She was not going to let up. Despite the fact that it had been years since I had paid a visit to the Dentist Office and this was one of the reason I so disliked going, Rolanda was not going to spare me any lectures or strong opinions she had about the inside of my mouth. But, in the back of my mind I knew that when this was all done I had a delicious rebellion planned—a 32 ounce Dr. Pepper and Dark Milky Way bar. Revenge was going to be sweet. Nothing says petulant rebellion better than rotten teeth. Nothing says ‘I am sticking it to the man’ like poor hygiene or the outward semblance of it.
Meanwhile, the second half hour of the painful lecture had just started and I all I could do is silently suffer the double dose of ignominy with my mouth wide open unable to say a word back to interrupt Rolanda’s stern stream of words. At that point, I started to wonder why I was even here and then I remembered that in my excitement of the New Year I had made a bunch of goals and one of those goals I had made in the height of my delusion was to go to the Dentist more often than zero times a year. It seemed like a doable goal at the time and how painful could it be going from zero to one. Apparently, it was going to be both painful and humiliating as Rolanda had convinced the dentist of the immediate need for a crown. It took all my willpower to not bolt out of the chair and run down the block for that Dr. Pepper now! But my natural low self-esteem prevailed and I stayed put like the obedient dog I am.
Then among the all the pain and suffering a ray of light divided the deepest black shadows covering my thick cranium. Why should I feel bad? Maybe my goals weren’t as insufferable or as regrettable as I was making them out to be. Sure I had made a mockery of oral hygiene in my past, but today, even if it is only today, I had decided to stop the lampooning and change my evil oral hygiene ways. I had become less imperfect today than I was yesterday and that was a good thing I am pretty sure. That was the whole point of making the goal, wasn’t it? To change the course of my life ever so slightly from where it was last year. That’s all I ever ask of my humble and modest goals. So lighten up, Rolanda. I, of course, kept this thought to myself I can only handle so much change in one day. I’ll make speaking up to large dental assistants with a large array of dental tools a goal for next year.
Now is better than Never.
When I was about eight years old, my older brother gave me and my little brother a record. I think it was my first record ever and it was the soundtrack to Rankin/Bass’s animated production of the Hobbit. Apart from Glenn Yarborough’s singing, the part I loved the most was the riddle off in the dark between Bilbo Baggins and Gollum, or the river-folk formerly known as Smeagol. My favorite riddle was the one Gollum gave to Bilbo about time:
This thing all things devours:
Birds, beasts, trees, flowers;
Gnaws iron, bites steel;
Grinds hard stones to meal;
Slays king, ruins town,
And beats high mountain down.
The river of time does flow on, bones go brittle, bodies stoop, skin wrinkles and sags, and brains addle, and then it is time for us to ride that Stygian wave. Time and death are absolutes, but they are not the only absolutes. Other absolutes include the fact that we all have purpose and we all paddle on in our light canoes towards perfection imperfectly.
We are all of infinite value. We are more than our race, religion, nationality. We are more than our extremely small ears, our disproportionately sized head, and our un-partable hair that just grows straight up. We are more than our biology. Biology does not determine our fate or our fortune. We are more than our favorite sins, our pet preferences, our damned desires, and our fair-haired hobbies. We are more than our careers, titles, degrees or lack thereof.
We are more than our past. There is hope, we can always change and that is why the present, the now, is important. As far as determining our present and future actions, we are not beholden to our yesterdays. But it is hard to make those changes if we don’t ever make goals. Life then becomes like a football game with no end zone and all our dreams are just winged thoughts flying away into the maddening air.
Making goals can be rough, though. It does require us to come face to face with what we didn’t do last year and confront and take stock of our past laziness, our “gentle ways”, our procrastination and our failures. It requires us to examine the real us. That is never as pretty as we pretend it is on every other day. It makes us wonder why we are still stuffing our faces unable to move away from the TV.
Most of us are bound to miss our marks when we make our goals, but goals are not so much about reaching them and marking them off of our list. Goals can be thought of as destination points on our rocky but sublime journey. Goals are about keeping us moving forward in our lives towards something worthwhile, towards something with both rhyme and reason, towards something infinitely noble and good, slowly discovering who we are and how cosmically cool we poor clods can be.