The Blessing Jar

“Don’t look back. Something might be gaining on you.”

I lived a hundred lives last year.

The curious wanderer, the angry plumber, the heartbroken son who refused to cry, the willing friend, the writer who lost his words, the proud stonemason, the reclusive loner, the expectant fisherman, the father who missed too much, the bestselling author, the disconsolate old newspaperman, and dozens more. These separate identities and all the discordant emotions that go with them—joy and grief in all its violent colors, courage and dread, lightness of spirit and dark, peace and disturbance, pride and profound embarrassment, among many—are stitched together in a motley patchwork that was my year, each meaningless without the other.

On the other hand, every day of that same year my always-effervescent wife jotted down one simple grace and stuffed it in a jar on the kitchen counter marked “Blessings.” It is so jam-packed that I doubt it can be unpacked, but sometime today I’m sure she will unpack it and sit on the couch, teary-eyed, amid a blizzard of her blessings, counting each one.

I’m not big on resolutions … or blessings. None of my New Year plans (when I naively made them) have ever lasted the month. And I’ve never stopped long enough to count life’s little fortunes. It’s a character flaw I admit. But that doesn’t mean I don’t pause with all of you on this day to think about the coming year. 

Every writer begins a new year with high expectations, but this year is different for me. I am looking forward less as a writer, and more as an ordinary man whose bucket list might be longer than the time he has left.

I might have to combine some things. Or expect more of myself. Or give the little things more meaning.

Whatever I do, I don’t want to look back and think that, on the whole, I wasted my moment. I want more than anything to sit on the sofa in a blizzard of blessings, and smile.

So if I resolved to do anything this year—or the rest of my life—I’d like to break more rules. Not just in my writing, but in existence. Living a life without commas or caps or whatever allegedly necessary old rules would make me (and maybe you) uncomfortable, but maybe comfort is the problem. I dunno. Let’s see.

Learn one more thing. Then another. Repeat until the end. Maybe write about it, maybe not.

Show up. That’s a better idea than never leaving the house.

Love harder and regret less. Sounds scary.

Here’s another: Writers are always hectored to “write what you know.” But, hell, as I approach my dotage, I realize I know a lot less than I thought I knew. What I truly know isn’t enough. And what I don’t know scares me.

So I would resolve to write—or live—more of what scares me. 

And a wise friend once shared the most spectacular advice I’ve ever heard. It ensures that in your last days, hours, and minutes, you’ll be able to know it wasn’t all completely wasted.

“Always remember one thing…” he said.

I’ll try.