For the past eight years, I have been reading the Day Book, Simple Abundance, by Sarah Ban Breathnach. Each day of the year there is an inspirational reading that sends women on a journey to finding themselves, to simplifying their lives, and to walking a path of fulfillment and contentment.
As I prepared to start the readings again in 2016, I reflected on how I began this ritual those many years ago. I recalled being told by a friend that this book was a “must read.” And I remember someone else telling me that she read the book every day, every year, but it didn’t mean much to her until she made the decision to understand where she was in life, take responsibility for that life and then choose to do something better. Then reading the book every day gave her encouragement and the desire to live with passion.
At the beginning of this New Year, we should all do the same.
Have you ever heard people say that if they had the money, they would go on a cruise? Or if they had the time they would take an art class. If they had the support they would start a business. If the kids were older? If the weather was better? If the world was safer? If, if, if!
So often on the road of life, excuses for why we don’t accomplish our goals are very much the same. It’s someone else’s fault: your spouse, your employer, your family. It’s the economy, society, the government. Circumstances. Or the popular, “I had an unhappy childhood.” It is always easy to blame someone or something else for where we are. Or why we don’t move on. But the only way to get beyond where we are is to take responsibility for it. Only by doing that do we have a chance of getting what we want. Taking responsibility means we have made the choices and now we can make better ones. Responsibility gives us control and power.
Her journey of thousand miles could never happen, because she was unwilling to take the first step.
Years ago I was introduced to a woman named Jane, the mother of four boys, who had lost her husband to cancer. At the time, she was not working. Her friends were hoping I could give her some guidance through this period and get her life back on track. Although, of course, she was not responsible for her husband’s death, she was responsible for how she was handing it and how it was impacting her life. She said she was running out of money and wanted to know what she should do. She was getting Social Security for her two youngest sons, but she knew that would stop in a few years. She was forty years old, had been trained as a nurse, and was healthy and attractive. She lived in a large, beautiful home, and the mortgage was paid off. Two of her sons had jobs and all four boys still lived at home.
As I knew that nurses were at a premium in my city, I first suggested that she look for a job. I could recommend a career counselor that she could talk to. Her response was that she was hoping not to work, as she hadn’t had to work when her husband was alive. At that point I just decided not to argue with her about how things weren’t the same now that he was dead and that working seemed to be a simple solution to her problem. Instead, I suggested that she consider selling the house and moving to a smaller place. She said that she would never want to sell the house, and that the boys would be really upset if she did. Although I started to recognize that I might be taking to a wall, I suggested that if the boys chose to stay in the house, they should contribute to the bills. Two of them had incomes; she could charge them rent. She told me she could never ask her children for money.
So I said, “Well you don’t want to work, you don’t want to sell the house, and you don’t want the boys to contribute, so what were you thinking?” She replied, “I have no idea. That is why I came to talk to you. I thought you could help me, but obviously you can’t.”
If only I’d had the magic wand to make things “all better.” But if I had, I would have used it on myself long ago. Jane had a goal: to maintain the lifestyle she’d had while her husband was living. But she hadn’t taken a good look around and figured out where she was now. And she wasn’t willing to take responsibility for where she was at that point in her life. Her journey of thousand miles could never happen, because she was unwilling to take the first step.
As I read Simple Abundance once again this year, I realize that where I am today is where I chose somehow to be, and I look to Sarah to once again inspire me to take the steps to keep me walking my chosen path. I long ago took the first step on the journey to where I wanted my life to be.
Sometimes the first step isn’t clear. Sometimes is it very obvious. In any case, it isn’t truly a step until you pick up your foot and move.
In this New Year, my wish for you is insight– insight to where you are and how you got here–as well as a wish that you find whatever you need as inspiration for keeping you on the path to a life of abundance, fulfillment, and contentment.
Mary Grace Musuneggi