During the next few weeks, get ready for the annual cavalcade of "year end reviews" and tremendous media overuse of the term "wacky," as in "A look back at the wild, wacky events of the past 12 months."
These wrap-up stories are usually predictable and repetitious. I find it's much more insightful to scan backward on my own personal calendar, and consider events that were important because they didn't happen.
My awareness of paths not taken was heightened recently during a visit with a friend who lives in the countryside and owns several horses.
When I asked how she became interested in riding, she explained that her husband, after several years of marriage, announced he wanted a horse. So the two of them adjusted their lifestyles to accommodate livestock ownership and maintenance.
"Now wait a minute," I cut in. "Your spouse just woke up one day and said it was time to saddle up? A done deal, out of the blue?"
"Basically, yes," she answered. In all honesty, I don't have anything against the pony and paddock set. But it never occurred to me that such a complex avocational orientation could take hold without any prior warning. How many men across America are affected by this phenomenon? Will I someday awaken with an inner mandate directing me to the nearest tack room?
Whatever the truth may be, I feel fortunate to have gone through the past year without experiencing a sudden onset of equestrianism. I'm trying to keep my life on a smooth, steady trajectory, like the precise operation of a NASA space flight. So I'm wary of sudden changes in direction - such as buying a large animal and pasture land - that might cause the capsule (me and my family) to start pitching and rolling, or tumbling out of control. From this perspective, I can list several other non-occurrences that made 2000 a very good year:
* I didn't acquire a Harley-Davidson and "hit the road."
* I never got the urge to see Nepal and climb Mt. Everest.
* I didn't find three other guys my age and form a rock band.
* I didn't buy a metal detector and spend all my free time wandering around parks and playgrounds, seeking buried treasure and Civil War artifacts.
* I didn't try to establish a new political party.
* I never felt compelled to support my favorite sports teams by attending every game wearing body paint instead of a shirt.
* I did not mortgage the house to get rich quick by selling emu oil or embarking on other uncertain financial ventures.
* I didn't decide to "chuck it all" and become a circus clown, or performance artist.
Any of these developments could have triggered a personal Mayday, the family equivalent of "Houston, we have a problem!" But the mission is still on course.
I'm good to go for Orbit 2001. The adventure continues.
(c) Copyright 2000. The Christian Science Publishing Society