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In the Empty Time and Space of 2021

One challenge for me in 2021 was lack of structure. I left the go to work every day world and started a business. Covid repeatedly dished out varied levels of uncertainty and restriction. My husband and I—together and separately—cancelled travel plans more than once. There was a lot of time and space to re-imagine.

I did mostly what I’ve always done: I defined the tasks and dug in. This go-to strategy stems largely from my upbringing and often serves me well. But my brain asked me to reconsider this approach. By way of a dream, a prop from my recent life was used to build a vivid metaphor.

I’ve Been Cleaning House

Colder weather meant more time inside. I dealt with chores long put off, including decluttering a space upstairs. That process awakened insights on many levels (one reflection is here). The work was deciding what stays and what goes.

I found I’m attached to handwritten notes. Worn stickies with my parents’ writing, even a mundane “I thought you might find this interesting,” were hard for me to toss. Seeing a person’s unique script brought forth the energy of that being; I felt reconnected with them.

A piece of music reconnected me with high-school Susan. I probably whispered “oh yeh ….” as I touched this penciled page, recalling vividly an evening scene: I sat at my family’s dining room table, painstakingly transcribing these notes. I enjoyed the details of the chore and delighted at the way it looked on the page. When I finished, my dad—by profession a land surveyor and the maker of many maps (by hand)—added the title and composer’s name with his unmistakable writing. I can probably never throw this away. I put it on my music stand. Left it.

Someone Took Over

The music came to life. I dreamed that Schön Rosmarin was being played beautifully in my home, but not by me. The musician was a male violinist—perhaps Fritz Kreisler himself? I can hear this tune as I look at the page; I can feel it in my fingers. This is something I myself can play well with practice.

Metaphoric questions arise.

In what ways am I not …

  • filling my own home with music
  • delighting in the finished product after laboring over details
  • sharing the benefits of my labors
  • stepping up to the stand and playing out
  • taking the final joyous step

I am Practicing

I’m gearing up to cofacilitate renewU 22 with Anita Hoy. We’ve just opened enrollment for this eight-week journey of personal renewal. Participants will be asked to set one large goal (termed the umbrella goal), then take action steps along the way.

I’ve got my own umbrella goal going right now. It is “to enjoy my life more.” The year 2021 made clear that our journey on this planet is unpredictable in nature and could end at any time. (A fear: Will I die irritated?)

I’ve read different versions articles summarizing the top regrets of the dying many times over many years. Item #5—I wish that I had let myself be happier—always hits me hard. I get bogged down in perfectionism, trapped in my own thinking. Often, I work hard on details then don’t take time to fully enjoy the finished product.

But chasing happiness is a losing proposition. Pursuing wellness, balance, connection, and presence are more likely to bring the results I’m after. For that, consistent practices help. I honed those in 2021.

My wishes for 2022 include spending more in-person time with other humans, laughing hard, traveling further than Maine, and going to live events. That, in part, is what playing beautifully looks like to me.

Questions From a Coach

How do you create happiness, enjoyment, and connection in your life? Which of the five regrets speaks most loudly to you? What do you wish you were doing differently? Are there times that you are not taking the stage? If your house were a metaphor for something, what would that be?

What else does this post bring to mind for you?

Susan McDowell is a life coach based in Central Vermont.
Find out more about renewU 22 here.

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