New Year comes at an odd time of year. It’s mid-Winter, the shortest night of the year is past, but the coldest months are ahead. Spring makes more sense, when determined shoots push out, and so does Fall, when the harvest is in. But no one called me to ask, and Romans messed around with the calendars until it worked to their satisfaction, and so Filofaxes were invented. (I’m skipping a few years between the two. I learned that from Timeline on Facebook.)
In the years you start celebrating New Year’s at home because it’s more comfortable to tipple champagne in your jammies, you look at each new year and begin to wonder. If you will still be here next New Year. If it’s time to start working on your bucket list. What kind of regrets you might have if you woke up to very bad news. (Add your own here, we can scare ourselves best. Just don’t leave them in the comments, thank you.)
The question I ask myself more often is, “Have I really done what I was supposed to do?” A lot of my life seems routine, but it was a responsible life–earned a steady income while I was a single mom, went grocery shopping, cooked healthy meals, kept the house clean, oversaw homework, polished shoes, didn’t date seriously till I knew what I wanted.
Now that those days are over, I ask myself, “What do I need to do to live a life with no regrets?” It’s another variation of the question, “What is the purpose of my life?” (I don’t waste time with the inconsequential stuff like “What’s for dinner?”)
I decided I didn’t have to have the answer to that, actually. I turned the question around (I have a 5,700 year heritage is answering questions with questions), and said, “What does life want of me?” It seems easier looked at from that perspective. Life does not ask one thing of us. There is a different answer every time we ask. Just as there is not one “right” answer to “what is your favorite color,” or “what is your favorite song?”, there is more than one right answer to “What does life ask of you?”
To dig out the answer, I put it in the surrounding that Victor Frankl, the philosopher and therapist did: At this moment, I can give the answer as if I were living a second time, and had made a wrong choice before. What choice will I make this time? This choice is made as if I can return to the past and make the change that alters the future. All by changing my perspective now. What life asks of me is to be responsible for my own answer.
And what’s the purpose of that? Here is what Frankl says:
“Don’t aim at success. The more you aim at it and make it a target, the more you are going to miss it. For success, like happiness, cannot be pursued; it must ensue, and it only does so as the unintended side effect of one’s personal dedication to a cause greater than oneself . . . . you have to let [success] happen by not caring about it. I want you to listen to what your conscience commands you to do and go on to carry it out to the best of your knowledge. Then you will live to see that in the long-run. . . success will follow you precisely because you had forgotten to think about it”
I have the freedom to pursue the work of my heart, because the work of my heart makes meaning, and when I am making meaning, I know what I’m doing. I know where I am going. I’m striding out into 2012 not to pursue greatness, but to make meaning. How does that translate into action?
I’m choosing to teach classes that won’t please everyone, that won’t gather a huge audience. I’m not going to teach classes that let you walk away with a product–a pretty journal, or a gift for your sister-in-law. I’m going to teach classes that will give you an ink-stained heart, and write yourself whole.
I’m teaching classes that put you in touch with your creativity, that allow you to make meaning. I want to do this. I don’t have time to waste. You’ll leave the class with a new vision of your own, with having discovered your own creative heartbeat.
I’m a little scared, because it’s not what’s out there now. But I started with Raw Art Journaling, and I have to support what I started–that making meaning is the force behind living an artful life.
–Quinn McDonald is available to teach classes in meaning making through journaling. She has two classes scheduled in January. She’ll teach others if asked.
Image: http://www.flickr.com/photos/rosefirerising, under an Creative Commons agreement.