The Sandpiper’s Conundrum

We have made it to the new year, and already I’ve broken one of my resolutions. I’m in good company: Although over 45 percent of Americans make resolutions, only 8 percent keep them. I did a little research and found out that the tradition of making resolutions dates back to the Babylonians. More recently, John Wesley, the founder of Methodism, created a Covenant Renewal Service with the purpose of offering praise and making resolutions.  

Given resolutions’ failure rate, one has to wonder why we bother. I have to believe it is our way of marking time, of articulating what it is about ourselves that could be improved—to take stock of where we have fallen short. The dawn of a new year is always melancholy for me: I have a hard time turning the page on what was, and I can’t help wondering what will be. A stiff, blank new calendar awaits me at work, but I’m just not quite ready to relinquish my 2021 calendar (those of you self-righteous, electronic calendars only, paper calendar haters, reserve your judgement). There’s just something intangibly precious about the 2021 calendar’s post-it notes spilling out, coffee-stained pages, endless notes to myself, highlighted events, and receipts I thought I would need. Etcetera, etcetera.

I have confessed before in this blog that Judge Brett Kavanaugh and I share a fixation with calendars; I have them dating back to 1985. I dare anyone to ask me what I was doing on any given day in the last 40 years, and I can flip to that page and find the answer. Admittedly this quirk is more than a little OCD, but more than once my calendaring has come in handy. Take this summer, for instance. On a visit with an old college friend, I was looking at her wedding picture and wondering out loud why I wasn’t in attendance. The sensitive side of me thought perhaps I wasn’t invited. (My self-esteem was saved when I looked back to that year’s calendar and saw that I was attending a work conference. Also in the calendar was the receipt for her wedding gift, so that base is covered as well).

Although I’m one resolution down, I have others that I hope to keep. On New Year’s Eve my daughter and her boyfriend made resolutions, and the list was startling long. Oh, the idealism of youth. As for me, I’m sticking with just a few. I’m old enough to expect little from myself. Perhaps the power of resolutions lies not in keeping them but in being self-aware enough to make them.

This past fall my husband and I took a quick trip to the beach. That is typically a happy place for me—a venue where I can relax and cast my worries and thoughts out to the sea. Not so on this October trip, however; I seemed to never fully unwind, to never surrender the professional and personal to-dos lingering in my calendar (which, it goes without saying, is my constant companion). Sitting on the beach with an unopened novel on my lap, I was transfixed by the sandpipers that ran back and forth. Their frenzied scurrying to and fro, looking for food, made me dizzy. My legs grew tired just watching. They make life seem so hard.

It occurs to me that the sandpiper and I are not so different. How much of my life do I lead in a frenetic pace—and to what end? All the post-its in the world can’t substitute for a lingering conversation with a friend. Am I too busy running around to fully enjoy the paths I take? To notice them? This coming year, I’ve resolved to be less of a sandpiper and more of an owl.

With apologies to Harry Potter fans, I have to admit that I’ve always been scared of owls. Their wide eye sockets are the stuff of nightmares and I shudder at the thought of them perched on a limb, hovering over me, watching me. But still. Although in actuality owls are not that intelligent, there seems to be a wisdom to their solitary nature, to their keen eyesight. Do I scurry too much and linger too little? Do I miss out because I’m not observant, because I’m not watching? Should I spend less time sandpipering around, in search of something, and more time guarding what I do have?

There’s a reason why the check-out lines at so many big box stores like TJ Maxx are lined with eye-catching merchandise. It’s because marketing experts know we shoppers will move at a slower pace in line, touching and debating the candles/mugs/soaps/charging cables/facial masks that captivate our attention. Arguably the items in that check-out line are the most exciting parts of the store. But maybe it’s just because we see them when we have time to really look.

My decorations are packed away, my returns accomplished, and I am ready to open my new calendar and crease that first page. Old acquaintance is not forgot, as the song warns, but time does move on and propels us forward. It’s our choice whether to scurry through the new year like a sandpiper or slow down, watch and see like the owls that hover above.

That’s a resolution worth making.

2 thoughts on “The Sandpiper’s Conundrum

  1. As always, I love your post Melissa! You put words to my thoughts. I, too, keep paper calendars. And I, too, have decided to slow down in order to enjoy. And I made only 1 New Year’s resolution, knowing I cannot stick to them!! … and yep, I’ve already broken the only one I had. But life is beautiful in that at any moment in time, I can start again.


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