Clippings: Resolution for 2016: Say ‘hell yes’

At six in the morning on New Year’s Day, the vomit was everywhere — stretching from the living room, down the hall and into the dining room, soaked deep into the carpets. Exhausted and overwhelmed, my hands shook, my head reeled and my stomach curled into something small, sour and tightly wound.
This wasn’t my house and the mess on the carpet wasn’t even mine either; that was the work of the German shorthaired pointer I was sitting with at his home for the weekend. He had helped himself to an entire jar of joint supplements on the counter the night before and I discovered his handiwork just six hours into 2016.
Despite the stench and scale of the disaster, while I kneeled on the carpet with a bucket of diluted vinegar and a roll of paper towels, my mood was surprisingly serene.
New Year’s Eve has always been a coin-toss for me — it’s either an out-of-the-park homerun, or a real bummer. While most of my friends rang in 2015 at swanky parties, last year I woke up to what I thought was an artillery bombardment in Brandon. The thuds and booms were fireworks and I had almost slept straight through them. Instead of raising a champagne flute, I raised a toothbrush and went back to bed.
I don’t buy the idea of resolutions because they leave me feeling like I’ve got something to prove so I usually aim too high. If ever there’s a time to try something different, I figure a whole year is as good as I’ll need to see if something works.
Well before the dog puke cleanup fiasco, while the night was still relatively young, I was in Cornwall at a small party with friends. I was the designated driver and later, after dropping passengers off at their respective homes, I found myself at the intersection of Main Street and North Pleasant Street in Middlebury. Home — or the house in my care — was just two miles away. The heart of Middlebury was utterly still like a movie set after the cast and crew have left the lot and gone home. The night was winding to a close.
But I didn’t go straight home. Instead, I headed out of town, chasing the double yellow line north on Route 7, past Chipman Hill and across the New Haven River, passing the darkened convenience stores and barns, sharing the road only with the New Year’s Eve drunks and the cops out to stop them. I had the same unmarked Vermont State Police cruiser stalk me from Middlebury to New Haven Junction, before I turned onto Route 17, heading west. The gas light blinked on but I drove all the way through New Haven, Weybridge, Waltham and Addison to the Lake Champlain Bridge at Chimney Point, the lights on the spans and railings flashing in arcs above my windshield like I was ascending into the belly of a spaceship.
I have always done my best thinking on long car rides and what I found myself mentally chewing through was an approach to my decision-making; a method of making the best possible choice for the most possible happiness. Those that know me best will say that I’m not the kind to rock the boat; that no matter my objections I loathe confrontation and prefer to keep things balanced. But descending on the other side into New York, the idea took root that I hadn’t maximized my happiness, but rather, I had just maintained old habits in the stubborn belief that they would pay off or serve me well later on. I sat in a visitor’s parking lot with the engine off, watching headlights glide over the ceiling while I lay with the seat down, coming up with something close to an answer.
What I arrived at was this, Evan Johnson’s Method of Evaluation:
Does this make you happy? Do you want this?
If the answer is anything other than “hell yes,” don’t proceed.
The applications for this formula are many but I think the results will be consistent. What I found out there in western Addison County and on the shores of New York that night was a sense of control and empowerment, of knowing what’s within my reach and that I have the means to choose. In my quiet corner of the world, I have the ability to make the call, the up or down vote.
Naturally there are consequences. A conservative interpretation means loss, heartache and charting a course through the wilderness. But the uncertainty and the pain are worth asking for if I can approach my chosen path with the most confidence. For 2016, when confronted with the questions that matter, my affirmatives won’t be simply “yes,” or “I guess so,” but rather with the greatest conviction, “hell yes,” and I’m certain I’ll be better for it.
I sat there for about an hour before I started the car and crossed the bridge back to Vermont, returning to Middlebury by way of Route 125, completing a 33-mile night drive. The lights of town glittered and faded in my rearview mirror. I shifted and let the road lead me home. My night — and the new year — was still just getting started. 

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