Here we are, on the verge of a new year. We celebrated harvest as our chance to express gratitude for the abundance we experience around us, despite all our worries. There are many things to worry about, of course. There is small stuff, like whether we should downsize or just remodel and “age in place,” as they say. Medium things, like whether we should support Medicare for all, or work toward a more rational system of immigration. Then, there are the big things, like whether we can save the planet, whether we can end poverty, whether we can find peace and purpose in our lives.
Which sends me off on a riff about a sense of purpose. A purpose for one person might be quite different from another’s. My husband and his sister find meaning in adventure. They want to see everything—Africa, Antarctica, the Amazon, Machu Picchu. They want to hike up things, see a long way, and learn about the local people. They take public transportation and eat at tiny restaurants that serve local food where you have to point at stuff so the waiter can fill your order. My friend Kevin wants to live the carefree life he never had as an adolescent. He’s making nice headway on that.
My son finds his purpose in being a father. My daughter this year has found her purpose in keeping her sanity. My dear Manuela (my daughter-in-law) is redefining her purpose to move back into the world after five years as a full time mother. My friend Daneen seems to think that keeping three children under the age of 7 alive for another year is purpose enough.
I have found a sense of purpose in trying to help people who are facing the end of life, or who are caring for someone who is. People see this as a very noble pursuit. People come up to me at public events where hospice volunteers help out and thank me for my service, as if I were a veteran, even though I’m just serving those who are dying, not dying for those I serve. I have started a website for my work, or rather two. http://www.judystevenslong.com, and http://www.dyingwithwisdom.com. What a trip it was to learn how to put up a website. I felt plenty overcome many days, but I was finally able to get great help. Manuela designed judystevenslong.com. When she showed it to me, I took it as a great compliment because she said she tried to reflect who I am.
We are doing really well despite the challenges we have encountered this year. As most of you know, my son-n-law, Don, died in July of this year. His journey inspired the main idea for my website—that how one dies is likely to reflect a lot about who one is. It’s not a one-size fits all matter. Alexis, my daughter, did an amazing job of caring for Don and the children through this difficult year. The children are resilient, as promised in the literature on the subject. Lily, my 10 year old granddaughter, starred in the 5th grade play this week (it is the last year of elementary school for her, sigh). She starts middle school this fall. She also made honor roll again and has been invited back to the elementary school next year to tutor kids that need help in the 5th grade.
Emmy has the guts, at the age of 6, to volunteer to sing a solo in the school talent school. She will be the youngest of the soloists, I think. Her teacher tells her she is very brave. He mother tells me she doesn’t really know the words.
Kaiya wants the black boots that go with her new Anna outfit from Disney. Lukas needs a backpack because he is starting preschool. Another Christmas, the end of another year. We’ll be glad to say goodbye to 2018 and hello to the pleasures and purposes of 2019. I hope you find a purpose this year that lights up your life, busies your brain, and supports your sanity.