Two books changed my life this year.
The first is Savvy by Ingrid Law. Although written for middle readers ages eight to twelve, I was deeply moved by the story of the Beaumont family who upon turning thirteen discover their own particular magical ability–their savvy. I placed a copy on my daughter’s nightstand. Shortly after reading the first few chapters, Emma wandered into my office. “Mom, do you think people really do have a savvy?” she asked with tentative hope. “Do you think I have a savvy?”
“I do,” I told her. “I absolutely do.”
I explained that I believe everyone has a savvy, perhaps not the magical abilities the Beaumont family possess, but equally special powers that are uniquely our own. But, as thirteen-year-old Mibs Beaumont discovered, sometimes recognizing your savvy and learning to use it well is a challenging journey.
This year I discovered my own savvy during the hours I spent working at my desk on essays for this flyingnotscreaming site. I’ve learned that my savvy is the ability to cut to the heart of the matter, and that writing happens to be how I express that power best. I have also discovered that the more I write the happier I am. Living my savvy leads me to joy.
The second book that changed my life is A Year to Live: How to Live This Year As If It Were Your Last by Stephen Levine. Oddly, this book about death reinforced the main theme of Savvy. Levine believes that to live fully you have to live as if you were going to die. He says, “Preparing for death is one of the most profoundly healing acts of a lifetime.” I have to confess that I only read the first five pages of Levine’s book. The title alone was enough to turn my thinking inside out. When you present yourself with the question “What would I do if this were my last year to live?” your priorities become crystal clear in a heartbeat.
My first response is the same today as it was ten months ago when I first picked up a copy of A Year to Live: I would write. Like Isaac Asimov, who said, “If my doctor told me I had only six minutes to live, I wouldn’t brood. I’d type a little faster.” I would write and write and write. My second response was that I would spend more time simply enjoying my family. And my third response was that I would cut out all the busy work in my daily life that keeps me from writing and takes time away from my family.
In other words, if I had a year to live, I would honor my savvy. As Marianne Williamson wrote in A Return to Love, “We are all meant to shine. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It’s not just in some of us; it’s in everyone. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people the permission to do the same.”
Even though I am hopeful that the next twelve months are not my last, I am going to commit myself to searching for the heart of it all by writing as much as possible. And I know that the true heart of what matters most to me is my family. So in the new year to come, I am going to make choices that allow me to be more and do less. In that way, my light will shine. My savvy will be honored. My life will be lived to the fullest.
As 2011 draws to a close and I end this essay, I ask these questions of you:
What is your savvy?
What would you do if you had a year to live?