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Monday, January 12, 2009

Out with the old; in with the new!

Every year, as January 1st approaches, I follow the Chinese tradition of “out with the old; in with the new”. In Taiwan, those following ancient folklore believe that you must perform a thorough housecleaning at the end of the year, including going through old notes, junk drawers, files, etc., in order to purge your life of useless junk that might be bogging you down and hindering your progress into the future. It sounded like a great custom to someone like me, who has always found great stress relief and relaxation in cleaning house.
As is my custom, however, I always manage to throw out at least one thing that was not quite ready to hit the bin. This year was no exception. Which leads me to my New Year’s Resolutions, beginning with #1: I will stay out of other people’s junk drawers. What lies within may not, in fact, be junk.
And because I am now a full member of the 40-something set, #2: I resolve to be good to the body God gave me, which has got me this far. I will eat properly, get some form of exercise every day, and indulge in moderation (I’ve read that a glass of red wine each day is actually a good thing, however).
#3: I resolve to slooooooow down and appreciate the moments that I have been hopefully anticipating, such as family celebrations, quality time with a friend or family member, or the simple beauty of a blue, starlit winter sky or flaming red summer sunset. I will also take the time to comment on these moments to those who share them with me, so that we can both remember them.
#4: I resolve to worry less about the things I cannot change (I may need some help here).
If we all try to do our bit to be more positive, happy people, won’t the world be a better place as a result? I mean, no one really enjoys being angry all the time, do they? It’s been proven to have a direct impact on health. If you are bitter and angry, you will end up with more stomach ailments and back problems, and your healing and recovery abilities will be diminished.
While I was living in Taipei amongst 4 million people in a city the size of Ottawa (yes, that’s crowded), I remember being struck with the realization that I rarely met anyone who was in a bad mood. In particular, those in the service industry (taxi drivers, Starbucks baristas, grocery store clerks) never seemed to be taking out their bad day on the customer, as we sometimes do in North America (don’t get me started!).
Even on an overcrowded commuter train, when people are standing nose-to-armpit, packed in tight to get the doors closed, the most negative facial expression I witnessed was one of mild resignation.
Perhaps it is because they are so accustomed to living in such a crowded environment that they have developed this patient, happy-go-lucky attitude. Even when they are late for work in the morning, they are more likely to be found in their usual slow-paced stroll than hustling their butts to catch a taxi.
Is it a coincidence that the Asian-American male enjoys a longer life expectancy than anyone else on the planet? I think not. Once removed from the pollution-ridden environment of his home country, and placed (with his easygoing outlook) onto rich Western soil, he thrives. Meditation, self-examination, contemplation and patience are all strong principles of Asian culture. And they are good for you.
Often, when someone has a near-death experience, they come out of it with a new outlook on life. I’ve decided I’m going to try the new outlook without the near death.
I inherited my father’s short temper, but I do have a choice. Lately I have found that, when spouting off in anger at one of my offspring, only gibberish comes out. And one of us ends up laughing (usually not me). But the words that do come out in clarity still sting. Once they have been released, they cannot be retrieved. So, last but not least, (because I think 5 New Year’s Resolutions are enough for anyone), #5: I resolve to keep my mouth shut until I have thoroughly processed the thoughts that are about to escape past my lips and into the world, where they may do irreparable harm (the same goes for hitting “send” on an email).
When someone has unwittingly ticked me off, I will not make a bigger mess out of the situation by opening my big mouth. Instead, I plan to head to the barn, where hard work and the gratitude of a maternity ward of ewes and lambs await me.
And a Healthy, Happy New Year to you and yours.

The Accidental Farmwife would like to remind her loyal readers that the incidents and characters described in this column may have been embellished slightly for literary effect. Email: Diana.fisher@metroland.com.

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