Bad Choices, Good Choices

Reclining Pan, Francesco da Sangallo, 1535

On the day before yesterday, today’s eve-eve sort-of-speak, we viewed this statue of a reclining Pan. Seeing it on New Year’s Eve it appeared to me to offer a cautionary tale. A caution against too much excess during the evening to come, “Raise your cups everyone, I have a toast. Let’s drink to excess. Excess!” Yesterday, the morning after, dawned sunny and bright and warm too. Perfect weather. A perfect day for a new beginning, a new year.

The kids soon skied to their annual bacchanal, where they lounge around all-day like beached whales. Attire there is casual-casual, Pan casual. Each year some blockbuster movie franchise is featured with a complete re-showing of all of its many constitute parts. Lately though, the choice of new franchises has become problematic as these franchises become ever more bloated. Their marathon viewing now tests the endurance of even the most stalwart of these lads and lasses. This inevitably leads to choices. God forbid! Hopefully, good choices.

Home alone, Anne and I, left to our own devices chose wisely. We went for a bicycle ride. New Year’s Day cycling is sort of a thing among bicyclists. Start the new year right. Get a jump on your annual mileage totals. Strut your stuff. It’s supposed to be a rain or snow, still go kind of tradition, but I’ll take 50 °F and sunny all the same. Unfortunately, the nice weather also brought out the multitudes. People of all shapes and sizes exercising their resolutions.

We waded into the crowd. There was a crosswind, unhappily leftover from this week’s earlier winter storm and there was cross traffic too. The regulars having to contend with the influx of newbies. Cross traffic does not stop. Happy traffic always yields! What do teachers say after being cut off on the bike path? “Now, that’s not making safe choices.”

It is a new year. A time for new beginnings. You have a whole year laid out before you. Experts caution us about making New Year’s resolutions. That’s because so many of us fail at keeping them. Within a week, rain or shine, the bike path will return to the providence of its regulars. Meaning that for many, failure is an option and all too often the most obvious one. 

On our bike route to the park, someone has recently put up a placard. On one side it says, “You Can Do It.” On the other side it says, “You Matter.” Both are affirmative statements. Similar signs appear during our annual big charity ride. Those are usually place on an uphill climb and frequently leave a saccharine aftertaste. I think this sign is different, because of where it is placed. We see the You Can Do It side of the sign within the first mile of our ride. We’ve already done the heavy lifting, we’re out on our bikes. This side of the sign doesn’t feel too demanding, because we are about to make our two-mile descent to the park. We’re coasting. Likewise, the You Matter side appears near the end. Its life affirming message again is not too strident, because we’re almost home. In life as in many things, it is not the drill sergeant yelling in your ear that motivates you, except to run away. It is those nudges along the way that keep you going.

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