2003. Age 55. I’d had a wonderful career evaluating quality and planning strategy for a large children and family organization. I became the “dangling woman”–comfort zone disappearing, transformation required. Jim was healthy and sober after a near-death experience from liver failure, so I took the leap from the salaried life to the art life.
But since I’d made a career out of holding others accountable, I decided to hold myself to the same standard. I was not retired. I had a job. I just needed to define what the job was and get cracking.
Thus were born my annual reports. New Year’s Eve became my day to look over the year’s work and decide how productive I’d been. They are the Christmas letters to myself, published for all the world to see.
Over time, the focus has become less on productivity and more on a life well lived (though I still love products).
Now that I’m past 70 and can be guilt-free about retirement, I am more concerned about brain health and the potentials of an energetic old age. So I plug away.
This year, New Year’s Eve was about bringing pneumonia-infected Jim home from the hospital and getting us back to our routines. On New Year’s Day, I became so frustrated with trying to review my writing that I had to create a color-coded “table of contents” for 2019. It took all day, but was definitely a product. Yesterday, finally, I banged out my 16th annual Art Life Year in Review.
What can I conclude from this year’s survey (I ask myself)? Well, the art life has advantages over “real” life. In the real life of elders, chaos and disruption are rarely welcome and seldom good news. But in the art life, I can jump out of my comfort zone on any given day, curse the chaos with impunity, and get it that the learning curve is only a phase before the breakthrough to competence. I like that.