What will 2017 bring?

My friend, Leanne, was raised with the belief that what you do on New Year’s Day, you will  do all year long. Today I ran outside for the first time in a month, baked biscuits, ate fresh veggies and homemade (by me) baked beans, played board games with my family, called my mom and listened to an audiobook while doing dishes. It was a lovely, relaxing and satisfying day. If my entire year could be like this, it would be the absolute best year of my existence.

But we know that’s not going to happen, right? More than likely, this will be a year of turmoil. In the United States, we will have a new president in just a few weeks and many of us are worried how his presidency will affect our lives, our country and our world. I can’t say I have a lot of good feelings about this, so I’ll just be watching, listening, hoping and acting when it seems right to do so.

My mother’s health is still in decline. We had a pretty good autumn, but just in the past month her memory, weight, medicine consumption and hygiene have all diminished. I’m not quite sure what to do yet, but have appointments coming up that might help us.

Unfortunately my father is now losing his short term memory, too, but no one seems to know why. And now that he’s refused to see any more doctors, we may never know why. “As long as I know who my wife and kids are, I just don’t care,” he said. And honestly, I don’t blame him. He’s 75 years  old, is a recovering alcoholic and has been morbidly obese for much of his adult life. He’s amazed he’s lived this long!  My brother’s health is not fantastic, either, but still better than two years ago. We’ve been living on hope and good thoughts for this long, so why not keep going?

I have to believe that 2017 will not be completely horrendous. My son will turn 10 this spring. Double digits!!  My husband and I will celebrate our 20th wedding anniversary in the summer. My sister is getting married in the fall. My husband turns 50 on Halloween and if the spending moratorium keeps going well and the car holds out, we will go on our lovely Disney vacation in November. I have several colleagues having babies this year, friends are writing books and creating art, and Star Wars: Episode VIII comes out in December. Some good things WILL happen.

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Now for a resolution. Last year was probably the first year I didn’t have a resolution. I had wishes and dreams for my family and friends, and unfortunately not one of them came true. But this year, in tandem with a movement being created by the Pittsfield Public Library and the Heart of Pittsfield called “The Year of Kindness”, my resolution is to carry out an act of kindness every day. That’s 365 acts of kindness. Minimum. As I told my family about it this morning, I said that my first act of kindness was actually to myself. I went for an outside run that was long overdue. My husband thinks that’s stretching the definition of an act of kindness, but since I’m rarely good to myself, I decided it was ok. (I also wrote a little note to a fellow colleague and complimented her on her writing and how awesome I found it to be. That could be considered an act of kindness, too.)

What about you? Do you have any good thoughts about the upcoming year? Any resolutions? Suggestions for acts of kindness? Would love to hear about your hopes and dreams for 2017.

 

 

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Live What You Love

Nearly 10 years ago, when I left my job at the University of Maine Bookstore, my friend and co-worker, Diane, gave me this:

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Although I had decided to take what I thought would be a short break from librarianship (I never expected it to take me 4 years to get back to it), I was dying to be a librarian again. When I got the job at the Pittsfield Public Library back in 2005, Diane gave me this stone, LWYL–Live What You Love.  She knew how much I loved being a librarian, how much I identified with it. And since that day, I have carried this stone with me nearly everywhere I’ve gone. Each time I change purses or go on vacation, I look over everything I carry around each day to decide what to get rid of and what to keep.  This stone has gone in each and every purse I’ve owned and has been to New Hampshire, Vermont, Massachusetts and Florida.  I am not a person who likes many “things.” In fact, if I could, my house would be quite sparse. (Living with my husband and son has forced me to do otherwise.)  And yet I have always held onto this stone.

Being a librarian, specifically a librarian in a small town library, is something that I truly love. I think I’m good at it, and maybe even more importantly, my library patrons (and hopefully my boss) think I’m good at it, too.  It’s never paid much, and I knew it wouldn’t.

After nearly a decade, I thought it wouldn’t bother me that I don’t make much money. In fact, it didn’t really bother me at all until a few years ago when I started to pay for health insurance for my family. That’s when my paycheck dwindled to nearly nothing. That first year, I was ok with it. It’s good insurance, and with my husband’s current health issues, it’s necessary. “Money isn’t everything,” I said. I kept telling myself that at least with my husband’s work, we can still pay our bills and everything is good.

But you know what? It’s not good.

After 2-3 years of working for health insurance and my take-home pay only being enough money for after-school childcare for my son and groceries…what the hell is the point?

Yes, I love what I do. Yes, it does fulfill a part of me that probably would go unsatisfied if I did something else. And yes, with my husband’s work we can pay our bills and take care of our son and even get to go out to dinner occasionally. But that’s with my HUSBAND’S pay. Not mine.

Before we got married, I always thought that I’d be the one in the marriage to make more money and provide the benefits. I was the one with the college education, so I should be making the most money, right? And maybe if I stayed in academic librarianship where I began my career, then I would be the breadwinner of the family, or at least a more equal partner.  But academia wasn’t for me.

Rural librarianship called my name  and I ran to it. I ran with my eyes, arms and heart wide open. I knew it would cost me, and I didn’t care. And I will agree that I’ve been happier in my career because of it….but….can I keep doing it?

Can I keep getting those tiny paychecks while someone else watches my child after school and still be ok with it? Still be happy with what I’ve chosen?

I honestly don’t know anymore.

I do know that I love what I do. That much I’m certain. It’s not just what I do, but who I am. “Librarian” would be the second label I’d give myself after “Mother.” But as I watch my son grow and mature, and the days and weeks whiz by faster than what should be possible, I keep asking myself, “How can I spend more time at home? How can I spend more time with my son, yet still contribute to our household AND maintain my well-being by being a librarian?” Or do I need to find something else to do and be, at least for a while? How do I live what I love but still be there for my son, the love of my life?

I don’t know.

I don’t have any answers. I’m hoping that if I put it out there to the universe then I’ll have the courage to change or I’ll have an epiphany or I’ll just be happier and accepting of my current situation.

I suppose time will tell.

But I do hope *you* live what you love. If not, may you find the courage to do so. Life is too damn short to be unhappy, and when we think about how many years of our life we’re actually *at* the workplace? Let’s not settle and be content with misery.  Like Pharrell Williams sings, “happiness is the truth.” So no more lying to yourself.

LWYL