bed, seems like a good goal. Lately, I’ve been changing into my pajamas earlier and earlier.

“Whirled peas,” I said, although she may have heard it as “world peace,” as I intended.

Grace gave me a hard time about setting a goal that relied so heavily on others—all others. She implied that my intention to send out positive energy couldn't strictly be defined as a goal.

“Let there be peace on earth and let it begin with me,” I offered.

I think I was serious. Maybe it’s because I spent my holiday vacation copyediting a book on peace and pedagogy and also reading my pastor Debbie Blue’s book Consider the Birds, but I’m beginning to think that peace is the key to this whole mess we’re in. And it does start with me. I don’t want to quit being the cynical smartass I know and love, but I also want to give others (and maybe myself) the benefit of the doubt. I could listen a lot more, and a lot better. I might possibly be able to tinker with my long-held belief that if I worry about it enough, I can avert tragedy. Because time has taught me that I can’t possibly prepare myself for every imagined worst-case scenario. Turns out, I’m not that imaginative.

This morning I had a dream—don’t worry, I’m not going to recount it here, even though, for me, it was gorgeous and epic—but the upshot was to not let my fears keep me from moving forward, down the overgrown path and through the woods. Don’t turn back just because you’re afraid of the ostrich (you had to be there). And also, don’t quit looking at that amazing, mythical cloud formation because you have to run inside and get your camera so you can post it on Facebook.

My New Year’s resolution is to make peace with myself. Face my fears. Be kinder. Grace told me that goals should be SMART: Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, and Time-bound. By that standard, my goals are DUMB: Difficult, Unmeasurable, Magnanimous, and so Broad they might as well be spoken by a beauty-pageant candidate or pictured on a poster in a guidance counselor’s office, illustrated with a mountain or the ocean or towering woods populated by rogue ostriches. But I’m going for it: Peace, less fear, more kindness. Those are my DUMB goals. I'll let you know when and if I get there.
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