Friday, January 4, 2013

A Year of Lasts

(an alternate to New Year’s Resolutions)

Happy New Year, everyone. The end of the Mayan calendar did not hail the end of time, contrary to popular belief.

The holidays came and went, and we once again found ourselves on that day. The very first day of the new year. Sitting there like a brand new notebook or journal, with pages and pages of blank, crisp, white freshness waiting to be filled with events, thoughts, feelings, experiences, and eventual memories. A chunk of our life history, another episode in the chronicles of our lives.

Some of us are aged and nearing the ends of our lives, and some are just reaching those golden years (my God where did the time go?). Some of us are cruising through middle age, finally comfortable in our own skin and learning not to worry so much about things that used to be a big, dramatic deal in the past. Others are still finding their way to what they truly want in life, and discovering their authentic selves in their 20s and 30s. And then there are those in the middle of teen angst, thinking their lives are so unbearable and unfair--not knowing how frickin’ good they have it still being supported by parents and not having to earn their own living. The rest of us are still children, with our whole lives ahead of us, simply looking forward to the next recess, playdate, or sleepover.

As this new year dawned, I didn’t find myself thinking about resolutions or promises or new starts, like people typically do. I found myself thinking a very profound thought. What if this were a year of “lasts?”

You see, I had a dear, dear friend who was alive and well this past summer. In August she was diagnosed with brain cancer. By the first week of November, she was gone. She had no idea, last New Year’s Eve, that it was going to be a year of lasts for her. I also knew another great person—one of the proprietors of a wonderful Irish pub in my hometown, where I had my first book event, thanks to him—who also passed on suddenly, right after Thanksgiving. He probably had no idea it was to be a year of lasts either.

And I wonder….if we knew that our lives would end in 2013, and that we would be experiencing our last winter, our last Valentine’s Day, our last springtime, our last vacations, our last birthday, and several last events of things we are accustomed to doing each year (annual picnics, parties, marathons, bike rides, sporting events, family reunions), and if we were lucky—our last holiday season. If the year would go a lot differently than it would have, had we not known. I’m guessing the answer is a resounding HELL YES.

Maybe this sounds a little like the cliché “live each day as if it were your last.” That always sounds good in theory…until you’re in the real-world throes of a nasty conflict with a spouse, or not having enough  money to pay all your bills, or your business not doing well for weeks in a row, or your job grinding you down, or being unemployed and dirt-poor for months on end, or going through a painful breakup/divorce, or kids getting on your last nerve….then living each each day as if it were your last tends to fall by the wayside while you’re dealing with life's challenges.

But what if it was a year of lasts?

Sure, we’d all love to take that trip to wherever, buy that fancy car, hike the Appalachian Trail, or meet the Dalai Lama. But if time and money weren’t available for bucket list things….then what?

Would we stop procrastinating going to near and affordable places we’ve wanted to visit? Or get together with those friends we keep saying we’ll get together with but never do? Would we go sign up for those salsa or tango lessons once and for all? Would we spend a few extra minutes writing that letter to our elderly mother who’s 2000 miles away and 90 years old? Would we spend more time letting people know what they mean to us, and listening to what they have to say about their lives and how they’re doing? Would we spend more time standing and staring at sunrises, sunsets, cloud patterns, or a bug slowly making its way across a flower petal? Or relishing the feel of wind on our faces…or the smell of a wet, rain-drenched forest in springtime? Would certain things or people that we used to deem a pain in the ass or a thorn in our side not matter so much anymore? Would our ability to let shit go suddenly kick in, as our priorities realigned and we became very much aware of the things that mean the absolute MOST to us? Would we suddenly lose interest in our “stuff” and start feeling the need to get out more and interact with people and nature, rather than screens and gadgets and apps and components? Would we stop drearily bemoaning Mondays, counting down the workdays, and living for weekends? Would each dawn mean more than it ever did, in a year of lasts?

I’m thinking the very way we look at the world would change drastically, knowing we were seeing everything for the last time. I’m thinking our level of gratitude for everything would skyrocket, and our appreciation for the littlest things would surprise us. Maybe even bring tears to our eyes.

And if we were already doing all these things to begin with….we’d probably do them with triple intensity.

Definitely food for thought in the first shining days of a new year…as we pick up the pen and begin to compose the next chapter of our lives.

Just remember one thing. You and ONLY you, are the author.