The place was fuller than usual, so I couldn't take my favorite seat in the corner, facing the window. I sat in the middle of the bustling coffee shop, Christmas songs and easy conversation filling the room.
Over the top of my laptop, I watched a 96-year-old woman sit with an un-cracked newspaper in front of her. Every few minutes she tried to engage someone in conversation, commenting on the same newspaper headline each time. People exchanged a few words or a smile with her before swirling their warm drinks and heading off.
I knew I needed to get over myself and go sit next to her. It's always a little scary dragging a chair across the floor and sidling up next to someone you don't know—even if that someone is a old woman in pink fleece.
It was clear within a few minutes that she couldn't remember much of her life. She didn't know how many children she had, she didn't know what she was doing for Christmas, she didn't know why she was in a coffee shop alone.
I pointed out an older gentleman who had been with her earlier, now standing off in the corner talking on his phone. She said he was her son and looked relieved. She said she just hoped she didn't leave without him noticing.
I stayed with her until her son returned to the table. Several times, we repeated the same conversation.
"I can't remember a thing. Isn't that terrible? What's up here anymore?" she'd ask, tapping her head vigorously with both hands. Then she'd add:
"But maybe it's a good thing. It makes every day new and bright and wonderful!"
When I told her I had three children, three little blondies playing with a babysitter at home, she leaned forward and said with passion—
"You must have a very happy life."
I do, I said. I really do.
Especially when you look at it through the eyes of a woman who can't remember anything about her own.
What I want this year (and every year of my life) is to just be with the people I love. Because really, what else do we need?
I want to bend down and look into my kids' eyes when they tell me they got whopped with a stick while playing with neighbors outside.
I want to call my sisters when I think of them.
I want to listen—with an open mind—to my husband's dreams about owning a man-sized toy box. (Also known as an RV that can hold dirt bikes.) :)
I want to worry less about money and the extra padding around my waistline. I want to remember why I fell in love with my husband and what I like about my kids.
I want to take a hundred photographs and chase a hundred sunsets.
I want to live more and worry less.
"At the end of your life, is it at all likely that you will say, 'I wish I'd been less true to myself and done all the nonessential things others expected of me'?" — Greg McKeown, Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less
It isn't at all likely, is it?
Like the woman I met in the coffee shop, I think I'll remember my people—and not much else. She may not remember what she'd had for breakfast or even what the days of her long life were filled with (career? hobbies? interests?), but when I pointed to her son, she smiled in recognition and leaned back in her chair with relief.
"I used to be afraid of failing at something that really mattered to me, but now I'm more afraid of succeeding at things that don't matter." — Bob Goff, Love Does
This year, let's succeed at the things that matter.
It doesn't mean we'll always get it right. By April, maybe we'll be thoroughly confused about what really matters at all. (Because life has a way of making everything feel important.)
But thankfully, we can be new people every day.
We can keep trying.
We can initiate a million tiny course corrections that will hopefully—someday—land us where we want to be.
This year, all I want for myself—and for you—is fewer wasted moments. More moments with the people we love.