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Friday, January 3, 2014

Resolved or not, 2014 is happening anyway!

It's been kind of a lazy week here in the Cooney house. Desi is home, Christmas is over, and aside from New Year's masses and a few funerals, there hasn't been much activity in the parish, largely due to the really active (snowy) cold weather we've been experiencing. Now, it's really passive cold weather, as we wake up today to negative temperatures and look forward to more of same over the next few days. So we catch up with phone calls, movies, and one another. It's easy to feel a little guilty about the lack of activity, but  really, what's a holiday season for? It isn't easy to be too reflective when we're all together, but at least the opportunity for conversation is there, and the quiet mornings will return too quickly anyway, given over to the school year's demands for pre-dawn rising with Terry, and Junior's absence to his curriculum at UNL.

But I don't want to completely lose the opportunities afforded by the new year, either.. What’s going to be different?

When I was younger, I would have said “nothing.” I wasn’t interested in any specificity in new year’s resolutions, mostly because I was convinced, even before January 1 rolled around, that they wouldn’t make any difference. Now, at 61, I really ought to make some changes. Can a person resolve to be happier? Can I figure out some way to intentionally surrender to my lot, knowing it’s far from perfect, but try to transcend my unease with aspects of my job with some kind of practiced generosity of spirit? Like, is it possible to say, “there are areas of life in which I’m incompetent, and somehow people let me survive my own lack of talent. Maybe I can cut certain colleagues some slack, and not just grit my teeth through Sunday, but relax into it and let it be whatever it is, and make my contribution to a larger whole.” Is that, ultimately, what agape and the body of Christ are all about? Sometimes the body has a cold, or a broken arm, or appendicitis. The rest of the parts pull together to make the best of it. Who knows? Tomorrow it may be a broken leg, or the flu, or clogged arteries. We all do our part, and we all thank God for white blood cells.

I don’t have any romantic illusions about this. I’ve had a lot of trouble trying to transcend my trouble with things at work. Things aren't in stasis, either, and generally are better than five, or three, or one year(s) ago. But I know that there aren’t many good ways for this to come out if I can't change my attitude, and if I don’t want to end up with an(other) ulcer, or become embittered and cynical, and end up working against the empire of God instead of for it, I have to do something.

At any rate, it would be easier than losing weight. I came across some new year's resolutions I was toying with for 2008, and I wrote this:
Already poised somewhere between the avoirdupois of a walrus and a blimp, a program of moderation is required. Yesterday, I bought a dang treadmill to give myself one less
excuse for lolling through the icy winter in the way to which I’ve become accustomed. I approached my doctor about helping me out with her program which is pretty successful. I only have to lose about a ton, i.e., about 20% of my body weight. I can do this. I just have to get over my self-help phobia, and do a few things that make me feel like a goofball (e.g., getting on a treadmill, stepping on a scale, eating less elephantine portions, &c.)
It ended up taking me most of 2008 to actually start to do something substantial about my weight, but in the fall I made some changes, and over the period of six months or so lost about 75 pounds. If only there were a pill you could take to help with the spiritual weight loss! 

It seems like a good time reevaluate my relationship with church music, too. There are a lot of significant anniversaries for me this year: 20 years at St. Anne, 25 years since Safety Harbor, 30 years since my first collection, You Alone. You've been reading about our wrestling with the music industry and working on figuring out how to distribute my newer songs. On the other hand, aside from a couple of anthologized songs, neither of my last two collections from 2005 (Christ the Icon) or 2006 (Today), ever attracted notice or review in Pastoral Music or any other periodical of which I'm aware. With that kind of silence, it's hard to know whether my style syncs with the church's needs. So I need to find a mission and make peace with all that.


I know that I really believe some of the wisdom that came out of conversations with Gary Daigle over the years. He believes you do your job, you do what you’re good at, live your vocation, and happiness and maybe success will follow. I need to do a good job in the parish, and out of that the music will flow. I guess the idea is that, if I think that a new piece of music I've written good for my parish, it might be good for other places. But the key thing is to do the right thing in my regular job, and everything else will fall into place. Maybe I can arrange a couple of "anniversary" concerts in the parish and nearby, give us a chance to get everybody together and sing through some of the songs we've written and express our gratitude for the opportunities we've had. This blog gives me the medium to express a lot of things I don't ordinarily get to share in my parish work, the way workshops and Forum institutes used to do, without worrying about the vagaries of air travel and arranging substitute musicians in the parish, and there's often vigorous feedback on Facebook about the topics that resonate with colleagues and friends.

Who knows where church music is headed in the next couple of decades? Maybe my songs were just for the last period of years, and helped get some of us through some kind of transition. I’ve always said that would be all right with me. Maybe that’s what I have to get used to thinking. 2014 will help sort it all out.

At any rate, friends, blessings and prosperity to you all in this new year. Somehow, may all of our little awakenings and contributions in our homes, neighborhoods, and churches rouse others to the empire of God. We could use a little peace on earth. Let it begin with me.