I’m not going to ask you what you want for Christmas. What do you really want? I’m not talking about things someone can run out and buy. I don’t mean things you don’t have much control over, either. Maybe you want a sixty inch flat screen HDTV, or world peace, or maybe you want to dance at your great-granddaughter’s wedding. I don’t mean any of those things.
What do you want that depends mostly on you? My first thought was, List ten things you want to do and ten things you want to see. But “things you want to see” sort of implies travel to me, and not everybody’s interested in travel. And maybe ten is too many, too. So how about this: Can you list seven things you really want? Things you really want, that you have control over. Maybe I should say, Seven things you want to do. Try to be specific. Try to think of things that are objective and measurable. “I want to be more patient” is a good goal, but it’s not the kind of thing I mean. I mean things like “I want to get my master’s degree in archaeology.”
Maybe some of the things you really want to do are things you can do this week, and others would take a long time — maybe years. Doesn’t matter. If you want to be really methodical, maybe you could list seven things you want to do this week, seven things you want to do this year, and seven things you want to do in five years — or something like that — but maybe you don’t want to be that methodical. Some people can lay out a detailed plan and follow it, and some of us just have to feel our way through life.
I’m not trying to tell you what sort of person you should be, and it’s certainly not my place to tell you what to want. But I think it’s an interesting exercise to take a few minutes to take stock of where you are and where you want to be. I didn’t come up with a list before I started writing this post. I’m just making it up off the top of my head. But here goes:
I want to lose weight. Specifically, I want to weigh 150 pounds again. And I want to be more or less stable at that weight.
I want to write. Both fiction and non-fiction. Both books and short pieces. Fiction is harder, in my experience, but I want to do both. This one’s tricky, because a lot of people say they want to write, and what they really want is to have written. That’s been me for many years. Writing is hard. I never really wanted to do it; I just wanted to have done it. But now I think I finally want to do it. I’m interested in the process.
I want to record video interviews with the old folks. My parents, my aunts, and my grandmother’s cousins. I want to see if I can get them to tell their stories. I really don’t want to regret having never done it.
I want to travel as much as possible. But I hate to fly. So I don’t want, for instance, to go to London for a week, once a year. If I get on a plane, it has to be worth it. I want to go to Europe and spend a long time there, traveling around. I want to go to South America and Asia, too. But “travel as much as possible” isn’t very specific. To bring it down to something very specific, and something pretty doable, I want to go back to Maine and go on another whale watch. I really enjoyed the first one, and I think it’s something we can do in the coming year.
I want to get rid of most of our stuff. We have way too much stuff, and most of it’s neither needed nor enjoyed. It’s just weighing us down, slowing us down. I’ve already started on this one, but it’s kind of a process. For instance, I have a lot of books. At first you think, Oh, I can’t part with my books. But then you realize you can get rid of some of them. And then you get braver, and you start getting more ruthless. I’m learning, gradually, to get rid of things that aren’t important to me. I’m not saying it’s easy, but my god, it’s liberating. When you start to realize you’ve built yourself a prison of possessions, and you start chipping away at that prison, it really feels like freedom.
I want to get all my photos organized. In albums, at least, and maybe in digital form, too. I don’t want to get rid of my photos, but if I’m going to keep them, I want to be able to enjoy them.
I want to get more involved. I want to start going to Quaker meetings, and Buddhist discussions, and club meetings. Maybe not every single time the doors are open, but on a semi-regular basis, at least. I’ve allowed myself to be too much of a hermit. Sometimes I go all week and never have a conversation with anybody but my husband.
I think I have a lot of preliminary work to do. My life and our house are too cluttered. I’ve got to trim things down — my weight, my possessions, my unrewarding activities — to get to the point where I can think clearly about what I really want to do. So I’m going to work on that for a while, and meanwhile go ahead and do some of the things I can.
What do you really want? If you want to, share your ideas in the comments. I’d be interested to see your list, and you might have some good ideas I can use.
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