As we plow our way through life with grandiose ideas of what can be accomplished, long to-do lists, and dreams of where our kids or careers can end up, we frequently lose sight of what we do that truly matters.
The 5 year old I live with frequently causes me to reexamine the world as I have assumed it through his marvelous eyes with comments like this: Do you know what Kerry? I'm heading to school today and it's October, and when I go back, the world is changing to NOVEMBER!!!! Can you even believe it?”
Sometimes just the flip of a calendar page is enough excitement for Aubtin. These moments do matter, because they call me back into focus. They call me into the place I need to be-- remembering that it is not the harried pace of getting through my next checklist at work that matters-- it is the miracles that happen in the moments between.
As we all look forward to that day in our imminent future where the normal flip of the page becomes instead a blank slate-- a new rectangle to hang on the wall with all of the potential of our lives-- I have a new view indeed. Like you, I love to set new intentions for the coming year. My starting point for that exercise is always a review of the past 12 flips of the calendar page.
When I flipped the calendar to 2015 my goals looked something like this:
Swim the Chesapeake Bay
Make it to sabbatical gracefully at work-- do my best work until then.
Experience as much of the world as possible in the 2 months of sabbatical
Focus on these 3 words: Loving. Balanced. Connected.
The simple review of 2015? Check. Times 4. What did I do this year?
Helped Habitat grow its leadership program
Travelled to 7 countries
Hiked the Grand Canyon, Olympic National Park, and the Inca Trail.
Learned French and Mexican cuisines in cooking schools.
Planned and carried out yet another significant home remodeling project.
Parented my children through 6 extracurricular activities.
Got my body across the Chesapeake Bay by water.
This review misses the point. As I grow older I care less and less about a check list, and more and more about relationships, depth, meaning, and true impact. This year's question is this: What did I do that really mattered? What made a lasting impact on my personal growth or another person's life? I thought the list would come more easily once I found the right question (props to my friend Ann who offered it), it has taken me 2 weeks of review to get my list. Here it is:
I left my job long enough to stop defining myself by my work. I started measuring my life by much more than how many families we serve at Habitat.
I started real relationships with people experiencing homelessness. They have taught me and effected me in profound ways.
I sat with my son and coached him through a pivotal life decision. I didn't take his whimsical decision as final, and continued a hard conversation with him as he truly dug deep.
I faced a turning point which confronted my deepest life scar and greeted it head on and lovingly healed that place within myself I thought would be with me always. This single act, as painful and soul-searching as it was, has transformed my relationships.
I invested in the people that matter: my partner, my children, my friends. I took trips with them, I turned off my screens with them, I called them, I held their hands while they cried, and screamed in joy with them when they hit big life wins. I showed up with my full presence.
I started saying “hell yes” to the experiences that called to me, and “no thank you” to things which didn't. This not only freed my time for the things I love, or wanted to be intentionally involved in, it freed me from the inevitable resentments of doing things out of obligation or half-hearted decision making.
It is this list, not the first, that I want to inform my 2016. I want to do more with this list than glance in the rearview mirror. I'm breathing it in and shaking it down into my soul. I'm celebrating the fun, and often-times hard road I paved to get to the end of 2015 with a list worth celebrating.
How about you? What did you do this year that really mattered-- to you or someone else? What unexpected turn in life found you doing the hard internal work of metamorphosis? Or set you up to grace someone else's life with your true presence and love when it really mattered the most?
Share your list with me-- whatever part you are comfortable with sharing-- and I will compile them for us all to celebrate-- sending a list out in the blog next week. Fill in the form below and you can keep your privacy-- comments have been turned off just for this post. I won't attach your name with your list unless you tell me I can! Don't put too much worry into who will think you are bragging or weird; this is not a space of judgement.
Do sit with yourself long enough to ask the real question: what did I do in 2015 that really mattered?