This year, because of my ever-advancing age, I treasure the year ahead as never before. So I decided to give myself a special present. It will take time to unwrap it because making it will take time.
1. First, I did a Virtues Pick for the year. I use a set of Virtues Cards but you can open the Bible or another book and find the first virtue it names. The guiding virtue I received for this year is Humility. It means to be thankful for your gifts rather than boastful. It is knowing when to ask for help, not trying to do everything yourself and also being willing to serve others. It is being open to learning from our mistakes. I look forward to practicing it more deeply.
2. I am looking back to learn, pray and reflect on the past year. Greek philosopher Socrates said, “The unexamined life is not worth living.” I want to get the lessons, recognise my Teachable Moments. Mistakes can be our best teachers. I keep a daily prayer journal where I talk to God about my hopes, worries, and experiences and then write what comes in meditation. Sometimes it’s just a few words but it always brings me back to myself, ready to start a new day. So I’m rereading my journal, which shows me what I need to stop doing, keep doing and start doing.
3. I am counting my blessings. One of the advantages of elderhood is deeper appreciation for the time we have left and wanting to live each day as fully as possible. At my time of life, that doesn’t mean what it used to. It isn’t about how much I get done in a day. It isn’t about how purposeful I am with my time, but how contented and grateful I am. It’s more about being than doing. I already live with the love of my life in a place we call Paradise. An attitude of gratitude should be easy.
4. I need to reorganise my time for a better balance, a truer pace of grace. I want to go with the flow. It usually works well for me to ‘chunk’ my time - 1 hour for morning prayers and journaling, 1 hour for chores, time for writing, visiting, playing with children, time for rest. I’m going to explore the idea of taking one whole day for writing my column and my novel rather than just a little every day. And I need a “me day”, to do whatever I feel like, even lying in bed or in a hammock and reading the day away. Isn’t that kind of freedom the main purpose of retirement? I also believe that every single person needs a me day, to rest, recreate and restore, at any age!
5. I will set a few goals for the year that come out of my reflections, and write them in my journal.
What service do I want to offer? Life without service has no meaning. The Cheshire Cat in Alice in Wonderland says, “If you don’t know where you’re going, any road will take you there.”
6. I will make a piece of art such as a tapestry, a collage, or a painting to describe my ideal life. I will look at it to remind myself of the life I intend to live this year.
Mary Kay Ash, founder of Mary Kay Cosmetics said, “There are three types of people in this world: those who make things happen, those who watch what happens, and those who wonder what happened!”
My birthday gift to myself, with God’s help, is to be more aware, more loving, more grateful, and to design my time for joy and contentment rather than busyness.
If you decide to design your own best life, what would it look like?
Use your creativity to plan a pace of grace -- balancing work, family, play, rest and devotion. It will bring you a sweet freedom that you might not even know you had.