Living Benjamin Franklin’s 13 Virtues for One Year

Image-1 (7)In a moment of “What should I read next?!?” angst I picked up Benjamin Franklin’s autobiography.  Picked up is probably a misnomer as I read it on my Kindle, although I DO have to pick up the Kindle, so there’s that.  I was shocked at how likable, charming, and relatable he is with his 313-year-old self.  Who knew?

In the second section of Benny’s autobiography (I feel we are in a long-distance friendship–the distance being time–so we have pet names for each other. His ghost calls me Sassafras.) which he penned in his 80s, he detailed a system he had devised in his youth for self-improvement.  He initially chose 12 areas to work on and eventually added a 13th after a Quaker friend pointed out that he struggled with pride.  He continued using this system for many years and found it quite useful and I got it in my head that I should try it, too.  What does one do after making a decision like that?  One starts a blog, of course! Ack!  I know, I know, I’m the worst.  Nevertheless, that is how this blog began and I will be posting once a day about my progress with my old pal Benny’s system.

December 2019 REBOOT-ARAMA!!!  That makes abject failure sound fun, right? I’m going to have to start again with some changes, the main one being that I am going to tackle one virtue a month and double up during one of the months since I’ve never figured out how to cram an extra month in there somewhere for recreation and binge-watching.  Thirteenth month would not be a good choice for Industry month.  Related: Thirteenth month sounds lame.  I shall rename you Euphrosyne after the Roman god of joy. Aren’t you glad I wasn’t in charge of naming your children?  Here are the 13 Virtues:

Temperance

Silence

Order

Resolution

Frugality

Industry

Sincerity

Justice

Moderation

Cleanliness

Tranquility

Chastity

Humility

Frankie’s method was to put a tick mark for each time he failed to live up to one of the virtues.  I will be targeting one per month and drawing them from a hat to add to the suspense.  Who knows, if I keep it up this year perhaps next year I will try to do all thirteen simultaneously.  Now for the big question–do I start now, or on January 1st, 2020?  I shall decide TOMORROW!  Duh-duh-duuuuuuuhhhhhhhh.

Long Time No Blog

Ayiyi. It’s been a wild ride in the USA lately, but it’s kinda slowing down, except it’s not, because we’re about to have an impeachment trial. I’m doing my best to hang in there and keep with this project and trust that I’ll get better about blogging and keeping it top of mind as I go along.

How did I do on week three: Justice? I accomplished my goal of learning more and donating to five organizations that promote social justice. Here are links if you’d like to learn more or contribute yourself:

ACLU of Washington | (aclu-wa.org)

http://www.kingcountyequitynow.com Focusing on Black Advocacy, Black Policy, and Black Research in King County

Lavender Rights Project Specifically the WA Black Trans Task Force which addresses the crisis of violence against Black Trans people.

The Seattle Clemency Project Provides free legal services for refugees and for prisoners who are seeking clemency

Home – Friends of Youth This last one is a recommendation from our church’s social justice committee. They work with homeless youth and youth in foster care in King County.

I’m already deep into week four. I forgot to draw a new virtue and by default it has become Temperance. Why? Because I started my dreaded diet. Ugh. Hasn’t the last 12 months brought me enough angst without torturing myself, too. So far I would say that I’m doing fair to middling. I am counting my calories faithfully, but going over slightly every day. I think my personal goal is to attempt to continue to incorporate the previous virtues into my daily life while focusing mainly on that weeks virtue. I’ve decided that if I am able to complete this year with Benny’s virtue list I will create my own next year. I find that there are pressing things I’d like to work on in my own personality and actions that aren’t covered while at the same time some of his virtues aren’t areas where I particularly struggle.

Week 3’s Virtue Is…

…Justice. Very timely. This previous year, more than any other in my life, our society (in the US) has been focused on racial justice. Please note I was born after the 1960s. The deaths of black Americans at the hands of the police is something white Americans have ignored or downplayed for far too long. This issue hits close to home since my daughter is African American and I fear for her safety as she continues to grow up in a racially biased world. When I heard what had happened to George Floyd my first reaction was to feel panic for my daughter. We had always told her to obey the police, and not run or resist arrest, even if the cops were completely in the wrong, in order to maintain her safety, but here was a man who was complying and was still killed by the arresting officers. In public. While being filmed! So, if she runs they may kill her. If she stays they may kill her. How in the world do you parent your way around that one?

I think for this week I will pick a different charity or organization promoting racial justice and learn more about what they do and make a donation to each.

Wrapping up last week: How did I do on moderation and in particular my desire to watch less YouTube? Not great. We are cord cutters so watching network news programs via their YouTube channels is typically how I consume my news although I do also read some articles in our city’s newspaper. My dentist told me recently that she had read that our desire for news during a crisis becomes insatiable because our brain is going over and over the situation trying to solve a problem that is completely out of our control. Apparently my ability to stay away from YouTube is also completely out of my control. =P I spent countless hours watching videos of the Capitol riot and commentary of the same. I finally realized that it didn’t matter how many news stories I watched or read, I still wasn’t going to know what was going to happen next. I’ve lost a lot of sleep since last Wednesday and I remain very concerned for the peaceful transition of power we are hoping for this Wednesday. Only two more days until we ALL find out what happens next.

What a week!

You’ll have to forgive my absence for the last few days but our country suffered an insurrection on Wednesday. Our. Country. Suffered. An. INSURRECTION. During my lifetime! On a Wednesday! What the ever-loving ef?

2020 was one of the most stressful years of my life–top ten for sure–but there was no magic in the calendar moving on to 2021 and things remain chaotic, stressful, and depressing. Vaccines are finally being rolled out for COVID, but it is taking too long to actually get them to the people who need them. My father who lives in an Assisted Living facility was supposed to get his first dose in mid-December, but he just received it yesterday. Two of the three available vaccines require two doses given at least three weeks apart. Two weeks after the second dose is administered you are finally at full immunity. That seems like forever with him in the precarious position that he is in. Many, many, seniors have died since the pandemic began with long term care facilities being the hardest hit.

Meanwhile our current president has gone off his nut and his constant rhetoric about the election having been stolen from him has led armed supporters of his to march to the capital in DC, fight with capitol police, break in, and generally desecrate the space. I spotted several white supremacist flags during the live coverage and more have been brought to light since then. Arrests are finally being made. Politicians are finally distancing themselves from Trump. Our brave congressmen and women returned to the capital by 8pm and finished certifying the electoral votes. I was very proud and amazed at their courage when they had feared for their lives only hours before. Five people died as a result of this event. A second set of articles of impeachment are ready for Monday. What a bizarre period to live through. I always accepted that America could not remain a super power forever, but it never occurred to me that I might be alive to watch our democracy fall apart. I sincerely hope we can turn this around.

I did go ahead and draw my new weekly virtue. It was Moderation which I feared meant starting a diet, but that is actually covered under Temperance. Moderation refers to not doing things to extremes and in his own case Franklin was attempting to temper his confrontational speaking style by adding qualifiers to his statements. I, myself, tend to be timid so this will be a pretty easy week in that regard. I will try to have more balance in my daily activities with less time watching YouTube instead. The algorithm’s got it’s claws in me!

Week one wrap up (Silence): I did well. After the first couple of days I didn’t slip up with my kids again. I did catch myself correcting my son today, but I dialed it back and hey, technically it’s a new week now so gimme a break.

Missed yesterday–thank goodness my first draw wasn’t Resolution

Overall I think I did okay on Silence. I am trying to avoid any non-imperative corrections/criticism of my kids and gossiping. I slipped up twice by correcting my son over silly things that really didn’t matter. I think it’s a legacy of when they were small and you were constantly teaching them about the world. He often enjoys pontificating on subjects he doesn’t know much about and he takes it very hard if I point out any flaws in his monologue du jour. If he was a less sensitive kid then I wouldn’t feel the need to be so careful around this area. I also slipped up by gossiping today. Whoops! I’m not a big gossiper, but I do love filling my husband in on the latest antics of the youtubers I watch and I have a hard time not passing on extended family gossip, especially if it’s juicy. Ayiyi. I’m finding myself wondering if I can just store up the gossip and let it all out next month, but that’s not in the spirit of this. Silence is no fun!

In other news–I haven’t actually read the book (Benjamin Franklin’s autobiography) in two or three years and I had forgotten that I am supposed to change my focus every week, not every month. I’m still mulling over whether I want to make the switch to weekly instead of monthly and I have until Thursday to decide. Making decisions is NOT one of my strong suits. Hopefully that will get addressed somewhere along the way.

Ha! 8 minutes to spare

All right, this is me blogging on January 1st–just barely. Time to pick a virtue “out of a hat”. I used my Alexa to pick a random number and the winner is….Virtue number 2: Silence. Speak not but what may benefit others or yourself; avoid trifling conversation. Ack! I LOVE trifling conversation.

January 1, 2021 it begins

If I title a blog post that then it makes it true, right future Stephanie? Cross your fingers mysterious international blog post viewers from 2019. Quarantine-while, we found out yesterday that Biden had won the election. They had videos streaming in from all over the country of people literally dancing in the streets. I’ve never seen anything like it! I was at the Seattle victory party for Clinton his first term and of course we danced there, but the streets were danceless that year and every other election year. Now we all hold our breath and hope for a seamless and peaceful transfer of power.

I suck, period.

What I’ve learned is that I suuuuuucccckkkk at blogging. I kinda feel like I suuuuuucccckkkkk at everything right now. It’s COVID time. It’s, “my learning disabled kids (now with free ADHD included at no extra cost!) are trying to learn from home”, time. It’s, “my husband has taken over my office and working from home”, time. It’s, “two days since the election and we still don’t know who won”, time and don’t forget, “I have very little confidence that we will get through this pandemic without losing one or more of our parents”, time. So, yeah… All of that plus it’s rainy and cold and getting dark at 5pm and will it ever be summer and not socially distanced again? I’ve tried for the two past years to get this blog up and running–maybe this is the year I finally do, but I doubt it. Past behavior is the best predicter of future behavior and my past behavior is flaky af. See you in 2022-ish, probably? =P