Thanksgiving is around the corner. Before you know it, we’ll be making New Year’s resolutions to lose the holiday weight, or just the weight. Or exercise or be more organized. There were years I made lists, imagining I could accomplish more than one thing. After careful consideration, I decided to cast off making resolutions last year. At least the kind of resolution we usually make which involves some kind of profound or difficult change. We’re better off mining our strengths than changing habits. Why not polish one of your finest character traits or kiss your lovely shoulders instead of giving your gut the death stare and resolving, once again, to do sit ups every morning. It’s so deflating.
When I decided to focus on my strengths instead of changing, I thought I had things figured out, and I was feeling superior. As if I’d discovered one of the essential keys to living. Then I took a long walk with my friend Lisa and changed my perspective. Lisa and I have been thinking about combining her passion for walking cities and mine, writing for comfort, to help women reimagine living after loss. We’ve also been wondering about the shape of our lives and how we want to live in our “senior years.” We decided to figure it all out on long walks around Atlanta.
We took our first walk to a tiny historic black church in Buckhead. It was on my drive-the-kids carpool route many moons ago. There is a graveyard across the street with about a hundred small markers, some of them carved by hand. I drove by that church for years. It was nothing more than a mild question mark in my head.
When we arrived, the parking lot was empty and the little graveyard was still. The church was locked, the pastor away. The trip was worth it because I learned something new about my friend, and I got an object lesson for living well. I discovered that Lisa is essentially an explorer, someone filled with curiosity and a youthful zest for inquiry. While I stood in the graveyard with my head in the clouds and my feet sunk in deep beds of leaves, she examined headstones, took photos, and steered clear of the brambles I got stuck in.
Lisa has always talked about her walks in terms of how they help her clear her head for writing. I learned more about her motivation through her movements and questions that day. I also discovered that I need to do more than look inside myself for the keys to living well.
Lisa is also walking to reimagine her life. Like me, she is trying to find the formula for living well and being a better writer. Reflecting on our walk, I realized there is no formula for living well. There are good questions that lead to better questions and ultimately enough awareness for some satisfaction and contentment.
This isn’t a dark perspective. It’s a calming truth that keeps us searching and considering the world and our place in it. Our walk reminded me that I don’t want to live in someone else’s resolution or self-improvement plan. I’ve been thinking for a while that the answer for living is inside us, but it’s a bit more complex. We look inside to remember who we are at our core. Then we move through the world as miners and explorers so that our gifts become magnificent.