Column:

How not to waste the last days of 2017

It’s December.

What are you going to do with it?

December always comes too soon and passes too fast, a truth that could apply to every day and season, but this twelfth month of the year marries the ordinary urgency of life with a sense of finality.

It’s the month that says, “Last call. The year you thought would never come is already over. Don’t waste what’s left.”

It’s the month that leaves you humming, “Who Knows Where the Time Goes?” and if you don’t know that song, you should.

A lot of people have spent a lot of time in this wacky, treacherous, exhausting year saying, “I wish 2017 would be over,” and some of them may be cheering now that it almost is. But that statement violates what should be a law:

Never wish your time away.

Time needs no encouragement. It vanishes fast enough all on its own.

So here in December 2017, let’s take a moment to appreciate the unique opportunities of this month.

It’s a month of reckoning. If January is the personal trainer who flogs you to be your better self, and July is the friend telling you it’s OK to relax, December is your psychotherapist.

It’s the month that asks: What have you accomplished in these 11 months? What have you won and lost? Meant to do but didn’t? Vowed to do and did?

What do you need to get done, before it’s New Year’s Eve again, to make your year feel complete?

December is our financial adviser as well: Make those charitable contributions. Use up your flex spending. File your work expenses. And are you really going to max out your credit cards on gifts that will be forgotten by June?

In December, we also engage, like it or not, in our annual collective eulogy.

All the celebrity deaths that flitted past on Facebook for the past 11 months are gathered into shockingly long and widely publicized lists.

This year’s roster includes Jim Nabors, Fats Domino, Tom Petty, Della Reese, Lillian Ross, Mary Tyler Moore, Dick Gregory and Jerry Lewis, people whose deaths you may already have forgotten despite the loud lament when they happened.

December reminds us that the world is always adding and subtracting people, which is further incentive to appreciate its fading days.

In December, the media pummel us with lists of top news stories, which this year seem like enough to fill a decade, though the list is shorter if you exclude tweets. We can look back and marvel at how much we’ve lived through.

Above all, December is the month we associate with what we call “the holidays,” and with them the reverence and rejoicing that come with Christmas, Hanukkah and Kwanzaa. It’s a month of rituals.

We lug giant trees into our houses, sing songs that never cross our minds the rest of the year, wear sweaters that in other months would be nothing but ridiculous.

A lot of us go looking in closets and cupboards for the old holiday decorations, then wonder how the ornament hooks always vanish while in hibernation and curse that we didn’t untangle the lights before putting them away last January. Those mysteries are part of the ritual.

Sometimes December seems at odds with itself. On the one hand, it’s a time for reflection, friends and family. On the other, it’s a frenzy. Sometimes the best thing you can do is to learn to love the frenzy, and work to find moments of peace in it.

Take a walk in the snow, and appreciate how much more beautiful December snow is than February slush.

Enjoy the dark days and the slow return of light.

Make an effort to spend time with people you care about.

Whatever December means to you, make it count. It will be gone almost as fast as you can say 2018.

**********

Speaking of making December count: There are still a few tickets for the Wednesday, Dec. 6, opening night performance of Songs of Good Cheer, the holiday singalong Eric Zorn and I host at the Old Town School of Folk Music. The other five shows are sold out (though tickets occasionally pop up at the last minute so don’t hesitate to check).

Tickets can be purchased at the Old Town School, by phone (773-728-6000) or online at ots.fm/sogc2017.

We’d love to have you join us.

[email protected]

Twitter @MarySchmich

Column: Come fa la la with us at Songs of Good Cheer »

Column: Give yourself a holiday gift — less time with your phone »

Copyright © 2017, Chicago Tribune
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