America is obsessed with lists and rolling over to a new year generates an endless number of them. I have never been very good at them, mostly because I don’t have a brain that is wired to remember names and dates with any degree of accuracy.
Counting how many years Jeanne and I have been married requires a rather complex calculation that seldom generates a warm and fuzzy response. It’s a constant struggle. I can’t recall what I had for lunch yesterday without looking at a receipt.
I have never been comfortable with talking about things I have done. Such tallies are for resumes and obituaries; the former I haven’t needed in decades and hopefully it will be a couple of decades before I need the latter. I am making an exception this year, though.
I think there is some value in taking a look back. With so much stress generated by the lists of things we have yet to do, it’s easy to forget the value of things we have managed to accomplish.
And this isn’t just about us. The important things on my list are the kinds of things that apply to most anyone, but it’s easy to forget how valuable they are.
This last year, we provided a home for our family and kept the kids warm and dry. We managed to feed them and watch them grow, though we are trying to figure out how to slow down the process. My son is almost reading now and I think my daughter knows more than she lets on so as not to upset her brother.
That will change, I am sure.
We managed to stay employed and productive, building a little more for our future and the security of our children. We gave a little to people less well off than ourselves and hope to do more next year.
We remembered to have a glass of wine and relax. Twice. And vowed to make more time for it next year.
I have a much more extensive list as well, but it almost comes across as bragging. We bought a house, remodeled two and enjoyed a measure of economic success that too few enjoyed in this economy. Though less important — in a grand-scheme-of-things kind of way — than the first measure of accomplishments, its valuable for another reason.
If we don’t take a measure of what we have done, we can altogether too easily discount the things of which we are capable.
The challenges we face as a nation — to take care of those less fortunate, provide medical care as a right and not a privilege, insure that our grandparents can retire with dignity and that our children have the education and tools necessary to do amazing things — they all can seem so impossible until we take inventory of what we as individuals, and as a nation, have accomplished.
We should never forget that we are capable of pulling off miracles. To that end, we should all start by making a list.
MICHAEL TEAHAN lives in the Adams Hill area of Glendale with a clear view of the Verdugo Mountains so he can keep an eye on things. He can be reached at email@example.com.