Resolutions from Woody Guthrie

The Very Best of Woody Guthrie

Woody Guthrie’s New Year’s Resolutions from 1942 are circulating around Facebook this week. Folksinger extraordinaire, Guthrie, perhaps most recognized for the well known song This Land is Your Land, jotted down thirty three of them in a marbleback notebook seventy years ago.

Some of them are sort of funny. #3 is ‘Wash teeth if any’. That would have been funnier to me a few years ago, before I fell on a rock and knocked out my front tooth and the one beside it. And before the rest of them started splintering away. I decide to follow his cue and make a note to wash the ones remaining.

Some of them are obvious, and could hardly be classified as resolutions. Shave, Take Bath and Change Socks, numbers 4, 5 and 11, go without saying most of the time. But he gave each one its own line. I snicker to myself, imagining someone who has to resolve to change his socks.

Most of the resolutions from 1942 are dead on target, even for 2012. There’s something charming about his language. #1 is ‘Work more and better.‘ I suppose official workaholics could skip this one, but I shouldn’t. How much time do I fritter away going over Facebook, and googling random things, when instead I could be working? And how many times do I work halfheartedly, not putting in my all? I write down ‘Work More and Better’ for my own resolution.

I google the songwriter and I learn Woody Guthrie had Huntington’s Disease. A neurodegenerative disease that leads to dementia, it left Guthrie without control of his body, and later his mind. It suddenly put his fourth, fifth and eleventh resolutions in a different light and I am ashamed of myself for judging him.

I am floored by his eighteenth resolution. Stay Glad.

It’s simply said, but right to the point. Guthrie doesn’t say Be Glad. He does not use the passive voice, but instead picks an active verb. Stay glad. Get there. Make it to a spot where you feel glad, and stay there.

How could he even be glad, much less stay glad as he battled this disease?

I don’t think this is an easy resolution. It reminds me of a bible verse: “Be joyful always; pray continually; give thanks in ALL circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” 1 Thessolonians 5:16-18

How hard is that one? Granted, most of the time it should be easy enough. I have no excuse not to Stay Glad.  I have plenty of food, a roof over my head and my health. But on the other hand, I find myself not seeing the forest for the trees as far as giving thanks. I am so accustomed to my blessings sometimes I don’t even recognize them.

Instead I focus on the inconveniences of my day. Traffic at the mall. The power going out.  My fake tooth that won’t whiten.

I whine. I complain when things don’t go my way.

I put ‘Stay Glad’ as my number one resolution. I resolve to get glad and stay there, even if 2012 brings heartbreak and disappointment and traffic.  I know if I can keep this resolution, no matter what this new year brings, I will be a little closer to becoming the person I would like to be.

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