I’m actually pretty excited about 2016. Why? I don’t know! And, possibly for the first time in my life, I’m looking forward to that…to not knowing.
Of course, I have some plans for the regular, day-to-day stuff. Still loving my job, and still loving the WIPs I’m working on. I’ll keep heading into work and writing my grant proposals and crossing my fingers until we hear about them. I’ll keep making progress on the MG magical realism story–I’m getting started on the 3rd draft plotting already this week. And I’ll revise picture books and most likely write some new ones. Beyond that? I think it’s going to be a surprise.
In November, I read Suzanne Braun Levine’s Inventing the Rest of our Lives: Women in Second Adulthood. If you were following my posts on Facebook, you know the book struck some major chords with me. Levine (no relation, as far as I know, but there are a lot of us!) tells the stories of woman after woman who felt/feels the way I’ve been feeling this year, which pretty much comes down to one question: What next?
Quick caveat: I know that it’s not just women who go through this. My husband and I have had and are having many conversations in which we both wonder about that question and not just about my life. But Levine concentrated on women in her book and, to quote Ms. Reddy, I am Woman, so that’s the persepective I’m going with for now.
For the past year, I’ve been feeling as though my antennae are out, doing an Uncle-Martin (Ray Walston, not Christopher Lloyd) scan for the next big thing on my Life’s To Do list. I’ve been incredibly lucky in the last many years–I found the partner I wanted, we found our house together, and we raised a son we love who is moving forward with health and happiness.
Believe me, I am very aware that the same Life for which I have a list could strike my luck with a big, old lightening bolt at any second. But for now, the good place is where I am, and if I have learned anything in the past decade, it’s to (try to) live in that place, not in the possible lightening-bolts place.
Anyway, I have checked off all the items that I placed on my list, lo those many years ago. And now, where the next item(s) can go, there’s a big old blank spot.
Oh, don’t think I didn’t spend a few months trying to “grasp” at something new, feeling like I should turn on my laser-pointer and ZING!…identify and target the new goal. Whatever that was supposed to be. I’m not that good yet.
Luckily, the mindfulness I’ve been working on has a pretty hefty kick to it, and in some moment when I must have been actually listening, I heard: STOP IT! And I realized I was looking at some of this backward. Sure, this is the first moment in many, many years, when I haven’t had a specific goal, something I needed to make sure happened and happened successfully. But it’s also, O.M.G, the first time in many, many years WHEN I HAVEN’T HAD A SPECIFIC GOAL, SOMETHING I NEEDED TO MAKE SURE HAPPENED AND HAPPENED SUCCESSFULLY. Maybe I should sit back and enjoy that for a while. You think?
Levine (the other one) talks about this stage as a “fertile void,” with all the possibilities and all the fear that implies. She spoke with woman after woman who, when they reached this age or this place, for reasons good and bad, thought they would just “go back” to the woman they were in their first adulthood. They thought they would pick up the things that, for another whole set of reasons, they’d dropped back there.
Guess what they found out? They didn’t want to. If Levine has a mantra in the book, it is her assertion that we are not simply who we were before, only older. Yes, that statement takes some parsing, but once you get there, you’ll see that it is perfectly worded. Because why would we be? And, me, personally, I say: Thank goodness I’m not.
Besides, honestly, I can’t even remember what things I was doing in my first adulthood. Yes, of course, one was my writing. And I have kept that going, and I will always keep that going, and it has its own stages and styles and discoveries. But, for me, it’s not new. Because it has always been here for me (since I was at least 12), it doesn’t answer the question: What next?
Right now, I still have only one answer to that question: I don’t know. How can I know, when I’m still figuring out who I, in this second adulthood, am? Or who I’m becoming? And I’m holding onto Levine’s idea that this void will actually be fertile. I’m looking forward to the magical surprises that are coming my way.
Many authors pick a word for their year. In 2016, as I try to stay mindful to what is going on around me, I’ll be paying attention to my reactions and responses. I want to know what attracts me and what I’d rather push away. I don’t want to make any choices yet. My word for 2016 will be Listen. I’ll be listening to, and for, myself.
Happy New Year, and may the best of all possibilities come your way!