The first time I thought being a senior was a big deal, I was 18 years old and in my last year of high school. I looked forward to crossing the threshold into a new and exciting world, filled with new experiences and much-anticipated freedom.
Last night, I celebrated becoming a senior again with new friends I’ve made since moving to Avon Lake. This time, “Senior” means I’m turning 65!
As we sat around a table in a warmly lit restaurant surrounded by a patio lit with twinkly lights, we sipped our chocolate martinis and laughed about stories of forgetfulness and commiserated about our graying hair . Other more serious topics included Medicare, estates & trusts, dermatology, kids & grandkids, husbands & health. Still, there was plenty of laughter and camaraderie.
I couldn’t help reflecting on past birthdays and how conversations with friends have differed over the decades. From talking about boys, driver’s licenses, silly curfews and college in my teens, to weddings and babies in my young adulthood, to teenage kids, divorce, next chapters, and empty nests over the next few decades.
It’s all gone by so quickly, and I’m grateful to have been able to share the years and conversations with some great friends.
I was a senior a second time in college. It took me fifteen years to get there, and maybe that’s why at the age of 30, I thought I was getting old. REALLY?!?
Thirty-five years later, that makes me laugh. Because for whatever reason, since then, I’ve never really felt as old as I did turning 30.
Anyway. Now, here I am, a senior . . . again. As with the first time I was a senior, I look forward to crossing the threshold into a new and exciting world, (retirement?) filled with new experiences and much-anticipated freedom.
This morning, as on many mornings, I scrolled through social media posts while sipping hot coffee I’d anticipated from the moment its fresh-brewed aroma first woke me. I smiled at photos of friends’ recently past Christmases, but noticed a curious sense of agitation as I read the sprinkling of New Year’s hopes and dreams and the requisite “resolution path” to get there.
“What will my resolutions be this year?” I asked myself. “And which–if any–will be successful?” There. Right there was the seed of the agitation I’d felt upon reading others’ roadmaps to a happy and successful New Year.
Then, I took a deep breath. In that space between breathing in and breathing out, I thought:
There is no rush.
I realized then what I love about this week between Christmas and New Years–this liminal space of peace and relative quiet. A time that lies between the excited energy of Christmas and all its rushing, wrapping, cooking, cleaning, visiting, putting up and putting away and the clean slate of the New Year, upon which we write our hopes, dreams, goals and resolutions.
Today is December 29, Day 4 in the peaceful transition between years. I’ve got two more days before I “should” come up with any resolutions. (Yes, even at the age of 64, I’m still a “Should” Girl.) Many people say they don’t believe in resolutions, and some say they set “goals” instead of resolutions.
Me? I kind of love resolutions. Maybe it’s the tradition of setting them. Maybe its that successful or not, resolutions are the seeds we plant to grow our hopes and dreams. Sometimes they grow, and sometimes, with little water or sunshine, they die, only to be planted again on a new December 31.
As I reflect on my previous years’ resolutions, I notice a pattern of the same resolutions over and over.
Discover and experience new things.
Rarely, if ever, am I successful in carrying a resolution through to the end of the year. But if I’m successful for a month, two months, or even a day, that’s better than nothing, right?
For now, I’m making an end-of-year resolution: To relax and enjoy these last few days of 2022–a year when things have started to inch toward normal after the surreality of the last couple of years.
In this last week of 2022, I will not swim upstream toward regrets of 2022, nor will I ride the rapids toward my hopes and dreams for 2023. Instead, I’ll gently float the river of this liminal space, the final, peaceful moments between 2022 and 2023.
I missed Advent Calendar Day 8. So much for my perfect streak. (Though, I also missed Day 1. Haha! But in an effort to maintain a semblance of perfection, I played “catchup” on Day 2.)
Today, however, in my decision to cast aside the illusion of perfection, I’ve decided to go ahead and skip Day 8, which leads me to this post on wabi-sabi, a Japanese philosophy of finding beauty in imperfection.
Here are a couple of other posts I’ve written in the past on this philosophy:
Today, I’d like to share a story about the wabi sabi of Nagging. Yes, I’ve even found beauty in nagging. I wrote this a couple of years ago, while reminiscing about my mom during the holidays.
I hope the philosophy helps you to find beauty in all the hustle and bustle, the overscheduling, the wrapping and wrapping and wrapping, the after-holiday cleanups, etc., etc., etc.!
Wabi Sabi Nagging
My mother was a perfectionist. It’s how I became a perfectionist. Whether it’s a gene I inherited or the way I was raised, perfectionism runs through my blood. But “perfect” is not an absolute. It’s in the eye of the beholder—everyone’s version of “perfect”—of what’s acceptable—is different. This is perfection’s hidden wart.
And so, my mother and I often knocked heads about our differing versions.
At no time was this disagreement more evident than during the holiday season. My mother demanded a perfect meal, with foods to please every attendee. She ordered a perfectly set table with hand-washed china framed by fragile, sparkling crystal and hand polished sterling silverware.
As a teenager, my idea of a perfect holiday meal was paper plates and napkins, a buffet, time to watch TV and enjoy the company of family and friends.
I’d whine, “Mom, can’t we use paper plates so we can just relax after dinner? Nobody will care.”
“I care,” she’d reply.
It was the only reply necessary.
Besides, my whining about my idea of perfection could not compete with her nagging about it.
“Janice! Did you string the celery before you started chopping? And you need to chop those pieces smaller.”
“Honey, keep stirring or it’ll get lumpy.”
“No, Janice. The knife goes on the other side.”
But the complaint I remember to this day arrived as I helped her with an hors d’oeuvre tray filled with halved cherry tomatoes stuffed with a cream cheese mixture. The pièce de résistance was the topping of five tiny black Beluga caviar eggs. Not three teeny-tiny black eggs. Not four, and certainly not a little pile plopped in the center, but five, placed precisely in the center of the cream cheese.
I clearly remember her harping about my lackadaisical approach to this bite-sized morsel, and I clearly remember, too, my Teenage-Girl Eyeroll Style #24—the protest eyeroll—though performed with my head turned so my mom wouldn’t see it.
This holiday season will be my fifth without my mom. Though I deeply missed my mother the first holiday we spent without her, I must admit, I didn’t miss the hullaballoo and stress of her “perfect” holiday. Admittedly, I used paper plates that first holiday.
True, I enjoyed sitting with everyone, reminiscing about memories, joking and laughing fondly about my mother and her holidays—about the beautiful tables she set, her overly ornate Christmas trees, her stairway trimmed with sparkly lights and greenery.
But sometimes jokes and laughter are guardians to protect us from our tears, and though I sensed this truth in that the first holiday I spent without her, the weight of it didn’t hit me until the celebrations that would follow.
Looking back on the years since that first holiday without my mom, I realize that each holiday, I’ve added something that my mother would have done, whether it’s using China instead of paper plates, or stringing my celery before chopping.
There’s nobody to roll my eyes at anymore. Instead, I imagine my mom smiling from above that her stubborn daughter finally learned the lessons she tried to teach me.
My holiday “presentations” have become more like my mother’s. Nothing was more evident as I ironed my tablecloths and napkins this past Thanksgiving. Still, I am different from my mother, because my holiday presentations are far from perfect and I don’t think anybody cares.
She did her best to make the holidays perfect for all of us, sometimes trying so hard she was too sick to join us for the celebration, an absence which certainly contributed to the holiday’s imperfection.
Sometimes my mom’s nagging got in the way of what I considered perfection. But as I try to make the holidays special (not perfect) for those I love, the beauty of my mom’s nagging lies in my realization of how much she loved us. And the memory of her “nagging” reminders are a voice that continues to live inside me. I’d give anything to hear her once again say, “Janice!”