The One Main Thing

It’s New Year’s Eve, a time for reassessing our lives and ourselves. What have we learned? What have we achieved? Where have we failed? It’s a time when many set goals for the coming year.

If I am any indication, many of us keep setting the same goals and ignoring them as the years roll by. For example, there are books I thought I wanted to read, but never have. There are pounds I thought I wanted to lose which now have company. There are religious practices I thought I needed to follow that have gone unincorporated into my daily routine.

So this year I’ve had a good talk with myself and set goals that are based on thoughtful reflection of who I am and who I want to be.

Conservative rabbi Harold Kushner writes in his 1986 book, When All You’ve Ever Wanted Isn’t Enough, “Our souls are not hungry for fame, comfort, wealth, or power.  Those rewards create almost as many problems as they solve.  Our souls are hungry for meaning; for the sense that we have figured out how to live so that our lives matter, so that the world will be at least a little bit different for our having passed through it.”

Despite the tragedies, frustrations, isolation, and inconveniences of this past year, it has given us many gifts, among which is the time to assess ourselves — our motivations, our priorities, our behavior. Today, as we turn over a new page in our lives, I’m setting goals that will help me live so that my life matters.

  1. I’m going to take care of me, so that I’m available when my family and friends need me.
  2. I’m going to pay special attention to my husband and family, so they know they are the most important people in my life.
  3. I’m going to read more books.  
  4. I’m going to continue to write regularly because it forces me to think about what’s important.

To accomplish these goals, I have a list of activities, and one is to look at my goals every morning, so that I start each day reminded of their importance. Because if I forget what they are, they won’t become part of my routine. And having a routine is comforting in uncertain times like these, even for us spontaneous types. And when we’re comforted, we feel motivated and joyful and free to live so that our lives matter.

I will end my little essay with the following poem, which I hope will help you focus on the one main thing I believe will bring you joy in the coming year, and that is keeping your own company. Second to that would be carefully choosing all others with whom you spend your precious time.

 
Sweet Darkness
  
 When your eyes are tired
 the world is tired also.
  
 When your vision has gone
 no part of the world can find you.
  
 Time to go into the dark
 where the night has eyes
 to recognize its own.
  
 There you can be sure
 you are not beyond love.
  
 The dark will be your womb 
 tonight.
  
 The night will give you a horizon
 further than you can see.
  
 You must learn one thing:
 The world was made to be free in.
  
 Give up all the other worlds
 except the one to which you belong.
  
 Sometimes it takes darkness and the sweet
 confinement of your aloneness
 to learn
  
 anything or anyone
 that does not bring you alive
  
 is too small for you. 
  
 DAVID WHYTE  

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