If I had to choose one sense to give up, what would it be?
Yeah, I know, none of that holds any meaning. Which is par for the course these days because I’m pretty sure I have never been this insanely busy and still comprehensible.
I start out each day finishing yesterday’s work—this again, is rather average and ordinary for many of us. But should it be?
Maybe—and only from the perspective that I’ve never been this incredibly productive—but I’m noticing a pile up of all my minor bucket list activities ignored, dismissed, and pitched off the itinerary entirely because really, who has time to teach quantum physics to their dog?
Except I wanted to.
I also wanted time to balance last month’s checkbook, take a glance at last week’s four thousand emails, and clear out last year’s leftovers from the fridge.
None of these activities are nearly as important as the whole science experiment believing that with enough patience I could turn the genus Canis into a genius Canis, but I feel the surplus of neglect in other areas is starting to rear its ugly head demanding attention.
I know, I know, I can hear the responses to my gripe pouring in right through my computer monitor:
Editor/publicist/agent—We told you this business is a tough one, and maybe not for a pansy such as yourself, but you went ahead with it anyway. Stop your whining and deliver us work.
Parents—None of this would be happening if you’d just finished your degree in opera performance with a minor in third-world country folk music. You could be onstage at the Met right now dressed as a villager from Tajikistan.
Pets—Like we give a damn. Feed us.
Pity party over. I find no solace from any quarter.
Except … from Father Time.
Because everything ends. And December, in particular, is a time for endings. The end of the fiscal cycle, the end of the endless holiday season, the end of twelve months on every calendar. It is the finish line of the long six month journey into darkness. And at the end of darkness comes light. Dawn follows the night, summer springs forth from winter, illumination shortly succeeds most every election.
It is a pattern we’re used to, but maybe not wholly aware of. It’s so far in the background it’s now just white noise.
Eckhart Tolle sends me (and millions of others) an occasional “present moment” reminder. It’s a pithy little sentence that in a gentle non-blaming, non-shaming kind of a way announces you’ve strayed from the path and lost the plot.
And it doesn’t matter what tender, sympathetic words the great philosopher uses as an alert, I always read, then slowly hunch over in my chair, and end up face down on my keyboard, forehead somehow locating the letters U, G, and H, tapping them out repeatedly as my head rolls across the characters.
The work will always be there.
The work doesn’t care about you.
Eckhart Tolle doesn’t necessarily care about you either, but he cares that you care about you.
And that is as bright a light bulb moment as we’re ever going to get from anyone.
Our beginnings, middles, and endings are largely structured by us—in an everyday sort of way, although if you want to start the argument that covers the whole “ultimately, we’re fooling ourselves if we think we have free will,” then the first part of my sentence is a moot point.
And I really hate moot points, unless they work in my favor.
The grand message here is that endings— for this essay in particular—are all around us, and personally, I love endings. I like all loose ends tied up and solved, I’m drawn to the last chapter of a book, the last scene of a movie, the last forkful of pie—okay, that one I might wish were never-ending, but it’s technically still a delicious ending.
But the thing about endings is what follows them.
A little meta, I get it, but valid nonetheless.
And beginnings are fresh starts. Clean slates ready to be scribbled upon. A whole new pie ready to be forked over. Where some last breath is drawn, some other lungs are filling with air for the first time—and I know that’s a little morbid, but death is morbid.
Except when it isn’t. Like the death of a day. Sunsets are not morbid.
The death of a bad law. Slavery was a very big and bad idea to begin with. Not morbid.
The death of longhand penmanship. I’m pretty sure there are millions of school children across the land who are prepared to throw a parade in honor of that withering demise.
It’s perspective, really.
But you know what does not have an ending? Work.
Work never ends. You finish one pile, and another grows exponentially in that same space. One project overlaps another. Years of effort accumulate and you can no longer remember the pitch you made to start the mission.
To be fair, work is truly important, as it’s what makes many of us feel as if we’re making a difference. But we also crave feeling a difference.
In everyday life.
And the way to make that happen is to experience things that are mostly outside our ordinary sphere of interactions and practices. AKA, that bucket list.
It doesn’t have to be big or grand or cosmically so noteworthy it’s on the 6 o’clock news. It just has to be worthy enough to us.
Because it would be awful to come to your own ending only to realize that there were a million things you wished you could have at least started.
So, I say hop to it. Get on the ball and make some movement forward—toward the middle of something new and exciting and un-work related.
Because the clock is ticking and time is running short. Pretty soon, you won’t be able to smell December anymore.
Happy New Year to you all!
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