The winter holidays are supposed to bring surprises. My biggest surprise this season? My weepiness while opening our stack of holiday cards.
More than their warm messages or photos of family and travels, these reminders of long, loyal friendships are what move me. But along with that, one card grabbed my attention with something else: its example of carving out new turf as we move ahead in our lives.
Like many of us, the friend who sent that card hadn’t always been in regular communication with distant friends. A few years ago, he vowed to keep in better touch. He said so as part of a eulogy for his late father, who had modeled regular contact with friends, a practice his son admired and wanted to emulate. The card and hand-written note I held in my hand reminded me that he has done it — at Christmas and with occasional emails throughout the year, often spurred by some encounter that reminds him of us.
That realization reminded me of a ritual my friend Ann Meissner, an unofficial mentor in artful aging, started a few years ago. A retired Twin Cities psychologist navigating the last third of her life, she challenges herself to try a new adventure each year. The first year, it was a hot-air balloon ride. Her assessment: “It gives you a different perspective.” Another year, she traveled to Europe for an intensive study of spirituality, which she has continued on her own. In 2008, she’s bent on studying brain research that sheds new light on behavior. “It all just becomes part of my life,” she said of her pursuits.
Have you thought about who you want to be five, 10 or more years from now? What will you do this year to help shape the “self” you want to become?