I’ve become fascinated with Colin O’Brady, the nearly super-human endurance athlete who just became the first person to cross Antarctica alone and unassisted. The story had all the pieces that interest me. He is, as far as I can tell from social media, a lovely man. He sets huge goals for himself and accomplishes them, all the while reflecting on his relationship with himself, his family, and nature. Add to this the fact that he finished just days before the new year, and it becomes the kind of story that can inspire me for weeks.
Of course my mind is on goals and achievements this week as we slide into 2019. When I was very young and wishing for a totally different life, I used to create huge, nearly impossible resolutions for the year. My resolve rarely lasted longer than a week, and I was always left disappointed, in the process and in myself. As I got older, I became more realistic, but still saw the stark coldness of January as a time for toughening up and becoming a stronger and more accomplished person.
I think, if we’re lucky, getting older reminds us that it is our connection to other humans that means everything.
I'm thinking a lot about life these days because 2018 was an odd year. People I was close to died, as did dogs I adored. Puppies were born and kids grew up. I discovered a job I love and I spent time with people I care for more than I can even say. I ate too much, I gained weight, and I marked seven years of not drinking alcohol. It was an up and down year. But I suppose they all are, in a way.
Still, I’m beginning 2019 in a different place than I’ve begun others. I’m literally on a brief holiday, which always gives me a clearer and more open perspective. I’m also not wishing my life were different, as I so often have as December turned into January. There are changes I’d like to make, but I feel an unusual foundation of confidence and a lovely sense of joy.
The real difference in what I’m feeling on this end-of-December evening has more to do with possibility than with what I can force myself to do or not do. More than anything I feel a sense of opportunity—that the world is available to me and that my job is to engage in it rather than try to control it with plans and resolutions.
When I would read Colin O’Brady’s Instagram accounts of his solo Antarctic journey, what stood out for me was the symbol of being out in the world with everything lying ahead of him, welcoming him to partake. My own life seems like that now. I’ve spent a lot of years feeling like I wasn’t enough, or that I would be enough if only I could do A, B, or C. I think, if we’re lucky, getting older reminds us that it is our connection to other humans that means everything.
I don’t even feel like making a resolution for 2019, but rather to hope that I will stay unlocked and conscious and in the moment as often as I can. I want to remember at the end of the day that we all did as well as we could for that day and that it doesn’t have to be compared to another.
At 67, there is no pretending that the road ahead of me is as long as Colin O’Brady’s, or that it holds as many prospects. But I know that the quality of every option is heightened by my own attention and my own presence. It’s almost impossible not to live with a kind of “grab all the gusto” attitude when time moves so quickly. And really, why not? I find myself hugging people more readily now, reaching out more often with my hands and heart open, not with my dukes up.
The start of a new year is always poignant and I feel more than grateful. The poignancy touches me deeply in this late December, and reminds me to just do all I can do, whenever I can. And mostly it reminds me to connect, whenever possible.