new year

A Recipe for Wisdom

I do not believe that sheer suffering teaches. If suffering alone taught, all the world would be wise, since everyone suffers. To suffering must be added mourning, understanding, patience, love, openness, and the willingness to remain vulnerable.” -Anne Morrow Lindbergh, A Gift from the Sea

If suffering alone did teach, we would be so very wise right now, wouldn’t we? For it feels as if this year gone by has delivered more than its fair share of suffering. 

My own world was rocked with suffering when my mother died in March. By late summer, I had lost count of all the people in my circle who also lost a parent this year. (At last count it was 22, and I think the final sum must be well over 30.) I lost a younger friend to cancer, and an even younger one to suicide. Not to mention a host of celebrities who died in 2016. 

Life In General: A Shiny New One

Here it is, a shiny new year. 

I’m really love New Year’s Day, and certainly not because of football. I love a clean slate, and what better one than a brand, spanking New Year, complete with new calendars, new notebooks, and fresh new opportunities. No matter what’s happened in the waning days of the old year, January First is a harbinger of possibility and change.

Turning the Page

One of my favorite things about a New Year is a new calendar. I love seeing all the blank pages with their empty squares waiting to be filled. Even though many of those squares will contain mundane things like haircut appointments and rehearsals, there will also be outings with friends and concerts and even a trip or two. There will be, of course, disappointing day - days when I fall short of the expectations I make so eagerly every year as I begin to pencil plans and dreams onto those blank pages. But I am learning to be gentle with myself over those failures, even when they seem monumental. It’s okay, I whisper, much as I would to my little grandson were he to present me with some sadness.  I love you no matter what.

page turningAs I begin 2014, I am excited, I am eager, I am looking forward to a year I intend to devote to ME.  That sounds selfish, doesn’t it? When I was growing up, “selfish” was a dirty word, and the last thing I ever wanted to be. It was a lesson I internalized extremely well. Like many women I spend much of my time tending to the needs of others, and although these are things I do with great love they sometimes take every ounce of my energy, leaving me irritable and unhappy.

But as my friend Deb Smouse reminds me, “When you are living a happy, full, and complete life, you give others a gift. The greatest gift you can give the world is a happy you.” I’m happiest when I have time and space which I can devote to the things that feed my soul. While none of those things are extravagant or expensive, they are invaluable to me in terms of helping me feel fulfilled, energized, confident - happy. They are as simple as sharing morning coffee with my husband, walking my dogs through the quiet streets of our neighborhood, spending time at my keyboards playing with words and music.

As I turn the calendar page on January 1, my life is serene and in order.  I am where I want to be, literally and figuratively, after spending the past few years churning in a sea of cluttered physical and emotional space. My head is above that water now, I can breathe freely and turn my attention inward. I can look at the blank pages and empty squares of my life and begin to fill them with what is important to ME.   I am beyond grateful for the opportunity to do that.

I want 2014 to be the year  I lean with joy into this life I love. The year I write more seriously and more often.  The year I  publish a book of essays called Life in General, culled from the 2000 blog posts I’ve written in the past seven years. The year I dive into self care routines that nourish my body and spirit. The year I read more thoughtfully and carefully. The year I learn to live more in the real world than the virtual one.

But although I want these things for my little life, I have learned to temper desires such as these to the dictates of reality. I am long past the point of worrying about whether I achieve every item on a list. Sometimes it’s enough to just make the list, to know those aspirations are there like distant stars on the horizon, to fondle and play with as life permits.

deserve the time and energy to dedicate to my dreams and passions. This is the year I intend to take it.

So let’s turn the page and begin.





Clean Slate

Do you remember a toy called the Etch-A-Sketch? It was an 8 x 10 screen encased in red plastic with two knobs that, when turned, created thin graphite lines on the screen. It was one of my favorite childhood toys.  The downside was that you could only draw vertical lines - but since I wasn't much of an artist, it didn't really matter to me. One of my favorite things to do was twist and turn those knobs almost maniacally, until the entire screen was black with graphite shavings. Then I'd turn the Etch-A-Sketch upside down, give it couple of swift shakes, and all the lines would disappear.

Clean slate.

I feel somewhat the same way on the days leading up to January 1 each year. I scurry around trying to tie up all the loose ends of the Old Year before I turn my life upside down and shake it to start January 1 with a clean slate.

This year was one of new beginnings - I left my job while my husband returned to his. I started spending more time on my writing, and took a writing class which was exciting and enlightening. My son and daughter in law moved from Florida to Texas, and promptly embarked upon the ultimate fresh start - a new baby, our grandson Connor, who was born on November 14.

Although there weren't a lot of things in 2011 that need erasing, the idea of starting fresh is still very appealing. Brand new years inspire the kind of shake up I used to do with my Etch-A-Sketch, the kind that wipes away all the messiness and ugliness of the year gone by. Clean pages on the calendar spark ideas for ways to fill them with satisfying experiences,

I want 2012 to be a year of more new beginnings. I want to find my way into more creative outlets, especially musical ones. We hope to move to a new home in 2012, a major undertaking that we've put off for our entire adult lives and one that is long overdue. I want to be excited about that, and embrace the idea of this change with enthusiasm and positive energy.

There is likely to be sadness and loss during 2012. When you reach our stage of life, it seems almost inevitable. But I hope whatever losses do come are tempered with enough joy to make them bearable.

On this last weekend of 2011, I hope you are reflecting on the positive elements of this past year, and looking forward with eager anticipation to new challenges and experiences in the year ahead.

Go ahead - shake it up and turn it over.

Clean Slate.