Doomsday… Not to scare you or anything, but do you know that there are less than two weeks before Christmas?! Once again, it snuck up on me.
I haven’t finished shopping, decorated a tree, sent a card, wrapped a gift, or begged my husband to hang a single strand of lights from our eaves. At this point, I am so far behind that I will never get it all done. If I had the time, I would sit down and have a good cry.
I bet you wonder what I was doing last weekend instead of decking our halls, like so many of our neighbors. For once I wasn’t procrastinating. I spent the whole weekend in a workshop at Laurie Wagner’s “27 Powers Court,” figuring out the next chapter in my personal history — “When you reach a life goal, what comes next?”
For almost 40 years I fantasized about seeing my words in print. With persistence, luck, and loving colleagues, I did it. My brother asked awhile back, “What’s next, Honey Bun?” I ignored him, still drunk on “Atta-Girl Ale.” But in a hangover moment I realized I needed a new goal, so signed up for Alexandra Franzen’s, “Write Yourself into Motion.”
Alex is charismatic, bright, and young enough to be my daughter. Prior to the workshop I knew nothing about her, but trusted Laurie’s word that my time would be well spent. It turns out that her one-on-one coaching schedule is booked for nine months solid, with a 40-person waiting list. Women traveled to Alameda from Washington DC and Calgary, Canada just to attend the workshop. (Lucky me — I had a five minute drive!)
She started the morning by asking:
- “What are you not doing that you need to do to have the life you want?”
- "What are you ‘freakishly’ good at?"
- “If your parents and God were all gone and there was no one left to offend, who would you become?"
I believe that I am freakishly good at writing down things some people won’t say out loud. (Most people know better. I can’t help myself.) I have several close friends, a husband and two daughters to offend, but I lost both parents years ago and my belief in God seems to come and go. I do believe in love and forgiveness, so I plan to keep writing.
In the next exercise, we spent time on our “bios.” I tried a timeline approach, describing myself at random ages on the path to 53. It became an un-centered lump of clay on a potter’s wheel, flew off and hit a wall. Answering a prompt to name my superhero alias, I chose “IBIS” or “Intelligent but Imaginative Scatterhead.” By day, she’s a mild mannered office manager for a custom audio/video installation contractor, and by night — Wonder Writer! (Strike two…)
In the end, my favorite prompt was, “What happened in the last thousand days?” I made a list of the first things that came to mind:
- I lost an empty nest.
- I gained a son and learned the value of collectible plastic action figures on eBay.
- I remained a contestant on this season’s Survivor: Great Recession (Cross your fingers that I make it to the final four…)
- I received a medal symbolizing a 50-pound weight loss.
- I made several new friends from complete strangers.
- I honored a weekly deadline and transitioned between three editors.
- For the first time in my life, I heard someone call me a gym rat and a spin class “regular.”
- I planned a wedding and became close friends with a daughter who launched successfully into a life of her own.
- I regained an empty nest.
It wasn’t a bio, but it was a jaw-dropping exercise. I printed the list and stuck it to the fridge with a starfish magnet.
Magic stuff happens at Laurie Wagner’s house. At her table last Wednesday, I wrote a piece on what I would do in my final 24 hours on the planet. (It rolled around in my head after hearing something on NPR about the Mayan calendar, Doomsday and the end of the world as we know it.)
Do you have plans for your last 24 hours?
I asked my family that question as we sat by the fire later that week, surrounded by cardboard boxes and crumpled tissue paper, nutcrackers and snowmen displacing the tall ship and baskets on the mantle. I said, “I know what I would do. I would pile all of you in my car and drive over Mount Tam to hunt for petrified sand dollars on Stinson Beach.” (It’s an addiction. No one needs another petrified sand dollar at the end of time. As my brother said at Thanksgiving, “Honey Bun, sometimes it’s a collection, and sometimes it’s just a bunch of stuff.”)
When it was his turn to answer, my husband said, “I would kiss the three of you, say ‘so long’ and go to sleep.” I don’t know why that caught me by surprise. Next to our girls and me, sleep is Si’s No. 1 passion. Si is freakishly good at naps.
So, think about it. What would you do if there were only 24 hours? I don’t believe the world is ending, but I do believe we might not get warning when our time is up.
And on a happier note, do yourself a favor. Make a list of your accomplishments in the last thousand days. You deserve the gift of seeing it in print.