I have a thing of sending out holiday cards each year. I almost didn’t do it this year, but I did. I send out more cards than I get back. This is okay. I received a letter from an old professor of mine. The only one I talk to still. The only one who is able to see me for me. He adopted two children from South Korea. He’s definitely one of a kind. He has a deep, hearty laugh like you’d imagine Santa having if he was real. After I looked at his card, I opened his letter a little confused. This is what it said.
“I have achieved my 70 years. . . I will now teach, offering my way of life to whomsoever desires to commit suicide by the scheme which has enabled me to beat the doctor and the hangman for 70 years.
I have made it a rule to go to bed when there wasn’t anybody to sit with; and I have made it a rule to get up when I had to. . .
I have made it a rule never to smoke more than one cigar at a time. I have no other restrictions as regard to smoking. I do not know just when I began to smoke. I only know that it was in my father’s lifetime, and that I was discreet. He passed from this life early in 1847, when I was a shade past eleven; ever since then I have smoked publicly. As an example to others, and not that I care for moderation myself, it has always been my rule never to smoke when asleep, and never to refrain when awake.
As for drinking, I have no rule about that. When others drink, I like to help; otherwise I remain dry, by habit and preference. This dryness does not hurt me, but it could easily hurt you, because you are different. You let it alone.
I have never taken any exercise, except sleeping and resting, and I never intended to take any. Exercise is loathsome. And it cannot be any benefit when you are tired: and I was always tired.”
(excerpted from speech of Mark Twain, December 6, 1905, at Delmonico’s Restaurant, at a party celebrating his 70th birthday)
After seeing the year 1847 typed out, I thought did he make a mistake and mean 1947. Then again, his father dying in 1947 would be much too early. I scanned the page and saw the name of Mark Twain (born Samuel Langhorne Clemens). In a way although less cooler, I too am using a pen name because my actual birth name will forever be a mystery even if my “given” name is tattooed on my arm in Korean. As I continued reading the excerpted passage from Mark Twain about this 70th birthday celebration, I thought jeez I really hope I make it to 70 and if time is good to me 80, 90, and maybe even 100. My body and mind will go when it’s ready to go. In the 75 years Mark Twain lived on Planet Earth, he had an impressive catalogue of works. I wondered how he viewed himself when he left the world. Was he satisfied with everything he had accomplished? Did he wish to live longer so he could write more? Or was he glad to be leaving this place for another? He contributed in so many ways to the literary world as did my ex-professor. He is still involved in coaching and judging high school speech and although he has given up being a pizza driver in his retirement, he keeps on doing what he loves. He keeps doing what keeps him waking up each morning despite having health issues. Next year I will turn 46 and while I haven’t smoked in a long time and I can still count on one hand how many times I’ve drank in my whole life (okay maybe two hands but no more than 7), I wonder for as much of me thinking and writing and talking to close friends about my passion and resistance to write, if this struggle will ever end. I highly doubt it. I’m not the only one who feels the energy going out of their wings or the spark going out of their body. While I really haven’t made concrete New Year resolutions, I guess I have made a commitment on paper to do the things I used to do PRE-COVID. My goalpost has moved so far from me that it isn’t even in the vicinity. It’s been hard to see it with my own human eyes. I know I need to get back on track, but I’ve resisted. I used to find comfort in these activities. Now is the time to slowly find the benefits of having a routine each week (not needing it to be perfect), of making progress each week (no matter how small it is), and most of all having some hope along the way.
“New Year’s is a harmless annual institution, of no particular use to anybody save as a scapegoat for promiscuous drunks, and friendly calls and humbug resolutions.”