We all need something to look forward to. Note: my high school grammar teacher, Mrs. Scully would be shaking her finger at me right about now, indicating her displeasure for my ending a sentence (or worse yet a headline) with a preposition. Sorry, Mrs. Scully, but it just has to be for this blog entry. I was reminded of the power of something to look forward to this past summer through my father’s eyes. My dad and I spent months talking about and planning a Chicago trip to celebrate both his 90th birthday and his grandson’s wedding. Once dad made the decision to attend in person, the full gift of something to look forward to kicked into gear and the planning for his adventure began. Dad literally purchased a new wardrobe – from a Sears Sucker suit to new wingtips, dress shirts and even two pairs of jeans. Clothes were lovingly laid out on his guest bed weeks in advance, waiting and reminding him of that something coming up. He counted down the weeks and days until he could wear the new clothes and be with family to celebrate in Chicago. Dad made the trip and now his “something to look forward to” is forever captured by this photo of our family and the creation of priceless memories.
My visit to a local retirement home about this same time, reminded me of the thousands of our elderly who don’t have many of those “somethings” to look forward to (sorry again Mrs. Scully). It is also a reminder that many people are living without anticipation, whether due to old age or poor health or living constraints. Some of us are plodding through the days that become weeks that become months that become years. We try to keep busy by numbing ourselves – some by drugs or food or depression. Some of us are filling our lack of something to look forward to by accumulating “things” to fill up personal empty spaces that may not be clearly recognizable. But soon we realize that that a material thing is not nearly as powerful as a human connection. That “something” is most special when it involves people who we enjoy seeing and memories we relish reliving.
Having just returned from a few days in Tampa, this human connection is top of mind. A group of my high school swimming girlfriends converged to celebrate our beloved coach’s induction to the Athletic Hall of Fame. Sure the event was an important milestone, but the more important “thing” was reconnecting with “Craig’s Chicks”, my valued teammates. Retelling stories, some of which I had forgotten, and catching up on lives transported me back to a time when I had everything to look forward to in my life. Landing back home in Chicago, I now search for the next “something” in my life. Sometimes it is a long wait, but this time it is only two weeks away when we fly to Arizona to be proud parents when my youngest son receives his Ph.D. at Arizona State University. The older I get, the more I value looking forward to celebrating the accomplishments of my family and friends and being there for them.
And so it goes on as we age. We need to create meaningful “somethings” to look forward to – home renovations, trips, reunions and visits to friends and family. It is how we navigate the passage of time and describe meaning to our lives that may be a struggle. Perhaps that is why New Year’s resolutions are set (or not set) as it gives us something to look forward to each year – losing weight, eating healthy, doing more for others or doing less with for ourselves. It is not your “honeydo” list, but it is your “I wanna do” list. There is a difference in doing what must be done and doing what feeds your spirit and nurtures your soul. I much prefer the latter.
I recently re-read all the Christmas letters bound into a personal book to preserve our family’s memories. Each annual Christmas letter recaps the year gone by in our family. If there is room, we also write about something we are looking forward to in the New Year – babies, childhood milestones, trips, graduations, career advancement and accomplishments. It is now time to again write the next edition of the family Christmas letter and to summarize the many things we were so looking forward to in 2016. It is appropriate that I write it during this Thanksgiving holiday weekend when I have time to reflect back and relive this year. Yes, time to pause and be mindful away from the daily noise of have to do’s. Because it is important to name our blessings and to tell people how we feel about them aloud. Really important. And it is the lull of the future and the anticipations of those “somethings” that keeps us moving forward towards it. So, today I reflect on my “somethings” and count my blessings and encourage you to do the same. As this Thanksgiving weekend comes to a close, it’s time to create a list of what you look forward to and get busy planning. Your “something” is waiting.