“Three Questions for a New Year,” Jan. 8, 2019

At the start of a new year, I like to ask three questions:
1. Who am I?
2. Why am I here?
3. What will I do with this year?

Simple questions, but hard to answer. Let’s start with “who.”

I’m basically the same person I’ve always been. A little wiser, I hope. A bit worse for wear. And definitely older. My “titles” include wife, mom, nana, sister, friend and She Who Forever Looks for Her Lost Glasses.

I’m also a newspaper columnist, a fact that after 27 years of weekly columns, never ceases to terrify me. Readers often ask how it came to be. Here’s the short version.

I grew up in a small Southern town where I fell in love with the power of stories. My parents and grandparents, my blind baby brother, the wind in the trees, the moon over the mountain, the dogs that slept under the porch, even the fleas that slept on the dogs — they all told stories. All I had to do was listen. And I listened hard.

When my teachers said I was a writer, I didn’t know what it meant. I’m not sure I do now. But I learned to look for stories everywhere and to keep asking questions to get to hear them.

You’d be surprised what the world will tell you if you ask politely and show you care.

I went to college on a scholarship, moved to California, married a basketball coach and had three babies. When my youngest started kindergarten, I took a part-time job in the library of the local newspaper. I also taught Sunday school, kept score for Little League and watched a lot of basketball. In time, I became a reporter and a columnist. After the column was syndicated, I worked at home in my pajamas.

Then my kids grew up, we lost their dad to cancer, and I found myself alone with five sets of dishes and no one to feed, but a cat that didn’t like me.

When life changes profoundly and we are no longer who we were, it takes a while to figure out who we are.

One day in the grocery store, a baby gave me a toothless grin that seemed to say, “What are you waiting for?” And I decided it was time to stop looking back and start moving forward with my life.

When I remarried, I kept the cat and gained two stepsons and a husband who makes me stop to watch sunsets. Our blended family includes five kids, their others and six grandkids.

That’s my story, more or less, who I am, and glad to be. OK, question 2: Why am I here?

I’ve been asking that for years and still don’t have a clear answer. But this is what I’ve learned: Life is a gift. It can’t be earned. It can only be lived.

I’ve lost my share of loved ones; grandparents, parents, aunts, uncles, my first husband, my younger brother, and friends, young and old. I try to honor their memories by living well. And I tell their stories to my grandkids and anyone who will listen. Doing that, I believe, is at least part of why I’m here.

Finally, the third question. What will I do with this year?

Do you ever get the feeling you need to be doing something, but have no clue what it might be? I get that feeling a lot. Luckily, if I wait a while, it always passes.

Recently, my grandson Wiley, who is 6, said, “Nana, I don’t like to run. I just like to chill.”

Actually, Wiley runs plenty. Sometimes I chase him. We all need exercise.

But I know what he means. I don’t want to run through my life. I want to chill. I want to be present with myself and the world and people I love. To be alone with my thoughts. To watch sunsets with my husband. Laugh with my kids. Be a friend to my friends. Make grilled cheese sandwiches and memories for my grandkids. And keep swapping stories.

There are other things I’ll need or want to do this year. But most of all, I want to be truly alive for as long as I have breath. If that’s all I do, it will be enough.

So. Who are you? Why are you here? What will you do with this year? What’s your story?

 

Comments

  1. Thank you for your uplifting words! I read your piece in Carmel magazine at the Phoenix shop boutique – with the gobsmacking view of the Big Sur coast as my backdrop. “To be truly alive as long as I have breath – that will be enough” is particularly sweet for me as a late blooming writer – Romancing the Sur – survision.org, on Amazon too! Would love to connect someday. I’m down here on Partington ridge…warm hugs, Linda

  2. Anthony Matz says:

    I read your piece (Questions as a New Year Begins) in the Reading Eagle and enjoyed it. I especially liked, “Life is a gift. It can’t be earned. It can only be lived”. Good advice.

  3. Shashi says:

    Thanks Sharon ,Not sure what
    Can I do better but would do my best as grandmother, wife and daughter. I wish to be good person till I live tried my best to live best
    . Want to exercise more in this cold weather. Happy New year ! Love you so very much!

  4. Pam Wieters says:

    Thank you for the gift of your column! I always seem to be scattered! Being a full time mental health counselor, it’s hard not to be in burnout mode all the time. Your column has given me time to think about what’s truly important in life, and will help me lead others (patients) who are struggling through life. Thank you for sharing your personal experiences which will help others grow. The only thing I know as I age, is that “life is short and fragile”, especially when loved ones are dying. What we need to realize is the present is a gift, and we need to learn how to cherish each moment, seize the day, and to learn how to be fully present in each moment. I think it’s important to “center” yourself, and I think that by reflecting on your questions, that is the “perfect” way to do it. Thanks again!

  5. Allen Pool says:

    Sharon:
    It’s a delight to read your column. After a successful surgery a while back which gave me new hope for the future, 2019 promises to be an interesting and delightful year. I look forward to each day with gusto. I continue to work at my labor arbitration practice. I have been at it now for 35 years plus. The challenge of each case keeps the brain cells growing. It also provides me with the means to travel to interesting places such as Hawaii, Japan, Newfoundland and to meet interesting people.
    My wife, Bobbie, died 8 years ago. I miss her and always will. Now, I am fortunate to have a dear friend and traveling companion, Patricia. We recently took a two week trip that included fly fishing on the Madison River in Ennis, Mt., a visit to the Post Pile in Wyoming, and a visit to Mt. Rushmore in South Dakota. I am also fortunate in that Greg & Kelli and grandkids live nearby. I still live in Monterey and will continue to do so. The Peninsula is wonderful place to live.

    Allen

  6. lara says:

    Sharon Randall, thanks so much for the post.Really thank you! Keep writing.

  7. Kate Sciacca says:

    Well this must have been posted before game time. Joe must be very happy! Went to Rosines last Thursday…. my oh my – we’ve been going to Monterey in early January every year (almost) since 2001 — sure has become a busy place!

    Here’s a story from my sweet red headed daughter-in-law – granddaughter Genny is five years old:

    This morning I went into Genny’s room
    Me- “Genny, time to wake up. What is the on your shirt? Is that poo?”

    Genny examines her shirt. Then says oh so casually- “oh, that’s chocolate.”
    Me, a little confused to say the least- “ummm, are you sure? Where did it come from?”
    Genny- “yeah, I putted candy under my pillow wast night to give me sweet dweams.”

    Me – “did it work?”
    Genny smiling broadly- “it sure did!”

    Are we blessed????? Yes ma’am- we are!

  8. RoxieAnn says:

    It’s our 50th wedding anniversary this June. Maybe a trip to UK to see some relatives and go to church in Scotland where my grandparents married. Maybe just the baseball All Star game. But we will enjoy ourselves whether it’s a 30 mile trip or thousands of miles – we will enjoy life. (And our jobs)

  9. Cath Tendler says:

    What shall I do this year? Keep reading your heartwarming columns that are filled with your history, your humor and your lovingkindness. I’m so happy that I got to meet you when you came to visit my student Cody and his class a few decades ago. Keep lighting our hearts on fire!

  10. I dont know what this year holds. I hope to be a better person
    I hope to walk on a beach, paint a beautiful picture, enjoy rain falling on the roof, deer passing thru the yard, snow crystals on the willow tree in our back yard, make a lot of hamburgers on our new deck, go places with my grown children see my husband feeling a lot better,meeting new people (especially Sharon Randall) and and most important of all thanking my Lord for all of the above

  11. Deb Brown says:

    I don’t know what I am going to do this year but I do know I will be cheering for Alabama tonight. My husband is from Birmingham Alabama. He came up north to have a better life and he found it with his wife(me)and 3 children. After working 48years with the Kroger company , he is retired and having a great retirement. Whenever Alabama plays football,his family is here cheering and having a good time.
    I read your column and know your brother is a Clemson fan. I hope he enjoys the game. We will too. Win or lose, we are winners in the game of life. ROLL TIDE!!

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