Linda Downing

The two R's: Resolve versus revolution

A month ahead of 2013's half-way point is a good time to ask: What is happening with our personal goals? Or, as my Jan. 4 column put it: "Resolution or Peaceful Revolution?" Resolutions, like wishful thinking, die easily. Revolutions within our own souls generate new births. Spanish poet Luis Cernuda defined that kind of revolt: "a phoenix rising like a flame from the bodies of the wretched." Must we be wretched to fight for change - to start over? Yes. Resolve, as good as it sounds, wears with age. It is not so much a question of willpower as of will-change. Every decade or so, old desires undergo re-evaluation or disappear altogether. Strength to wrestle wanes when our hearts are not in it or when we simply grow tired of waiting: "Hope deferred makes the heart sick." (Proverbs 13:12). Columnist Laura Kreutzer wrote recently: "Life is a narrative, and we are editing as we go along. As circumstances change, we will adjust."
Kreutzer's words express the ideal. In reality, many do not adjust. They live their lives wishing instead of editing, hanging on to the same bucket list that filled their youthful diaries. Editing life, much like sentences and paragraphs, involves clarifying the point and increasing the action verbs. It is hard work. Writing, or living, our own story sometimes seems impossible with so many other characters involved in the same, yet different, activity. Novelist Ross Thomas stated: "Writing five hours is like 10 hours of laying bricks." Writers agree; bricklayers are skeptical. We get Thomas' point, but again, in real life comparing ourselves with ourselves rarely inspires. We like easy advice. Never tiring of ideas on living a long life, for example, we grab centenarians who deliver punch lines, like one lady whose name fades but words linger: "I hate vegetables, so I don't eat them." The current one being quoted is 105-year-old Pearl Cantrell of Richland Springs, Texas: "Bacon is the key to a long, happy life.I eat it every day." These ladies and others like them will not be impressed by the $6.7 million worth of grants to support the University of North Carolina's development of a new food map updating nutritional data. Information, like advice, is only good if we use it. There is no greater goal blocker than time wasted stewing over other people's money. It will not increase our own. Study after study has focused on the exorbitant pay of CEOs of large companies and their disgruntled stockholders. Real Life 101 reveals that most of us are not CEOs or even stockholders. They're not the boss or inspiration of us. AT&T's new slogan, "It Can Wait," refers to texting while driving. Many things we label "important" can wait, but we must peruse true goals often if they are not to become ignored resolutions. Best-selling author Stephen King says he writes daily: "I'm scared to death that if I leave it alone, the color will go out of it; it'll start to look fake." If we postpone life, resolve dissolves. If we fry the fat out of Cantrell's bacon, the lean holds the crisp, clear meaning of personal revolution: We must find our own way. To overcome the heart-sickening wait attending our goals is to discover that at the end is a "tree of life" (Proverbs 13:12) and that positive revolt always leads to God. Finding truth requires the right starting point. That is the quest of this column. If we seek simple truth, we can find it together-side-by-side. Linda M. Downing is a freelance writer. Contact her at