Looking Backward, Looking Forward
Dec 28, 2017
My Christmas push is over, and I have the gift of three weeks to spend reflecting on this past year and planning the next. New Year’s Resolutions are fairly new for me. For 46 years, life revolved around husband and children, and I felt little need to set life goals and priorities. Importantly, Lev assumed so many responsibilities—business, finance, insurance, cars—and was always willing to run errands, clean up my messes in the kitchen, take me out to dinner, do whatever needed to be done.
Now it’s all my responsibility; but even as age slows me down, I am attempting to do more as a widow than I did as a wife: trying to write, trying to find community in three locations—Corpus Christi, Dallas, Nantucket. Like the circus performer on the high wire, I am trying to stay balanced.
A year ago, I wrote formal New Year’s Resolutions here. When I re-read them recently, I decided to grade myself on a four-point scale. I made D+. Not good. Not good at all. Not grades I ever saw in my academic life. Here they are in all their ugliness:
- Time to get off the merry-go-round, slow down a little, deal with all the stacks of paper that I’ve ignored for too long. C- I’m a slow learner. After five months of almost constant travel—Central Europe, Nantucket, Japan—I slowed down in the fall, but the stacks of paper have continued to grow.
- Time to get papers shredded. A
- Time to part with the handful of items I couldn’t bare to throw away in 2009. F
- Time to catch up on household repairs. B I still procrastinate, but the living room is back together after major water damage in 2015.
- Time to spend with old friends I see too seldom. B I am intentional about carving out time with friends, but I don’t reach past my close friends often enough.
- Time to get back on my daily writing schedule, to finish revisions to RECLAIMING JOY: A PRIMER FOR WIDOWS. F It didn’t happen. After writing the entire first draft of my book in 18 days on Nantucket in 2014, I frittered away two months there last summer without writing at all.
- Time to get serious about finding an agent, building a platform, engaging more seriously in social media. D I made a stab at it, attending the DFW Writers Conference last spring, but my efforts to build a platform and engage more seriously in social media have been sporadic at best. One thing I learned: Memoir is not like other nonfiction. I need a finished manuscript before I can find an agent.
Looking back, I recognize two additional goals, which I accomplished: I returned home to First Baptist Church of Corpus Christi, where Lev and I worshiped from 1963 to 2005. And I weigh the same amount this morning that I weighed in September 2015, when I quit dieting. That is in spite of pie for breakfast and dinner yesterday.
All the above remain goals for 2017. Near the top: Finish the @#%* book! That means I need to stay off the merry-go-round and schedule my priorities. I am not as tightly scheduled as I was last year; with determination I can do this by May. I am building in free time on Nantucket, limiting company, in order to find an agent and build a platform. Remind me. Hold me accountable.
My new resolutions are more abstract, and I plan to blog about them in January:
- Looking Backward, Looking Forward
- Resolved: To Bury, Burn, Dig Out
- Resolved: To Count My Blessings
- Resolved: To Be Healthy
- Resolved: To Nurture Relationships
Janus, the god of widows
We widows tend to spend too much time ruminating about a past we cannot change and worrying about a future we cannot control. Some live in the past, never letting go, moving on, building a new life, reclaiming joy.
We need both of Janus’ faces: One regarding what is left behind and the other looking toward what lies ahead. Janus was the Roman god of gates and doors, the guardian of exits and entrances. In that role, he also represented beginnings…one must go through a door or gate to enter a new place. January is appropriately named for him.
“Give Yourself Grace,” by Kristin Meekhof, widow, author and social worker, is especially helpful for widows who linger in the past. She concludes, “One of the most difficult things for the bereaved to do is to relinquish the past. As long as you are anchored to the past fear will dominate your choices. Fear will drive every decision you make and this is a dangerous way to exist. There are many healthy things…that you can do to cope with loss, so if you haven’t tried giving yourself a pass, I’m asking that you consider this as well.”
I have looked at the past long enough. I am ready to look to the future. I am ready to walk through the door to new beginnings. How about you?
December 29, 2016
* * *
Sitting down at my desk—the only place in the house that has some degree of order—on the day after Christmas, I finally have a quiet moment to reflect on 2017 and to prepare mentally for 2018. I am attempting to practice what I wrote about in my Advent Meditations: …forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on to the goal for the prize of the heavenly call of God in Christ Jesus. Philippians 3:13b, 14 NRSV. What I wrote about a year ago is as applicable today as it was then. In fact, I suspect that my new practice (too new to call a habit yet) of blogging about my New Year’s Resolutions (including my successes and failures) and committing publicly to change has helped me stay focused. During this quiet week—an interlude between Christmas and New Year’s—I will write about how I’ve done this year and how I want to change and grow in the coming year.