As the end of a year draws to a close, I tend to look at what I’ve done, and consider what I want to accomplish in the year ahead. In some years, it’s just a tallying of achievements and memorable events, and a fresh list of New Year’s resolutions. At other times, it’s more reflective. It seems that this is one of those thoughtful years.
I will turn seventy years old this year. Simply surviving in this world for that length of time feels significant. The group of young people I graduated high school with, who I remember as young, strong, and capable, has been reduced by almost a quarter! Two grandmothers, one grandfather, and five of my brothers and sisters died long before they reached seventy. In fact, few members of my family have made it to age eighty. So…
With the “finish line” in my life not yet in view, but perhaps just over the horizon line, and almost uncomfortably close, I’ve been looking at the big picture. What do I want my life to represent, when looked at all through the years? What have I done, and what should I do? How can I do better? How can I bring more contentment and joy into my life?
This isn’t brand new. I’ve been operating with these questions in mind for more than ten years now, since my mother’s death shook me awake to the finite nature of this precious life. It has caused me to pay closer attention. It has made me more thoughtful. I’ve expanded my sense of gratitude and appreciation. I have tried to be happier. Still, with a new milestone in view, and a new year right around the corner, it feels like the time for a fresh assessment. That’s what I’ve been doing.
Some things are just normal adjustments. I cleared off my desk, and made new decisions about the things I keep there. I removed an art photo that I’d gotten tired of, moved several old family photos to a shelf near my bed, switched the location of a picture of my Mom, and brought in a photo of my sisters. These simple, small changes give me a brand-new outlook whenever I sit here.
I moved furniture around in the living room, to give a couple house plants more light during this time of year. I’ve been thinking about changes I can make in the dining room, to make the file cabinet more easily accessible, and to give the table a bit more space. I have a few ideas for the studio, too, to make moving around in there a little easier. I’m constantly trying to figure out ways to make more room in the tiny rooms of my house.
I have plans to move the border of the vegetable garden a few feet to the north, come spring. It will be a lot of work for very little change, but then I’ll be able to mow all the way around the fenced garden spot. That will cut down on the amount of grasses, berry brambles and weeds that continually move in from the south side, that now borders a wild field. I ponder more dramatic changes, like building high raised beds or designing a different enclosure, while I’m at it. I try to suppress those ideas. Too often, the more ambitious the plans, the less actually gets done!
This month brought one major development in my life that has been a long time coming: I put in my notice at the hardware store. December 30th will be my last day working there. It’s a change that took a lot of thought and consideration. It’s a little sad. I have been employed there for almost twenty years; it has, mostly, been a good experience. But, the time is right.
With endings, come new beginnings. I’ve started working a few hours a week at the Community Center here. I’m enjoying it very much so far, for the change in scenery and routine, and for the lovely people I work with. Along with my summer job at the Beaver Island Golf Course, my volunteer work at the Island Treasures Resale Shop, my garden, and constant on-going projects in the studio, this ought to be enough to keep me out of trouble!
There are more changes that I’ve been contemplating, many having to do with methods of creative expression. I have many more things to consider, and other decisions to make. That’s enough for today, though. It makes me think of one of my favorite quotes, this one from the Talmud: “Life is so short we must move very slowly.”