It’s the last day of 2011.
The last day of the year is always an anxious one for me. All the loose ends rear their unwelcome heads, threatening to clutter the purity of the new year ahead. For years, I dealt with this by using the Christmas holidays as a time to complete the year’s unfinished business. This ranged from things I’d failed to do to habits I’d failed to dispel. It was as if I had only two weeks to completely reboot my system: back up all files, remove all viruses, delete old programs and install new ones.
By force of habit, I tried to do the same thing again this year—only I didn’t quite seem to have the same appetite for it. (Given that 2011’s been a radically different year for me in more ways than I can enumerate at the moment, I shouldn’t have been surprised that the change extended itself all the way to the end.)
If I had to pinpoint the main source of the shift, I think the simplest way I can put it is that, for the first time in my life, peace of mind matters more to me than productivity. Being productive has always been immensely satisfying to me—a reliable engine for achievement and cheap fuel for gratification. It doesn’t matter if I’m at home, in school, at the gym, in the office, at the supermarket or out traveling—I always have an agenda, a program, an itinerary, a list. Life has been about methodically crossing things off my list (creating this blog and running it daily is captured in one of my innumerable lists), and 2011 pretty much started the same way.
It’s not quite ending the same way though, and like so many of this year’s changes, it’s had nothing to do with dramatic, life-altering events and everything to do with the staid, unobtrusive process of growing older and more…aware. This Christmas, I looked at my list and I realized that the costs of my lists had long outstripped their benefits. Whatever gratification I got from their daily achievement had long been dulled by familiarity (it was normal that I got things done), while the stress I got from their occasional incompletion had disproportionately intensified. I was fighting a losing battle—and I’d been losing it for years.
So this Christmas, I just…let go. Not with a lot of grace, to be honest, given the tenacity of a decades-long habit, but I let the lists lie untouched and gave in to the first real vacation I’ve had in perhaps five years (because, yes, even my vacations have agendas). I ate, I slept, I read, I played games, I watched anime, I watched television and I stayed at the dinner table for long silly conversations with my family. I didn’t exercise, didn’t write, didn’t putter around and tidy up. And every time I started panicking (What am I doing? What am I not doing? I’m so going to end up paying for this break! I don’t deserve this break!), I took a deep breath and allowed the thoughts to play themselves out without trying to alleviate my discomfort or alter my situation. What I’m trusting is the slowly-growing conviction that periodic leisure does not translate to lifelong laziness, that occasional stillness is not sterile inactivity, and that life happens just as much in the pause as it does in the rush.
So as 2011 draws to a close, I’ll honor the passing of a beautiful year by sitting quietly at its bedside—not fretting, not worrying , not scurrying to and fro—just present to the singular miracle of an entire year’s worth of blessings.
Goodbye 2011—and thank you.