Did you make a New Year's resolution last weekend?
If you did, you're not alone. In a survey of 12,000 of its readers, the Globe and Mail found that 73 per cent resolved to do something different in 2012. Of those who made a resolution, 26 per cent want to lose weight, 16 per cent want to save more money, 12 per cent want a better sex life, 10 per cent want to be nicer, and nine per cent want to get a better job.
I don't usually make resolutions. But if I did, it would be hard to do better than the list created by Doris Janzen Longacre, author of the best-selling books More-with-Less Cookbook, and Living More with Less.
Commissioned by Mennonite Central Committee in the 1970s, before living simply and "green" became trendy and popular, the books were practical guides for living in simple, unhurried, sustainable and healthy ways that kept the future of the planet, and the plight of poor people, in mind.
Unfortunately, Doris was unable to enjoy the enormous success of the two books. After penning More-with-Less in 1976, she began a followup compilation, titled Living More with Less, in 1979. But in November of that year she died of cancer; her husband, Paul, completed the book, which was published in 1980.
Doris discovered her breast cancer in 1976, right after More with Less was published. "She had an operation, and the doctors thought they had got most of it," Paul told me.
A year later she developed severe pain in her back; the diagnosis was bone cancer. Doctors gave her two years to live.
She made it three years, but those three years were "quite a strain for her," he recalled. "She was in pain most of the time. But she tried to be optimistic. She tried to get a walk in every day -- that was her therapy, it helped her back, and her attitude."
Doris also became "more observant of nature, and the sounds of people around her, as she felt her own mortality," he added.
It was during this time that she decided to write Living More with Less.
"Doris wondered what to do with the time left to her -- she still had lots of creative interests," Paul said. "She came up with idea for a sequel to the cookbook, taking the idea of simple and creative living beyond food and into the rest of life."
Writing the book gave her focus and a reason to keep going, even if she knew her time on Earth was short, he shared. "She felt she had more to say -- just not as much time as she wanted to say it all."
In addition to writing her next book Doris also kept a journal. In it she wrote about her struggle with cancer, and other things. One of those things was a list of life's frivolities -- things she believed that one should not let get in the way of the enjoyment of living. Later, they were compiled into a reflection titled Life is Too Short.
Here is that list:
- Life is too short to ice cakes; cakes are good without icing.
- Life is too short to read all the church periodicals.
- Life is too short not to write regularly to your parents.
- Life is too short to eat factory-baked bread.
- Life is too short to keep all your floors shiny.
- Life is too short to let a day pass without hugging your spouse and each of your children.
- Life is too short to nurse grudges and hurt feelings.
- Life is too short to worry about getting ready for Christmas; just let Christmas come.
- Life is too short to spend much money on neckties and earrings.
- Life is too short for nosy questions like "How do you like your new pastor?" Or -- if there's been a death -- "How is he taking it?"
- Life is too short to be gone from home more than a few nights a week.
- Life is too short not to take a nap when you need one.
- Life is too short to care whether purses match shoes or towels match bathrooms.
- Life is too short to stay indoors when the trees turn colour in fall, when it snows or when the spring blossoms come out.
- Life is too short to miss the call to worship on a Sunday morning.
- Life is too short for bedspreads that are too fancy to sleep under.
- Life is too short to work in a room without windows.
- Life is too short to put off Bible study.
- Life is too short to put off improving our relationships with the people we live with.
Doris never meant for her list to be used at New Year's. But they sure sound like good resolutions to me.