I have a New Year’s tradition of great melancholia that would seem as etched in ritualistic stone as high mass at St. Patrick’s Cathedral. At this time every year, I swim in thoughts of days gone by and wrap myself in the blankets of memories, both happy and sad. I am “Auld Lang Syne” personified. I contemplate where I have been and ponder where I will go. I repose and reflect and resolve. This melancholy is almost painful. Whatever it is I am remembering, focusing on, mentally chewing up . . . no longer is. I attribute all kinds of importance and solemnity to something that doesn’t even exist anymore. And I have done this every year about this time for as long as I can remember.
Except this year. This year is different. And I think I’ve figured out why.
About a week ago, Susie and I were having a conversation and this sentence came out of my mouth, “The purpose of life is learning how to be content.”
Does anybody else out there act as your own teacher? Do you learn as the words come out of your mouth, as if you are audience to your own lecture? Two truths came to me almost instantaneously with this sentence. First, the purpose of life is different for each life. Second, the purpose for MY life is to learn how to be content, and I’m starting to get it.
So much of my life before was waiting, anticipating, hoping, striving. Over the last few years, my life has become . . . happy. Wow. I’m really happy. I love my life. I love my partner and the family we have together. But it’s more than the “biggies.” I think happiness comes in the appreciation of the minute details of everyday life. I love my house, and my yard, and feeding the birds, and planting garlic, and growing rosemary, and baking bread, and walking my dog on a crisp December morning. I love the view out the sliding glass door from the desk where I work all day. I love watching the blue spruce we planted a few years ago grow in the front yard. I love taking a break from work to take the food scraps out to the compost pile.
I had a great year in 2008, and I look forward to 2009. (And, yes, I do have a resolution and, yes, it involves a treadmill and scales.) But, in this moment, about 24 hours before the ball begins dropping in Times Square, I am content and happy and . . . in this moment.