1 January

New Year’s Day. Listening To The Other Voice

by Jon Katz
New Year’s Day

I’ve made some progress figuring out what Christmas means for me, but New Year’s is always a struggle. I think about my life all of the time, not just the first day of the calendar year, I am often re-evaluating life and trying to figure out how to be a better human.

For me, there has always been a forced joviality about New Years Day. I have never been a heavy drinker, and even if I were, drinking is not in fashion these days. We are supposed to be happy without artificial stimulants, even though our world becomes more complex and stressful.

I am not drawn to celebrate a day, or even a year, I just don’t measure my life in days and months, rather in feelings and fulfillment.

I call this listening to the Other Voice. I think that is what I listen to on New Year’s Day, not a bowl parade or a plummeting clock.

One day is just as precious to me as another. I believe that the path to peace and a spiritual life is internal, you have to go inside, not outside.

I believe we came into the world to be better. I am always searching for ways to be better, and even though I know it is not possible to ever be perfect, I believe that I can and have changed my nature for the good.

I also know I have a long ways to go. The good thing about searching for the Other Voice if you are as imperfect as I am is that there is so much room for growth, I know I can accomplish something.

I know I have to remove shame and guilt and regret from my conscious life in order to move forward.  The mystics called this the Bread of Shame. Only we humans have a conscience, and part of being human is to ignore it.  It scolds us, but does not control us.

I believe that to achieve true and lasting fulfillment, I have to set appropriate goals for myself: to be better is achievable, to be perfect is not, I believe. It has no limits, requires no miracles, yet it is also difficult to achieve in a continuous way.

To set out for sainthood is to set out to fail. Our better angels come and go.

I believe in leading a proactive rather than reactive life, and that means I don’t need to wait until January 1 to make positive resolutions for myself, I can do it every day. New Year’s Day reminds me of the Jewish holiday of atonement and the Catholic practice of confession. The one day, the one prayer that makes it all okay.

There is no absolution for my sins, I do not get to wipe the slate clean once a year, or whenever I feel like going to Church. My victories and failures, like my virtues and values, live inside of me every day, and I cannot ever shed them or become cleansed and pure.

The real me is flawed and broken and hopeful and fulfilled, and the curious mix that is me cannot ever be erased or left behind. I can do better, I’ve done it many times.

Human nature seems naturally balanced towards the negative, towards worry, grievance, envy and anger.

Listening to the Other Voice is proactive act.

I see that one thing we all desire is uninterrupted happiness.

We want to be happy, and since there is no such thing as a life of uninterrupted happiness, I seek a life with some happiness and some love and some self-awareness and some fulfillment. They are all inside of me, although they are sometimes shy and feckless.

I can’t have everything I want all of the time, but I can have much of what I want a lot of the time. That discovery has opened up my life, even though it came to me late. I think the vision of the Creator was to give us hope and optimism and fulfillment, but only to those who believe in it and will work hard for it every day.

On New Year’s Day, I seek out the Light, my faith, the force that many of us call intuition. I believe there is a magic that draws the right people and the right choices and the right opportunities into my life if I am open to them and have faith in them.

I pray for the Other Voice to guide me and inspire me and keep me awake.

The Other Voice, a/k/a the Inner Spirit activates and arouses hope and optimism when we accept and permit it. I seek this every single morning when I wake up, and at the end of the day, looking back to see what I have done or failed to do.

I fail as often as I succeed, but I try  every day, and so there is a lot of hope and optimism in my life. The odds are good.

It is the Light that drives me to seek more and more out of life, every single day. In this way, being young is a gateway to so many years of happiness and hope, and growing older becomes a rich and fulfilling miracle, not a time of fear and withdrawal.

My New Year is about seeking out the Light and the Other Voice. If there is a dark side to human nature, there is a bright side as well, and I want to dwell in that space in 2018 and well beyond, as often as I can.

1 January

Tough Morning For Gus, For Us, For Many

by Jon Katz
Challenging Day: Photo By Maria Wulf

A challenging start to the New Year for us. The cold here is brutal and worsening, the forecast for Friday is a high of -2 and a low of minus -20.

There is not much we can do for the animals besides offer them shelter and grain, heated water and hay. And Gus had a bad morning. My car would barely start.

There is no real relief in sight from the cold.

They can handle it, but it is taking a toll on them. When the cold is this frigid and goes on in such an unrelenting way, it begins to affect everything on the farm – heat, plumbing, water lines to the pasture. And there is some chance of a savage storm with extreme cold, high winds and snow for Thursday or Friday.

Gus is also having a bad morning, he seems unable to process his food properly, he keeps spitting it up, he is struggling to deal with the cold, even with booties and a sweater, and today, he seems sluggish and tired, especially for him.

Maria and I took turns holding him upright, but it doesn’t seem to be helping. Megaesophagus is an up and down illness, it doesn’t seem to work in a straight line, at least not yet. One or two good days, one or two bad days, there doesn’t seem to be a quick kind of resolution or miracle treatment. We’ll see the vet again on Thursday.

Gus is a sweet and adaptable patient, he takes his medications good-naturedly and seems to like being held, I think he is in need of some comfort. But today reminded me of the first weeks, perhaps the cold is related.

We are monitoring it, recording it, researching it.

I also have to be careful about the cold, for the first time in my life, I have to admit that I just can’t be outside for longer than a few minutes in this kind of cold, and the medications I’m on for my heart also make me more vulnerable to extreme cold.

I’ve had two bouts of hypothermia, and it just kills me for Maria to be out doing all the chores by herself, I am not able to just sit inside and watch while others are working. I don’t know how to accept that.

Maria is an angel, she wants to do everything and wants me to do nothing. I do not wish for her to be a caretaker, not even for a day or two. This morning, she is in her studio finishing up her “Circle Of Women” hanging piece, which will go on sale today or tomorrow. That is where she should be.

My other issue is that I suffered some frostbite in the other farm when I was there alone, and those fingers and toes react sharply to this kind of cold, I am not much use when I am out there.

So the year starts off with a challenge: what can we do for Gus? Can we get him through this awful disease?

How can we protect the animals and the house and the cars and the plumbing from this kind of cold? If it continues  much longer, the ground will freeze down five or six feet to where some of the frost-free pipes are. Our two hardy wood stoves can hardly keep up with the -20 temperatures we have been waking up too.

We are burning through a lot of firewood, I think we will have enough, unless this lasts all winter. I am uneasy about all of this, I know we will get through it – all of it – but my head is spinning a bit.

And I keep perspective. People all over the country are suffering from cold, the aftermath of hurricanes, fires and drought. I am one of the lucky ones.

Yesterday, some good news, I went to Good Will and Wal-Mart and got some sweatpants, , sweatshirts and socks for two of the Mansion residents who need clothes.  The thrift shops just didn’t have clothes for men in great shape, Wal-Mart filled in the blanks.

I am not usually a Wal-Mart shopper, so another new experience for me.

On Wednesday, we are funding a pizza New Year’s celebration (lunch) for the residents and staff at the Mansion. Later this week, more carvings from Maulidi, life goes on.  I wish all of you the most peaceful and meaningful of years.

My response to challenge is to write about it, and I will do that. I also love to go to the movies on holidays.  We are  mulling the new Matt Damon movie, “Downsizing.” The reviews are interesting.

The movie is a social satire about a man who believes he can have a better life if he were to shrink himself down to five inches tall, permitting him to live in wealth and splendor.

More later.

Email SignupEmail Signup