ramon-presson-e1477413193938Find a copy of today’s newspaper and if you don’t see your photo and obituary on those pages then I have a message for you:

If you’re dead you can ignore everything else I say. Otherwise here is my message for you: the coming year is one of profound opportunity and thus great responsibility.

In reviewing a newspaper from cover to cover as I do, I pause over the obituary page and I grimace at the occasional photo of a young adult.

But it is the announcement of a 50-year-old guy, married with children, that frightens me and haunts me even after I move on to the sports page or comics. The punch in the gut is not because I know the man but because that could be ME. Change the pixels in the photo and it could be me. Change the names of surviving family members and they could be mine.

But I’m still here. And so are you.

Freedom and responsibility

Two truths continue to converge for me and the din annually gets louder: 1) My remaining time on earth is less than it was a year ago or a day ago. 2) I have more freedom than I realize to shape my life.

That means this coming year is pregnant with opportunities and possibilities but they won’t be passive births with me just cheering as a spectator. Instead I am both the mother and mid-wife with certain roles and responsibilities.

Influence versus control

Here is another truth that will provoke either resistance or relief: You and I always have influence but we never have control. Any idea of control is an illusion. We cannot control another person; but perhaps even more disconcerting is our inability to control even our own life.

If you want to argue this point and insist that you in fact do have control over your own life then I’ll ask you this question: “Can you recall even one single day in which everything went exactly as you planned?” Every day serves as a reminder that you and I are not in control.

However, the minute we wake up there is Influence hovering over us, grinning, poking us to get up and give Influence its assignments for the day.

Carpe Diem versus Crappy Diem

People who cannot accept not being in control are easily and often frustrated because the world seems to be in conspiracy against them. During any given day they will encounter uncooperative technology, defective equipment, imperfect people, delays and interruptions, and unforeseen changes. And daily will be their shock and anger at all the intrusions and intruders.

Those who instead accept the gift of influence are less frustrated, are more effective and fulfilled.

Bucket List versus fulfilled purpose

I thoroughly enjoyed the film “Bucket List” starring Jack Nicholson and Morgan Freeman, hospital roommates who spur one another to live the remaining days of their lives fearlessly.

I’ve been contemplating this in recent months and I realize that I’m not driven by a list of things I want to see and experience before I kick the bucket. On my death bed I won’t regret not having seen the Grand Canyon or lament that I never jumped out of a perfectly good airplane with only a corded bed sheet to slow my fall.

What I will struggle with is the sense of incompletion of things that only I could do and that were mine to do. Anyone with time and transportation can see the Grand Canyon but I am the only one that can write the books that are inside me.

Heading into Christmas this year I really had difficulty coming up with anything that I wanted, not because I have sworn off materialism and don’t like new shiny objects but because what I’m wanting this year are things only I can give myself. I have unfinished business.

Resolution versus mission

What is that you MUST start this coming year or else 12/31/17 will bring regret instead of gratification?

What do you need to finish that you’ve already started? What is it that only YOU can do? What is that no one else can do for you or do as your substitute? No one else can take responsibility for your health.

You cannot delegate spiritual growth or outsource healing in a relationship. You cannot hire anyone to reach your goal or fulfill your dream. What is your mission going to be now that we’ve established that you are the missionary?

Ramon Presson, PhD, is a licensed marriage and family therapist in Franklin (www.ramonpressontherapy.com) and the author of several books. Reach him at ramonpresson@gmail.com.