I hate making New Year’s resolutions. The minute I start thinking about making resolutions my internal voice begins chiming in with a litany of negative things I “should” be focused on. “You are too fat.” “You are too stressed.” “You are so disorganized.” Contemplating all my shortcomings makes me want to get into bed and pull the covers over my head. I rarely take the time to look back with fresh eyes on the past year and all that I have learned.
The other day I was looking through the columns my father, Donald Murray, wrote for the Boston Globe over the last 20 years of his life. I came across his final New Year’s column printed on December 26, 2006 four days before his death. The column was titled “Finding Pleasure in the Challenge of a Blank Sheet”. In it he wrote “Friends wonder why I do not take it easy. Why I do not play golf or walk through cathedrals in Italy. Because I have an obsession. I write. I draw. I try to capture a fragment of life and reveal its wonder to you. I never quite get it right, but there is joy in the trying that makes me young at 83. My New Year’s wish for you, old and young, is that you find in the year ahead something you can’t do.”
That was when I decided to look back over the year and realized that I had unwittingly been following my Dad’s advice. This year I started a business with my dear friend Cecilia. The year has been a roller coaster ride complete with steep hills, white knuckling drops, and sharp turns. I have been forced to confront my fears and insecurities, all while wrestling with my inner voice that says, “You can’t do this”, “Don’t be a fool”, “You are too old”, and “You don’t know what you are doing.” There have been many days when I have thought “I should walk away, slow down, think about retirement”.
Instead I have learned to forge ahead accepting what I do not know and seeking out the support of people who know more than I do. Growing up I somehow came to believe that not knowing was the same as ignorance. At fifty-nine, I have finally come to understand there is no shame in asking for help from others who have different experience and knowledge than you do. We have been fortunate to find people including Joe, Josh, Sam, Michael, Beth, Andrea, Jill and Lisa to encourage, guide, and challenge us to think in a new way and I feel so grateful.
I don’t generally like scary movies or rides but I have discovered that I love the thrill that comes from facing my fears and learning something new. This year has been filled with new experiences and each time I come up against one that frightens me I put my head down and dive into the water. I come up to the surface, I catch my breath, calm my heart and I am gliding through the water with ease. It’s not the outcome that excites me, but the process. It’s the small moments of discovery that fill me with joy.
So, this year instead of focusing on my shortcomings, my New Year’s Resolution is to continue to live by father’s advice. I will follow my passions, trying to make sense of what I do not understand. I will write, to capture my own elusive and evolving story of what being over fifty means to me. I will face my fears professionally and personally, savoring every moment whether I am under the water or gliding across the surface, for there is beauty in all of it. In other words, “I will find something in the coming year I cannot do.”