I’ve been urging the same New Year’s resolution in columns for 10 years now. Which means it’s great, or I’m unimaginative.
I’m living the resolution right now, and lean toward the former explanation.
We’re heading to Honduras for a year or two in the coming weeks, and who knows where after that, which means quitting my job, getting rid of almost all our stuff and taking a leap into a new and somewhat scary world.
All of which forces me to pay attention, the resolution I’ve been suggesting every year in columns since 2001.
We worry, we dream, we plan, and life flies by without really paying attention to what matters, the people we love, even ourselves. We miss a lot while we’re worrying about past mistakes or future opportunities.
But leaving behind a life, like a snake shedding its skin, forces you to pay attention to so many things.
In the summer, my partner and I applied for Cuso International postings. She was offered a place in Honduras, I was offered one in Ghana. For a variety of reasons, we picked Honduras.
It’s been interesting, and unexpected. We’ve been through an assessment day to judge if we were good candidates. We’ve spent a week in Ottawa, with an interesting group of people bound for postings in Africa and Latin and South America, in a great orientation course.
And we’ve been getting ready. We rent, so that’s one less complication. But we’ve been sorting and dumping stuff, a painful process, at least for me. Those old maps could be the start of an art project. The TransCanada Airline plates might be valuable. The Celestion 33 speakers are classics. I spent a fortune on art supplies. What if I need a good suit someday?
Mostly though, after a painful process, I’ve let go of things. Someone else can use the art supplies, and I can buy a new suit if I want one.
It helps that a lot of the stuff is junk. Junk I love, sometimes, but not worth anything. The desk/art table I’m writing on was declared surplus in a newspaper some 50 years ago. It’s oak, heavy, austere. Perfect for writing morning pages in south Oak Bay, or making prints in Gordon Head. I won’t find another like it.
But I’ll find some other table I like when I need one. A card table, a door on sawhorses. Who knows?
All the things that matter have associations with people I’ve cared about. That’s adds stress when it comes to shedding them, but it has been good to think about all those who have touched my life in a way that is important many years later. And it’s a reminder that whatever comes next will be linked to people I love.
My partner in life, and this adventure, Jody Paterson, has had an easier time. She’s better at paying attention now, and not worrying about what was or might be.
Despite all the stress, and the occasional crisis, it’s been good. I’ve paid attention. Change does that.
But you can choose to pay attention even if you aren’t making big life changes.
Ten years ago, here’s what I wrote.
“Today, pay attention. Pay attention to the way your lover or friend or reflection looks this evening, to the way your child holds her head as she listens to the story that will ultimately stop too soon. Pay attention to the small yellow light from a candle warming your living room and the cold, bright light from a handful of stars in the clear night sky. Pay attention to what you have, and what you long for.
“So today, and the next day and the day after that, open your eyes.
“Making this world a little better is within our individual grasps. We are fundamentally decent, I believe that. When we finally see the problems of those around us, we will act.
“This year, simply pay attention.”
It’s good advice, I think, and not a hard resolution to adopt. Give it a try in the new year.
Footnote: For more on our plans, check out the link “Heading to Honduras” on the upper right.