What: Pledging to donate blood sometime in January of 2009.

Why: Mike’s Theory of New Year’s Resolutions: Most fail because we make them when we’re cold, tired, and hung over. It’s hard to keep that promise about going to the gym every week when you can’t even get your car out of the snow. So Evon and I only make resolutions we know we will feel good keeping. Donating makes us feel good, but times are hard, and many of us don’t have as much money to give to charitable causes. But there’s one great leveler in which all of us have the same ability to donate as we did before the meltdown: we all* have one pint of blood we can give every 56 days. Donating takes only 30 minutes, fills you with positive energy, and rewards you with all the juice and cookies you want. It’s a great New Year’s resolution because you can get it out of the way in a heartbeat, and then it’s not even going to be possible for you to do it again for two months. Tell that to your treadmill.

Impact: One donation can save three lives, because the blood is split into three parts: red blood cells, platelets, and plasma. The latter is where I got one of the oddest compliments. I’m feeling all grumpy at the Origins Game Fair, so I decide to cheer myself up by giving blood. The vampire looks at me and says, “Would you care to donate twice as much today?” I didn’t know I could do that and live. “You can,” she says, “because we have a new machine that replaces the plasma when it takes the extra red blood cells.” Crazy cool, sign me up. So I’m tapped in, and the vampire says, “Wow, your plasma is very yellow.” PANIC? “No, that’s good. It means you have more potent plasma, and so it can be given to more people.” More potent? Hold the phone, I have… super-blood? Yup, I have super-blood. The average human body is worth $4.50 in component minerals. Me, I’m like five and change, baby.

Personal Connection: I was once terrified of needles. That “once” was up until age 16, when I gave blood for the first time. And you know what? After I gave blood, I was still terrified of needles. But for the period in the middle, when I was giving up something that could save lives, I wasn’t. That belief gave me control of my fear, at least for a time, and now anything smaller than an epee doesn’t faze me. I’ve applied this approach to many other aspects of my life, and it works for me. (Not everything, though. “I fear I wouldn’t be good at brain surgery” is not something I’d cure through this method.)

Other Contenders: Evon and I had the same resolution for four straight years, to eat at a new restaurant every week. This guaranteed us 52 dates a year, which was not going to happen unless we made time. We issued lists of our ratings, and friends would call us with requests like “Where can I get a good cracked crab?” (answer: Elliott’s Oyster House) or “Is there any Chicago-style pizza in Seattle?” (answer: Delfino’s Pizzeria). We stopped when we ran out of good restaurants in Seattle. That was several years ago, though. Maybe the pool has restocked. We shall see.

*One regrettable exception: many gay men have never known a world in which they could donate. I hope that changes.

Publication Note: This essay appears in the collection LiveJournal: The First Decade.