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Hello 2012, The Year Of Contentment.

sydney habour bridge & opera house fireworks n...

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I’m naming 2012, ‘The Year of Contentment,’ is there really any better goal in life?

To be rich, beautiful, famous, successful… whatever your desire, we see these people splayed over our TV’s, ipads and computers. Attaining these goals has not made them more content, nor more worthwhile individuals. Do we really think Kim Kardashian is content? All that (plastic) beauty, money, fame, travel, clothes…not for one minute do I believe she leads a full and contented life.

Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi, Charlie Sheen, Britney Spears, J-Lo,  when I look at these people – and the train-wrecks that are their lives – I see nothing even resembling contentment. It’s been written about, and proven time and time again, money doesn’t buy happiness, but what about reaching ones hotly-desired-and-worked-for goal?

Whether it be fame, riches, notoriety, publishing your first book, building the dream home, buying your first new car, a laptop, phone, holiday…. people dream and wish and hope, and gruel-it-out at their jobs just to get to the goal.

When they finally do, they are left with a stark reality. They are the same person – with the same struggles, angers, frustrations and flaws – as they were before they attained the goal. Goals are not a terrible idea, but placing all your life’s hopes and dreams on one ultimate goal, may well set you up for disaster.

In gambling we all know that riding all your money on one hand can make or break you – and the odds are not good, of it making you. Non-material goals are probably going to work out a whole lot better than the material ones, they bring a sense of self-satisfaction that a iMac just can’t compare with.

The only way to truly become content is to be happy with who you are, and the choices you are making right now. Who knows what 10 years will bring? Sure its good to have your 5-year and 10-year goals – we all have them, and it often helps us focus and not get lost or overwhelmed with day-to-day life – but be careful not to live for your goal.

You may find your life has passed you by, in your desperation to get to the pot of gold at the end of your rainbow – or worse –  you may find that it was all a fairy-tale to begin with and the pot of gold doesn’t even exist. It was built-up to such a frenzy that it couldn’t possibly live up to the hype that was created and it’s not nearly as satisfying as it was supposed to be. (Kind of like Google +.)

So my ‘goal’ for 2012, is to be content, just the way things are.

I still have a way to go, but I know I am closer to it than I was 12, 18 or 24 months ago, and that’s an achievement in itself. I make my choices for me and for the betterment of our family, and have zero concerns about outside influences and their opinions of my choices.

So what are my goals for 2012, other than contentment? (A heady goal, I know!)

One of the foremost long-term goals I have, is the kind of son I want to raise. Sticking him in school to get an education, and exposing him to a few sports for team camaraderie, while feeding him 3-minute pizza and mac ‘n cheese, simply isn’t going to cut it for me. In recent years we have made some tough decisions for what we believe is his benefit.

On an ethical level, we wont’ take him to the circus, even if ‘everyone else is doing it,’ because our family will not play a part in contributing to the suffering and abuse of animals.

On a moral level, we have removed people from his life who were dysfunctional, choosing to further their own agenda, at the expense of him and his betterment.

On a physical level, we moved him to a new environment – 1/2 way around the world – in part, to help with his health, and his lungs have never been better! He hasn’t seen a doctor in over 12 months, a first for our family where we have been used to bi-monthly visits.

On a nutritional level, he eats a 90% organic or biodynamic, home cooked, wholesome diet – because without it – we believe his mind and body cannot operate as it was intended.

But what about character?

I have a clear path and direction that I want to lead him in. It is not one of achievements, trophies and awards (though those things are of course nice, and even admirable), its of a greater achievement for which there is no adulation, no award and no prize.

My goal is to raise him to be a person of integrity and clear values. A kind, considerate and empathetic person, someone who will sacrifice of himself to help another. To see a need, and move to fill it as a matter of habit. A person who will evaluate the cost of a decision and make a choice – even if it is to his detriment – if it accomplishes a greater good.

I watch the world we are creating for our kids. A world of processed foods, high-tech TV and video games, instant gratification, and selfishness. One where people no longer matter unless they contribute something to us of value. The term “networking” has become the new way to find employment all over the globe. People pass out cards and promote themselves endlessly. What about reputation? Integrity? Hard work and consistency? Honesty? They seem to have fallen by the wayside in favor of a buck, (or saving a buck).

I don’t want to forget to teach the basics, opening a door for a lady, saying “please” and “thank you,” standing for an elderly person, or pregnant woman on a bus. Respecting your elders, even if the conversation seems boring and out-of-touch.

I don’t care whether he grows up to be a Jew or a Christian, a punk, or preppie. I don’t care if he chooses to be a janitor or a doctor. I care about the impact he makes on the world around him, however small that impact may be. I want him to leave this world a better place than he found it.

He will have flaws, it is of course, impossible not to.

Acknowledging his mistakes, and making an effort to do better is as important as never committing the mistake in the first place.  A lesson without a mistake to learn from, is not a lesson – it’s a tutorial. (Personally, I never learned too well from tutorials.)

To this end, this holiday season, after reading the wonderful post by Southern Sea Muse, we researched children’s homes in our area. Unfortunately, we are in a small country community and the do not exist here – though we do have the contact details to use for some in the city, come Easter and next Christmas.

We made the decision instead, to call our local public nursing home run by the Salvation Army. They service both low-care and high-care patients, and after talking with a wonderful lady, we agreed to bring gifts and cards to 8 elderly people with no family. 4 women and 4 men.

We arrived bearing our gifts, plus flowers for the ladies. My son had made cards for each and every person, and they loved it. He was in fact (as far as I could tell), the closest thing to being treated like a Rock Star, without the microphone and sell-out crowd.


The Kiddo, Bearing Flowers and Gifts for the Elderly

Oh, I watched him cringe when the first old lady with long whiskers sprouting from her chin wanted to hug and kiss him, and I also watched when he softened at her delight and he hugged her just a little bit harder. We laughed together at the 96-year-old man wanted me to ‘come back tomorrow’ so he could bring me some roses from the home garden and ‘take me out on a date.’

We felt somber as we visited with the elderly woman with no hair and a body swollen with  fluids who, we were told, would not survive the next 48-hours. We patted her hands, left her with the last Christmas card she would ever see, and her last human contact from someone who wasn’t earning a paycheck to be there.

We wondered out loud, how one is unfortunate enough to end their life this way.

My son received an education in the theory ‘it is better to give than to receive,’ and in the harsh realities of life for those that have no family who care, and whose friends have all passed on long ago.

Did he leave his experience so impacted that his life would be changed forever? I suspect not.

The indicator? On our way home while I was extolling the virtues of the experience, I suggested we do the same thing every year. He responded with ‘uh, how about every second year?’ Clearly my job is nowhere near complete. He is a child after all, a 7-year-old boy who has no true understanding of loneliness, old age and death…. and as it should be.

But hey, Rome wasn’t built in a day, right? This is why my goal for raising him must never lose focus, never deviate.

It is the nature of the beast to want to satisfy ourselves, turn a blind eye and pretend we didn’t see that thing we should take action on, and fulfill our own empty desires. It is the nature of this 21-st century to tell us we deserve it, we deserve it immediately and without sacrifice – and should anyone else get in our way we should cut them off at the knees – it’s a dog-eat-dog world, after all.

This is what parents these days have to contend with. It’s a crap-shoot people – we’re just rolling the dice, hoping for the best – and praying we did our ‘homework’, that the job we have done is enough, and we won’t see them on the channel nine news in a police chase inside a decade.

I jest of course. I will be content this year if I fulfill my role to educate and guide my son, to be better than what the world tells us is acceptable, even desirable. If I guide him to want more than what is on offer from the media, and the ‘cool kids.’

Oh, what a goal I have undertaken!

Lets face it, whether you are rich or poor, beautiful or homely, healthy or sick – we only have one shot at this year that is 2012 – let’s make it count for all the right reasons.

Happy (Australian) New Year!

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