Last week, when Z and I returned from a palliative visit back to Washington, we spent the first weekend of the New Year making and studying our manifestation collages for this year.
Z's was adorably concise:
By the time the year is over, we will have two dogs. We will also visit Arizona (including camping). Z will attend cowboy camp and learn how to ride a horse. And we will live, once again, in a small town (I didn't have the heart to tell her that the "small town" she chose for her collage was actually a street in Memphis).
My collage is a bit more ... ambitious.
This year - I pray - my various projects, risks, opportunities, obligations, and loves from the last few years will come to a productive bloom. Some - like my fellowship with B Lab - have a predetermined end date. Others - like becoming a licensed attorney for resilient local economies and re-establishing a home west of the Rockies - are a bit more nebulous in their ETAs. In large part, this is because I feel quite driven by my Duty of Care: care of myself, yes, but mostly care of those I love.
The care of someone or something differs from the care for the same. Care for connotes actions but also feelings and taste ("I do not care for Faux News or artichokes"). Whereas Care of solely connotes actions. What must be done to keep that about which I care in good condition? We take care of our stuff, if we want it to last. We take care of our children, if we want them to thrive. And sometimes, we take care of our parents, for the same reason, prompting a reversal of roles that is both empowering and terrifying.
My mother is facing a common but scary illness, and though it was caught early enough that her prognosis will likely be good, there's still a lot of uncertainty. But the one thing about which we are certain is that I will need to step up and help take care of my mother at some point, in ways that I have not done before.
At the same time, I must take care of Miss Z (who, like me, is impatient to move back to Washington). And I must take care of myself as I fully reboot my career and pursue my entrepreneurial goals (a niche law practice and homestead B&B).
The language of duty reads like an imposition but I experience it more often as an opportunity. I have the opportunity to figure out how to take care of my Mom. So many of my friends and family have lost one or both parents. I'm sure that my relationship with my Mom will evolve but at least we have a relationship to nurture.
On those nights when I stare wistfully at my 1st edition copy of Go the F*ck to Sleep, while my beloved, sleep-drunk five year old is in full banshee mode, I nevertheless appreciate the opportunity to be her mother and take care of her. And then I enjoy a glass of Washington red wine.
And when I look at my collage with impatience and anxiety, I challenge myself to focus on the opportunity that a new year, combined with my talents, ambitions and dreams present. I don't know if by the end of 2016 I will have done even half of the things represented in the collage. But I know that I am very fortunate to have no small amount of pluck and luck as I embark on my 2016 journey. And I am so very fortunate to be able to put family at the center of my values and my aspirations.