We rang in the new year quietly with a mildly alcoholic drink and a movie. No late night parties for us or big celebrations in a bar or hotel ballroom. Maybe it’s because we’re not in our twenties anymore or just that we enjoy being at home with our canine friends. Whatever the reason, we were satisfied with our quiet evening at home. We are at the point where we didn’t even have to explain to each other why we spent our evening at home. Our priorities had changed.
The welcoming of a new year is a good time to reflect on what’s important. When we moved out of the Washington, D.C. area we left our hectic lifestyle behind. No longer did anyone notice what kind of car we owned, what neighborhood we lived in, or where our kids went to school. The early morning commute and earlier wakeup times also disappeared. I mean, who in their right mind gets up at 5 am to get to work by 7 if they don’t have to? A lot of the stress vanished too. My focus is now on my quality of life: getting more exercise and spending time with friends. Before this, conversations with friends and colleagues focused around how to get the next promotion or upgrading my wardrobe with the latest style. I stopped worrying about how others viewed me. Instead I began to ask myself a different set of questions: do I give enough? am I kind enough? healthy enough? Do I give enough time to causes I care about? Do I get sufficient sleep and consume the right amount of fiber?
What are my priorities for the new year?
Getting to better
First of all, I need to have personal space that is both conducive to productivity and creativity. This means I have to get moving at organizing the boxes of stuff from my parent’s house that are now all over the house and dispose of the excess.
Then there’s the family history project. I may have mentioned that I want to organize the family photos and stories and put it all together in a manner that can be shared with my relatives. Eventually, this will become a book or online resource center.
Next, I have to prioritize my time and energy. Should I read more? Knit more? Exercise more? Travel more? Garden more? Some of these things are easy to fit in. What’s harder are the intangibles that cannot be measured or scheduled. For example, I want to be more innovative, become a better writer, and push myself to take on things that are hard. Can this be planned? How do I make time to grow?
Decluttering is hard when it’s personal
A while ago — December 2015 to be exact — I wrote a post about the Japanese way of decluttering. I had read a book by Marie Kondo that provided a roadmap on how to declutter your house. The problem I had with this system was that it largely left out a consideration of human emotions and attachments. I can let go of clothing and shoes, no problem, but try to take away my grandmother’s silver or my boxes of family photos, you better be ready for a fight. These items are about who I am and where I came from. I love antiques and the stories that come with them. Besides, in a way, having old things is really like recycling.
I save old birthday cards and anniversary cards. I know I should get rid of them, but they have memories. I kept the last birthday card I got from my father before dementia took his mind. I know he picked this card out for me and it came from the heart. Now he barely recognizes me. I save the cards my children send me that have sweet, loving thoughts in them. I treasure these after the conflicts we during their teenage years when we didn’t like each other some of the time and had shouting matches through slammed doors. I know that memories should be enough, but not for me. I need to hold on to these momentos of the past.
But I have to start the process soon because the piles and boxes just sit there, mocking my indecision and challenging me to get rid of the excess so I can actually use the space for living rather than glorified storage.
After the decluttering and the reorganizing, when my living space is made useful and efficient, what’s next? Where is that sweet spot between contentment and usefulness? What do I want from 2017 that I didn’t get in 2016? These are all hard questions. Asking them is easy.
There are some things I know. Now that I’m at the second half of my life I want to enjoy as much of it as possible by having a healthy mind and body as long as possible. I will look for ways to stretch myself, physically and mentally, to stay in good health. Avoiding stress and those things that threaten this well-being means getting to no. Let me just say that no is a highly undervalued word. It doesn’t mean I can’t, but it does mean I won’t, or at least not now. While I try to avoid stress, that doesn’t mean I’m going to sit in the corner and cower in the face of adversity. I want to get out on the playing field and roll the dice and see what happens. What will this year bring? While it’s still to early to know, I’m ready for it!