This is the time of year when we start looking back on what we've accomplished, left undone, discovered we had darn well better do, and needn't have bothered with. It's no surprise that as a Type A I am very fond of resolutions and SMART goals. Over the years I've had a lot of goals - to successfully homeschool my kids, to become a certified personal trainer, to get my associates degree in business, to get my bachelor of science in business, to land a management job, to do a U-turn and got back to teaching, to get my Masters in education, to get a teaching job. I threw in getting those degrees "with a 4.0 GPA" and I did it. Caregiving happened. Death happened. I kept plugging away, checking off boxes and moving on to the next goal.
I've probably mentioned a hundred times that my favorite poem is "If--" by Kipling. Different lines have always held varying levels of significance to me with "fill the unforgiving minute with 60 seconds worth of distance run" being my favorite. I've certainly done that but now other parts of the poem have challenged me. For the past few years and this one in particular, these portions have become prominent aspirations within me:
"If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster
And treat those two impostors just the same"
"Or watch the things you gave your life to, broken, And stoop and build ’em up with worn-out tools" and
"If you can force your heart and nerve and sinew
To serve your turn long after they are gone,
And so hold on when there is nothing in you
Except the Will which says to them: ‘Hold on!’"
The juxtaposition of Triumph and Disaster was undeniable this year - I earned my Master of Arts in Secondary Education with a 4.0 and my husband died right at the start of my final, benchmark class. I finished on time, didn't place anything on hold, chin up and upper lip stiff. But the triumph was bittersweet because it was so deeply marred by the disastrous loss of my companion of 34 years. All the plans we had to celebrate - gone. Goals and plans for our future? Gone. It was by his bedside that I learned that I had been selected for the teaching job I love -- while he couldn't talk, I think he was conscious enough to understand. Normally we would have celebrated together but instead I was holding his hand and watching him transform into a cyborg. It was hard, very, very hard - hence holding on when there was not a thing in me except that will which said, "Hold on."
So here I am, at the end of 2016. Building a new life, sometimes exhausted - definitely with worn-out tools, but pressing forward. Pat's been in the ground for five months now and for five months I've been learning how to navigate the world without the comfort of his presence. Faced with the thought of making new resolutions for next year, I think my goals this year are going to be far different than my goals of past years. “It's the sides of the mountain which sustain life, not the top.” ― Robert M. Pirsig wrote in Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance. My objective then is to work - and just "be" - on the sides of my mountain.
Pirsig's full quote of this is even better: "Mountains should be climbed with as little effort as possible and without desire. The reality of your own nature should determine the speed. If you become restless, speed up. If you become winded, slow down. You climb the mountain in an equilibrium between restlessness and exhaustion. Then, when you're no longer thinking ahead, each footstep isn't just a means to an end but a unique event in itself....To live only for some future goal is shallow. It's the sides of the mountains which sustain life, not the top.” This is so very much the opposite of me - I guess it is time I learned to put away some of my Type A tendencies in order enjoy where I am (although it is wise to always be aware of surrounds and have a map).
So I resolve to be more fully present in the present this year. Psalm 118:24 "This is the day that the LORD has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it." and Matthew 6:34 "Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own." I'm very thankful for the happiness that God is giving me in the present moment and for the people He has chosen to place in my life.
"Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus."