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    Redecorate Your Life in 2018

    Photo By Christopher Turner

    By Dr. Tim Seelig–

    Is it just me, or have you also been inundated with more than the usual number of e-mails and posts telling you how to let go of the old year and find a happier you in the new one? For many of us, this past year was rough and the suggestions on how to handle that have been an avalanche—along with the usual requisite new year’s resolutions.

    We just don’t know what to do. How can we make a difference? Since we can’t seem to change the external, suggestions on internal self-help abound. Self-help is nice, but don’t they think that if I could have found the answer to happiness by myself, I would have done it a long time ago? I would have saved a lot of money on therapists over the years. But I wouldn’t trade my years in therapy for anything. It’s critical for a recovering Baptist.

    Of course, you already know I’m going to throw in something “fun” from my religious past. It sure puts the fun in dysfunction. For those of you heathens out there who don’t know about this (I envy you), the Southern Baptists have an altar call at the end of every, and I mean every, church service—Sunday morning, Sunday evening and Wednesday, too. At that time, with the congregation singing a song encouraging compliance and reminding you of what a wretch you are, people can come forward for three reasons:

    1. to get saved (you are supposed to have to do that only once);
    2. to join the church and share in the fun;
    3. to “rededicate your life” to the Lord, if you have backslidden.

    Behind the sanctimonious curtain of self-righteousness and piety, the staff often jokingly changed “rededicate your life” to “redecorate your life.” 

    Bingo! That’s what we all do every January. Sure, we make resolutions and hope for big changes. In reality, we are just doing a little redecorating. If we have some funds with which to redecorate, we may spend a little money. We might join something such as a gym, purchase a Peloton, or subscribe to a weight loss program—again. I know someone who just signed up for a 30-day e-mail program to change his life with a once-a-day, soul-lifting exercise. That someone may or may not be my husband, and I may or may not have agreed to join him. Suddenly, Whole 30 looks attractive, or a cleanse, or maybe starting Lent early by giving up, god forbid, refined sugar. 

    Some of us redecorate our lives on the cheap … mostly with good intentions. Perhaps we change the color of the “drapes” with some Rit dye. The color options these days are quite something. For those of us who don’t have drapes anymore, maybe it just involves discovering a shirt that you haven’t worn in a long time. You know, you put it in the “fat” pile never planning to “need” it again, but are keeping it just in case. Voila, it fits perfectly this year. Time to rejoice. You have a new wardrobe for free!

    Regardless of how you handle the new year, there are some basic suggestions that show up in every plan. I’ve listed a few. You already know them.

    • Spend more quiet time in self-reflection.
    • Wake up each day with gratitude.
    • Do something physical.
    • Pay attention to your nutrition.
    • Prune your energy-sucking Facebook friends. Now!

    Most years, I can’t wait until February when my friends—and I—are all back to the real self and life returns to “normal.”

    In addition to spending lots of time considering how 2018 will be better, the song begs the question, “What are you doing New Year’s Eve?”

    A lot of people flee the Bay Area as if it were not one of the most beautiful cities on the planet. Many run off to Puerto Vallarta, Hawaii or Palm Springs for fun in the sun. I hate those FB pics—bitter party of one. A fellow went to NYC to stand in the freezing cold for 12 hours to watch the gayest Swarovski crystal ball drop somewhere between Mariah Carey’s orbs. Mariah asking for hot tea between her songs was the best. I must try that!

    For us, it was a staycation. It was wonderful.

    We spent New Year’s Eve, starting about 9 pm, coaxing our small frightened dog out of the very back of the closet, where she had run when the neighbors started shooting fireworks. They were apparently on East Coast time. Like many, we watched televised celebrations from across the country featuring singers and groups, none of whom we knew except the veteran performer, Brittany. That made us feel older than ever. We watched Anderson Cooper and his new co-host, the uber-gay Andy Cohen. It was just awkward and kind of tragic. I think it’s awesome that there were two openly gay men co-hosting New Year’s Eve, but, as my late Mother taught me to say, “They were not my very favorite.” That bitchy repartee needs to stay in the closet, and we missed Kathy G. 

    Among the fun things we did over the break, two stand out. The first was an all-time favorite, Beach Blanket Babylon. It was worth the price of admission to see their send up of the “Von Trump” family singers singing, “Do is cash we have lots of.” Oh my.  It’s not just for tourists, you know! The second was the amazing Kinsey Sicks in Oy Vey in a Manger. Don’t know them? Oh, you must (

    Ben Schatz, who sometimes goes by Rachel, took Bobby McFerrin’s haunting and sometimes irritating ear worm “Don’t Worry, Be Happy,” and turned it on its ear. It’s delicious and is the perfect song to begin the new year with laughter and tongue firmly planted in cheek. They gave me permission to quote just a few of the lines and a bit of the dialogue in the middle. For more, please go to YouTube and listen to the whole thing. Please sing along!

                  Here’s a little song I wrote,

                  I’m probably gonna get a frog in my throat,

                  Don’t be happy—worry.

                  Our history of worrying is long and proud.

                  For every silver lining, there is a cloud.

                  Don’t be happy—worry.

                  Spoken: ” … I’m worried that Donald Trump won’t be impeached. I’m worried that Donald Trump will be           impeached and then we’ll end up with President Pence, who won’t allow himself to be alone in a room with a             woman who’s not his wife whom he calls ‘mother.’ Which makes him sound like a character in Psycho. Which   reminds me of Donald Trump!”

                  I worry about you.

                  I worry that you don’t worry enough.

                  If you don’t got something to worry about,

                  You’ve got something to worry about.

                  Oy oy oy oy oy something always could go wrong.

                  That’s the moral of this song.

                  Something could go wrong.

                  If you’re creative and you’re smart, suffering can be an art.

                  It’s not too soon to start.

    Wow, that was fun! But I would never leave you with such a cynical view of life for the new year and our future, short or long term.

    Another amazing thing happened over the holidays. We luckily happened to catch Dan Buettner on the Commonwealth Club broadcast on KQED. Thank goodness for them! Dan is the author of The Blue Zones of Happiness: Lessons from the World’s Happiest People. He had done exhaustive research into the people of the world to find the secrets that make them that way.

    As we were listening, just before the show ended, the interviewer asked what the bottom line to being happy was. He reeled this off and I don’t think I will ever forget it.

                  “In order to be happy, you need:

                  something to do;

                  someone to love;

                  something to look forward to;

                  some way to give back.”

    I am one of the very, very lucky ones who can easily identify all four of the above. That’s enough for me in this new year! The rest are just details.

    Here’s my new year’s resolution: I am going to redecorate my life. But I’m going to do it more than once a year. Maybe I’ll even return the XXL to the fat pile. Maybe I won’t. That becomes less important with every year. What I will do is love my family, love my friends, love my job and this city, and, even try to love myself each and every day.

    Happy redecorating.

    Dr. Tim Seelig is the Artistic Director of the San Francisco Gay Men’s Chorus.