New Year’s Eve was my dad’s favorite day of the year. Other notable days on the calendar – his birthday, St. Valentine’s Day, Easter, 4th of July, Thanksgiving, Christmas – were just like any other day. While he recognized those dates as important, his way of celebrating them seemed obligatory at best. New Year’s Eve was different. He celebrated the end of the year with joy. His charming smile and mischievous eyes carried the day.
At first glance, it appeared as though his fondness for the year’s farewell was rooted in the revelry that followed. But that wasn’t the reason. My dad never met a party that he didn’t love. With some music and a little alcohol, he could turn any gathering into a full-fledged bash. I think that there was something about washing away the challenges of the previous year and getting a fresh start that ignited his imagination.
When I was a young man, I too reveled in the celebratory trappings of New Year’s Eve, partying into the night and wee hours of the morning setting fire to the past. That changed as I got older and built a family with Sandra. Other than midnight hugs and kisses, the passing of another year is merely one more day for our extended family to share time together.
On that note, the ritual of making a New Year’s resolution never really appealed to me. Like a political purist protesting for a cause, I stubbornly refused to participate in the annual tradition of promising to do something that surely wouldn’t be accomplished. For me, a New Year’s resolution was a delusion of grandeur that usually and ultimately resulted in disappointment and self-judgment.
About 15 years ago, I learned how to write a Personal Vision and Mission Statement while participating in an executive training program. The statement looks like the outline students are supposed to prepare before writing a term paper in English composition class. Here’s how it works: The vision is like a thesis statement and the mission provides the main points and body of evidence for the essay.
I primarily used this technique to create a roadmap for my career. I updated it on an annual basis after analyzing the previous year’s goals and objectives. It worked like magic. Within 6 years, I achieved a professional stature that was unimaginable as a kid or college student. After my 2010 medical crisis, I reworked the statement and began using it as New Year’s resolution to manage heart failure and my personal life.
For 8 years, I made minor adjustments as circumstances didn’t change much. I didn’t update my personal vision and mission last December because I was fresh out of LVAD surgery nursing an open chest wound and learning how to live with a mechanical pump attached to my heart. With the passing of each month in 2019, I was feeling better and growing stronger. By mid-summer, I was on autopilot.
During the last quarter of 2019, monthly cardiologist appointments continued to go well. Blood tests were consistently positive and daily walks were better than ever. Yet, I was off balance. There was the close call for a heart transplant in late September and then…nothing. After that, I increasingly felt like a rudderless boat floating aimlessly in calm waters. Life went on for everyone else, but stood still for me.
When the rains came, I didn’t walk as much as usual. Just before Thanksgiving, my father-in-law was waging the last battle of his life. December started with funeral preparations and Christmas caught us all by surprise. The carefree summer on autopilot changed into an early winter rut. I turned to my personal vision and mission statement for guidance. None was forthcoming. The annual tweaks no longer made sense.
I spent New Year’s Eve in deep thought, brooding over a lifetime of mistakes and “what ifs.” The year 2019 began with the basics – working to regain the strength I lost during a difficult surgery – and finished with no end in sight to my current health situation. I was looking 2020 squarely in the eyes with no vision for my life. When I tucked into bed at 2:00 AM, I resolved to completely rework my personal vision and mission statement.
I dedicated the late morning hours of 2020 to that task. For a decade and a half, I’ve shared this most intimate working document with no one. Today, I put myself on blast sharing my vision, mission, and modus operandi for the year ahead. I would like to give readers some insight into how to turn a resolution into an action plan and give some hope to those facing life’s challenges.
My personal vision for 2020 is to live a full life while preparing for the next phase of my health journey. To accomplish this, my mission is to nourish my body, mind, and soul on a daily basis.
During the final months of 2019, my routine was void of intellectual curiosity. I spent hours channel surfing and social media scrolling. Reading was limited to periodic articles in magazines and the internet. The last entry on this blog was 73 days ago and I spent little time interacting with friends and family. In 2020 I will feed my mind by reading at least one book per month and writing at least 500 words per day. I plan to post regularly on ESEReport.com and participate in dialogue with others on issues of the day.
I also intend to strengthen my body in the coming year. My heart and lungs struggled during surgery last fall. With God’s grace, the rest of my organs, tissues, bones, and muscles were strong enough to withstand the challenges. My 2020 plan includes a low-fat and moderate-salt diet, plenty of water to stay hydrated, 7,500 steps per day, and light resistance exercises a few times per week.
By digging deeper into the words of St. Paul the Apostle and the Buddha, I’ve made amazing progress on my spiritual journey. In 2020, I’ll take care of my soul with the daily Gospel, morning prayers, and meditation. Reflecting on the Four Noble Truths of Buddhism will come to the rescue when desire for something or another inevitably rears its ugly head. Being present for my family and mentoring Latina and Latino emerging leaders will continue to be the centerpiece of my passions.
I know that my plans can come to screeching halt when a donor heart becomes available. I subconsciously sat around waiting for that day to come for the last few months of 2019. With my 2020 personal vision, mission, goals and objectives complete, I’m entering the new decade with faith, hope, and love. I will carry on with gusto day-to-day until God reveals his plans for the next phase of my journey.