There aren’t enough Top Lists for this New Year, so I’ve decided to fill the void with a small list of my own. I’ll call my list “Top Things Luke Experienced This Year”, or TTLETY for short. (That acronym may be pronounced “Total Eddie”, for those averse to sounding out the letters.) It rolls across the brain just right, doesn’t it? If composing this list proves as cathartic as I hope, I may even make a tradition of it.
I have very little time to write these days, and what time I do I have I devote mostly to story writing, so putting this together is unusual for me, especially knowing only a handful of friends will read it. My hope is that one or two of these ideas might help someone who could use it as they enter 2018. This list is six long because six is a good number, and it’s also all I felt like writing about.
Without further ado, I give you TTLETY…
– I took a trip to California.
My son qualified for a championship swim meet in the Sacramento area, and I flew down there to cheer him on. While in the Golden State, I visited my old friend—the great city of San Francisco, savored the delights of four different Peet’s Coffee shops, and reinvigorated my love of writing. My favorite part of the trip was seeing the smile on my dear boy’s face as he made new friends from across the western U.S. and enjoyed one of the most wonderful experiences of his young life.
– I started doing yoga.
When it was announced that my town’s local pool would start offering standup paddle board yoga classes, I was instantly intrigued. I’d wanted to try yoga for some time, and I was curious about paddle boarding, so I figured, why not combine the two? As a less than flexible, two hundred forty pound man with zero experience on a board, I felt a little sheepish when I showed up for the first class. It went as you’d expect: I capsized while trying to perform even the simplest poses. But I loved it anyway. For a few blessed minutes, my mind was too occupied with remaining balanced to race on and on as it normally does. Yoga is one of the best things I ever decided to do. And by the way, I’m getting pretty damn good on that board.
– I bought a minivan.
Two and a half years ago, I found my worn out SUV was in need of replacement. After a few days of searching, I drove home in a small five-speed hatchback with roughly the legroom of a go-cart, thinking, What the hell did I just do? As a salesperson who drives a lot, I spend around twenty percent of my time behind the wheel of my car. That’s a hell of a lot of time for a six foot, four inch guy to be crammed in such a small space, shifting, downshifting, shifting, shifting, downshifting. On the eve of Christmas Eve, I decided to end the suffering and traded that Matchbox-sized torture chamber in on a minivan. When I drive this baby, it’s like my legs are stretching across an airplane runway. The relief is breathtaking. Seattle traffic? Who cares. I got me a minivan!
– I saw The Lumineers perform live.
I’ve enjoyed their music since I first heard them, but to see The Lumineers live is an experience I can only describe as inexplicable. I believe they are the best thing to happen to music in over twenty years. Their mastery of the simple is like a salve for the wounds inflicted on us by our culture’s addiction to mental clutter. If you have a chance to see The Lumineers live, do not hesitate. Go.
– I became more mindful.
We all say it: “This year just flew by.” I’ve said this often myself, and rumor has it I’ll be feeling it all the more as I grow older. But I’ve found an elixir for this troublesome feeling of time moving too fast. It’s such a simple thing, I feel silly even mentioning it, but it turns out there is nothing simple about the act of paying attention. The human mind is unique in the animal kingdom, as it’s adapted to tell stories to itself. We are natural daydreamers. I suppose I’m even more prone to daydreaming than most; my mind is rarely focused on what’s in front of me. But this year I got a little better, and the small improvement was enough to slow time for me. 2017 was the slowest year I’ve experienced in a long time. The most excellent side effect to all this mindfulness is that people and things I think I’m familiar with become new again. I have a friend who likes to say, “It is more complicated than you think.” I believe he’s right about that, but I think you need to pay attention to know there’s always more going on with people than you realize.
– I built something.
A few things, actually. I finished two stories that I’m reasonably happy with, and after sidelining my novel for nine months, I finally got started on Part Two. It was shaky at first, trying to figure out what the characters ought to be doing after all the time away, but eventually I found my way through the weeds and had several of those epiphanies every writer lives for. I am more in love with this story now than I’ve ever been. Tonight, New Year’s Eve, I plan to stay up late finishing Chapter Four. This time next year, draft one will be done. I can’t wait to see what happens next.
When I was a kid, the church I attended held classes called Search For Significance. I think I could teach one of those classes. My curriculum would be very simple, only two steps:
1.) Find something you like to make.
2.) Go make that thing.
Humans are built to build. If we’re not creating, we feel lost; we lose meaning. You are not here just to consume the world’s resources for a few years and then die. You are here to add something to the world. 2017 has seen much tragedy—natural disasters, mass shootings, social and political unrest, an opioid epidemic that struck my own family and many others—it’s hard not to lose hope in all this. In spite of it all, I have hope for us. If more of us can learn to embrace our unique ability to create, there is hope for us yet.
Happy New Year to all who read this. If you’re inclined, tell me some of your top experiences of 2017.