My theme for 2017

When I wrote last year’s list of themes for my new year, I felt sure it would be the last one, that my annual setting of direction had run its course.

Autumn Iris

I think a lot about who I am versus who I want to be. Some might call it navel gazing, but self-analysis is core to who I am.

Yet I want to remain open to the road ahead so I can take the interesting turns as they come. And they always come! So I avoid new year’s resolutions and I don’t set hard goals. Instead, I set direction. And I follow it generally, always scanning the road ahead for opportunity or need to alter course.

My annual list of three watchwords or themes, a tradition for years in my life and as my first post each new year here at Down the Road, is the major way I’ve done that.

2016 was a remarkable year. I got married! If you’ve followed my blog for a while, you know I had a disastrous, destructive first marriage. It was best for all of us when it ended almost eleven years ago. In its wake, I focused on building a happy, healthy life as a single man and as a dad to my sons. I became content living essentially alone, and I could have continued it for the rest of my life. Yet I wondered if I could finally find love. I looked off and on for a few years and met some nice women, but finally decided that the search was more challenging than it was worth. So I quit looking. Just then, I met Margaret.

Frozen Custard

She’d been married before, too, and has four children. Between us, and including my stepson from my first marriage, we have seven! Remarriage generally means blending families. But the blessing of doing it at our age, about 50, is that our children are older. Our youngest just turned 16. Our oldest is 31.

Our empty nest is in sight! But for several good reasons involving our children, when we married it didn’t make sense for us to live under one roof right away.

It’s an unusual arrangement, and it has been hard. We knew it would be. Who wants to be married, yet not be able to connect in person every day? We’ve had to be very deliberate about creating face time with each other. Still, we’ve encountered challenges staying connected and coordinating our lives. Extra grace has been required.

But now a couple more of our children are near natural transition points and will not call our houses home for much longer. Them moving on will let us move toward living under one roof. We have decided that it will be her roof, at least until her youngest finishes high school in 2018. That means I’ll be listing my home for sale. There’s a fair amount of work to be done here first. With effort and luck, we’ll have it done by summer.

It’s going to be a big year. And it makes my 2017 theme clear: family. Just one theme, not my usual three. But this theme has three dimensions.

The first is care. My relationship with Margaret needs extra care while we continue to live apart, and when we eventually make the adjustments of sharing a home. And our children need parenting care to help them navigate their late teens and early 20s, and to move into their adult futures.

The second is workIt will take considerable work effort to ready my home for sale. We will spend a lot of our spare time at it through at least this summer. And all of the relationships in our family need us to be fully present and do the work to keep them healthy and happy.

The third is money. It will cost money to ready my home for sale, even though we will do the work ourselves. And two of our children are in college, and another starts this fall, and the youngest starts the fall after that. Neither of us has ever focused on maximizing our incomes, but we need to make career (and side-work) choices that let us pay for everything.

Margaret shares this theme with me. And as we play it out big changes will come to our lives — some of which we can see, and some we can’t.


31 thoughts on “My theme for 2017

    • Yeahhhhhhhhh…fully packed. Feeling a little overwhelmed by it, I must admit! But I’m holding on loosely to any timing on achieving my goals, so I won’t lose my sanity along the way.

  1. hmunro says:

    How marvelous, Jim! It sounds like 2017 will be a big transition year for you. But between your usual thoughtful, methodical approach and your openness to those “interesting turns,” I have every confidence you will pull it off even more smoothly than you imagine. My very best wishes to you …

    • I’m trying to hold on loosely to the timing, so that I can maintain my sanity! I think a key to achieving any goal is to be able to redefine the goal at anytime!

  2. I’ve been trying to formulate an outlook for the new year that did not rely on resolutions or hard goals, because I’ve found that external circumstances, the universe, the stream of life, or whatever, often has its own ideas and will smile indulgently and condescendingly at mine before batting them aside with a chuckle. I’m going to try it your way this year. Directions. Very good. Best of luck on yours this year.

    • Every year I’ve written my themes in this blog, somewhere during the year Life came along and rendered them moot. So yeah, I’ve learned: pick (a) direction(s) and hold onto them loosely.

  3. Jason Shafer says:

    You and Margaret are going to be some very busy people during 2017! Best of luck with all the changes and transitions you will be making.

    Also, I wish you great success in finding a good real estate agent for the sale of your house.

  4. I have been lucky enough to have seen part of your journey to this point. Thanks for sharing such a personal story! I wish you both the best of luck on the marriage and that this year will be happy and prosperous!!

  5. DougD says:

    Best wishes for 2017, your themes sound well picked, good luck weaving them together!

    BTW my brother has seven children and it’s very noisy, so helping some transition first will help with that as well.

    • Thanks Doug! By the time Margaret and I are under one roof, only two children will live with us full time. Two more will spend <= 20 days with us all year. That shouldn't be too noisy!!

  6. Nancy Stewart says:

    I’m very glad you and Margaret found each other to share life’s journey. Wishing you many blessings.

  7. Pingback: I once had promises to kee: Six takes on the new year. | Erixon Pernia

  8. Reblogged this on Kuidaore Maya and commented:
    It’s a very refreshing way to set goals for yourself; you focus on one important thing and figure out how to reach it. Too often, we just pick at all the things we want to do, get overwhelmed and jsut end up not doing it.

  9. kad8585 says:

    Love the theme. My family is not biological but the one I create for myself. And that family makes me feel centered and whole. All the best and can’t wait to see all the beauty the new year has in store for you.

  10. I’m guilty of mostly just looking at your photos, Jim. I have actually been reading the posts I have “liked ” today. I loved reading this one. It was honest and touching, as well as thought provoking . Happy New Year again. It will be a big one for you. I hope it goes smoothly.

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