Question of the day: If you were a holiday letter, what would you say? (In other words, who do you want to be?)
Eric’s answer: “My house is a mess, my wife stayed out of the nuthouse, and my kids aren’t in therapy yet.”
Phew. He’s got his priorities right. He didn’t even mention work. And his values on paper would match the ones in real life.
As a stage-three information hoarder, I am now just getting around to sorting all the holiday letters we got last Christmas. And I’m learning a little about who I want to be.
You see, a lot of people out there are obsessed with their work. Some of our more “successful” friends devote six out of eight paragraphs to descriptions of work projects. Yikes! Haven’t you guys ever thought about your eulogy? If so, did it have that work stuff in it? (As a depressive, I have already hired someone to write mine–Robert Ellsberg, author of “All Saints“–but I told him that he had a little bit of time since I’m feeling good at the moment.)
I pulled out one Christmas letter that I thought was perfectly balanced. It was composed by the husband of my high-school religion teacher, with whom I still keep in touch, because she’s my angel Gabriel (she delivered God’s word when I was headed toward trouble).
The first three paragraphs of this greeting list the family’s abundant blessings. Then each kid gets a paragraph (“Jimmy loves baseball, basketball, football, Apple computers….”), followed by a few lines about my teacher’s volunteer work and hobbies. In a small paragraph right before you get to the trips they took that year (Norris Lake) are six sentences about his job.
“Let’s aim for this,” I said to Eric, holding the green piece of paper in my hand that would probably find a home in the garage with the rest of the letters, not in the trash, where the Feng Shui people would like it to go. (I know, I’m hanging on and constipating the house’s energy. But at least I’m learning something in the process.)
Whenever I feel myself getting a bit too obsessed with my work, I remember the idea of those holiday letters. And I change the order of my mental paragraphs around … because I know Eric would not be happy to be in paragraph seven. And just wait until the kids can read. Then I’ll really be in trouble. (At that point, I might just switch professions.)