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What Happens to Me vs What I Happen To

I live and die by the small pocket-sized planner I purchase each December. It’s broken down by week with a small box to write in each day. As the year progresses and weeks pass by, I rip the pages from my calendar until now, hovering just a few weeks before the end of the year, I have a nearly empty ringed book hanging on by the bonus pages they put in the end with information like world time zones and measuring cup equivalencies.

Each week, I outline my tasks—things like “work” on the Monday – Friday slots and “Blog” on Wednesdays and Sundays. I put in dinner dates with friends, doctors appointments, and other less structured to-dos like “laundry” or “groceries.” 

Last week, I was staring at my scribblings and realized that a lot of my notes were things I didn’t have immediate control over—which is to say rather than “wrap presents” or “mail card,” they were upcoming social gatherings or things I couldn’t do until it was time to do them. 

In high school, I had a quote taped to my wall that is frequently attributed to Leonardo Da Vinci though no reliable source exists per my research to confirm the citation. All that said, the quote reads: “It had long since come to my attention that people of accomplishment rarely sat back and let things happen to them. They went out and happened to things.”

I like happening to things. I like waking up with a plan and a list and setting off on the goals I seek to accomplish. I like diving in headfirst and planning trips and writing letters and scheming big dreams.

But I also know that I can’t happen to things all the time. Sometimes, the best thing I can do on a tired night is wait for the next thing to happen to me. 

December can be a month of bustle. All the energy of the year seems to pile up and culminate in the last weeks as we seek to squeeze every ounce of laughter and joy into the cooling days. And, as someone who travels out of state to see family each December, I enjoy the thrilling sprint of how many people I can spend time with both in my adult home and my hometown before the year ends. 

And in the midst of this sprint, I’m making an intentional choice to let things happen to me. I’m sipping tea and reading books on early mornings when I’m up long before the sun. I’m watching movies and working on craft projects in the evenings when the thought of striving for more productivity feels ludicrous.

Surely, then, there is something to living seasonally. In my corner of the world, where the days are dark and cold now, where the glow of holiday lights fills the sky, I am learning to live differently than I might in June. I’m appreciating the things I can control. And I’m learning to sit patiently for the things only the clock can bring.


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