I’ve always loved New Year’s Resolutions. I love the idea that I am striving for something new, looking to constantly improve, and taking on a new challenge.
One year, when I was in my 20s, I made a resolution to visit a dozen new countries. Another year, when my kids were all really small, I aimed to cook a real dinner every other night. In 2017, Shawn and I both decided that we were going to throw more parties and spend more time with our friends.
2017 was my last year of New Year’s Resolutions. When people would talk about resolutions in 2018, I merely said, “my goal is to survive.” The next year, I had a “year of yes,” where I tried everything, which is sort-of like a resolution, I guess.
But in 2020, I want to have a bit more clarity.
It makes sense. 20/20 denotes perfect vision, and though I know I can’t aim for any sort of perfection this year, I like the idea that (like my eyesight), 2020 might be the year where I have a bit more clarity on what I want from this world.
I mean, what I actually want this year is for Shawn to be alive again. I want for me to not be a widow and for this blog to not exist and for the biggest drama in my life to be that I feel a tiny bit bored.
But that, of course, is not the reality in which I live. For much of the past two years, however, I have tried to re-create the life that I had until early 2018. I have tried to keep the exact same friends and do the exact same things in my community. I have tried to host the same parties and get into a relationship that could mimic the one I had with Shawn.
And I have failed. Sometimes things have gone well in my life, and some of the parts of my life are the same as they were back when Shawn was alive. But for the most part, when I’ve tried to just re-create my pre-2018 life, it’s been a disaster.
I was on a long run the other day, and I started to think about running as a metaphor for the past few years. Since Shawn died, I’ve spent a lot of time running away from the pain and the other terrible things that come from being a widow. I’ve tried to get through the bad stuff and hope that good stuff comes my way. I try and just keep moving.
Recently on my runs, I’ve started to pass by the National Cathedral here in Washington. Because I run so early, I’m often passing it as the sun is rising. Bright reds and oranges and pinks frame the cathedral and it seems quite otherworldly. I love it so much that when I’m running really early, sometimes I’ll take a break and wait a few minutes for the sunrise to really appear and light up the walls of the cathedral. Even when a shorter run would make my life easier, I run towards the cathedral.
Actually, I like the metaphor in that previous paragraph. Rather than running away from my life, I like the idea that I can start to run towards something. To be clear, I don’t want to run towards a new man, one that would perfectly replace Shawn. I don’t want to run towards totally new friends. I don’t want to run towards a new life.
What I want to do, instead, is to be able to do what I do every day at the National Cathedral: run in a direction that makes me happy, towards something I know will fill me with joy. And when I get to that place, I want to look around and appreciate it.
I always loved New Year’s resolutions before Shawn died. I liked the idea of constantly improving my life. But trying to do that after he died has made me unhappy because it’s shown me everything that I’m missing and can never, ever replace.
So this year, I’m not setting any specific resolutions. Rather, I’m going to spend more time trying to appreciate the beauty in this life I’m living. Yes, there’s a goodness in striving, but there’s also a goodness in looking up, seeing the pink of the sky as the sun rises, and thinking, “damn, that’s beautiful.”
As a cyclist I can really relate to the metaphor you’re using here. I too am trying to figure out how to transition from riding away from something to riding towards something.
Within the cycling world, I have been able to do that by targeting races and goals. Now I need to figure out how to translate those metaphorical goals of growth, passion and engagement into my every day life.
My particular situation is complicated by the fact that my wife was killed in a cycling accident. I am using this passion of mine as a way to keep moving forward, but it is forever linked to the thing that shattered my life. The hard part was separating her accident from the activity that we happened to be doing when the accident occurred.
Oh, that’s so tough. I have a hard time even returning to the emergency room where my husband first went (like if, for example, a kid takes a tumble and needs stitches) so I’m sure it’s terrible to get back on your bike, even if you you need to do it for you. Best of luck – I’m pulling for you.
I had a very similar feeling this year. I felt like I was beyond just surviving and wanted more thriving…but still not sure what that looks like in this new life.
I think we figure it out slowly. One day at a time, as they say. But for me, it’s helped to have big goals too.
I like these quotes from John Burroughs, the American naturalist and essayist:
“To learn something new, take the path that you took yesterday.”
“I go to nature to be soothed and healed, and to have my senses put in order.”
What an eloquent image – to run in a direction that makes you happy; towards something you know will fill you with joy – and the beauty of the cathedral at dawn makes the image something more than a metaphor. I think we re all trying to figure out what that “something” is, and it certainly isn’t as easy as the advice I occasionally get to “follow your passion” or “do what makes you happy.”
Yes – what is that “something” now that our partners are gone? That is my 2020 question.
Dear Marjorie: Your words continue to inspire and resonate.
I want to change my orientation to….
Life is something that is presented to me Vs life is happening to me. Someone else said that, i.e., not my own “deep thought.” I’m also trying to practice gratitude, because I’m alive and I have family that are like friends and friends that are like family (probably not my words, either).
Thank you for the wonderful food for thought.