Grandma's list....

Every new years eve, my grandmother would ask us, "So what are you going to learn this year?". The first year I remember being asked this, I racked my five-year-old brain for ideas and the best I could come up with was, "This year I'll learn how to read 'big kids' books".

"Really?" she asked, "Is that what you really want to do, if you definitely didn't HAVE to do it?" That set us thinking. Over years the replies she got ranged from "This year I am going to learn how to ...shoot pigeons...dig for a boat out of plywood and butter....catch a pig (not sure where that came from or why)" to more conventionally-acceptable replies.

Regardless of what the 'goal' was, she would say, "Well you had better start thinking about how you are going to do it, because next new years eve I am going to ask you to show me what you did."

When the stated goals failed to materialize, she would ask, "What happened? Even though you didn't finish it, what did you learn? Did you enjoy that?"

If we stopped, we had to deal with the question "So why did you stop?"

"Because I was not good at it" was NOT an acceptable answer. It would trigger a lecture on how it was OK to be "bad" at something provided you tried and found that you did not like doing it. It was NOT OK to stop, if you were "bad" at something but really wanted to do it.

At the time we didn't realize what she was trying to do, but preparing for that question became a part of the new year ritual and we each learned to prepare a 'Grandma's list'.  Now after a lifetime of  'Grandma's lists', her wisdom is beginning to become apparent to me. Grandma's lists are about looking for things that interest us. That's the only criteria, the only pay-off is that doing them brings us joy. In the process of selecting an item for the list, you examine what it is you do and do not like, why you rank something over another and you set about planning how you are going to acquire the skills to complete your task. You also think about whether or not you are enjoying the process. The immediate pay-off is having fun. The long-term pay-off is getting to uncover who you really are - what it is you would really love to do or create if you didn't HAVE to and to allow yourself to feel whatever it is you feel when pursuing your chosen goal or dream. It is about learning to try, enjoy and celebrate skills and goals that have no societal payoff - to derive joy from life's little, overlooked pleasures.

Thanks to grandma's list I have allowed myself to learn how to crochet, write icons, plant a permaculture vegetable patch, produce a variety of knitted objects, a few score oil and acrylic paintings, make bead jewelry, dabble with calligraphy and try a host of projects which I found didn't really interest me deeply though I am glad I pulled them off my 'wish list', gave them a go. This year I plan to diversify my visual journal-ling skills (emphasizing the process and learning and NOT the finished product), crochet a few amigurumi and re-learn how to read music notation, beginners Portuguese and Spanish. More importantly I plan to share the results without judging them. Here are some first attempts....

I think my grandma would have approved.


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