We are coming up to the end of the second decade of the 21st Century. It is that time of year for celebration, gratitude, giving to others and taking stock. In these two months we are celebrating trick or treat at Halloween; showing gratitude for our blessings at Thanksgiving; and then we are experiencing a spiritual time of the year with Hanukah and Christmas plus the celebration of the beginning of a new year.
After that, if we are lucky, we get to do it all over again, living another year. It is also the time to take stock of our accomplishments for the past year and plan for the new ones. Many of us even send out year-end letters that bring our friends up-to-date with what has happened in our lives or just says “Hi, I’m still here.”
What is it like to live this season well? First, don’t let the season get you down. We think of it as all sweetness and light, but the holidays can be a real bummer with anxiety, reminders of lost loved ones and excesses. When it seems everyone else is feeling great and you’re not, it hurts. Committing random acts of kindness can help. Focus on giving more than receiving. It is also that time of year to shed the past and take stock of the future.
As an engineer, I use the same tools to manage my life as I do to manage work. Some people have a New Year’s resolution; I have a spread sheet that touches all of the important areas of life and I just plan a year ahead, trying to live in the moment. My goals include “wellness” which sets goals for a physical at the VA, key doctor visits, exercise, weight, blood work and blood donations. My “spiritual” goals include work with the church, teaching Sunday school, climbing a mountain and studying areas such as end of life directives and keeping up with friends. There are “financial” goals, which is mostly a budget, tending to retirement income, and the plan to spend less than we make. Last is “mental”- continued education, writing this column, reading 25 books while watching 100 feature length movies or TV seasons and going to the theater 8 times.
What did I miss?
One of my favorite tools to stay close to our lifelong friends is a year-end letter. Our friends are scattered; our four kids are each an 8 hour plane ride away. So, once a year it’s useful to summarize the ups and downs of the past year and including some photos.
It is easy to send them by e-mail but we have some folks that we actually send a letter with a stamp so they have something they can read in their hands. My niece is worried about filling up the landfill with these cards, but they are recyclable.
I’m sure the photos have more value to them than a lot of the words but much of this is for me to answer the impertinent question of, “What is happening in my life that is worthwhile and that is interesting?” Try it, go ahead, and impart some wisdom of what you have experienced and what you think the future holds. It will do you good and it won’t hurt your friends to hear it. The worse that can happen is they won’t read it and that is their loss.
Charles Dickens wrote “A Christmas Carol” to teach us how to celebrate the spirit of just one of these days. There are so many things to do that will give us joy, improve our self-awareness, make the coming year more productive and keep our friends close. This retrospection might even give us insight about how we won the lottery to be born in a time when the average American has more abundance and good health than the richest of royalty 25 generations ago. And, there are people who love you, “just the way you are.” Just like Mr. Rogers said.
This is the time of year to really listen to our family and friends. What are the needs at home or in our community that are not being met? Can we help fix them? We can volunteer for the food cupboard or favorite charity and build a future that will help get us out of bed in the morning with the excitement of meeting the new day.
Let’s take the time to savor this wonderful time of year and the loved ones around us that make it special.