When we come to the end of the year, we’re not usually thinking about how our last lines might anchor the entire year into our life stories.
We’re too exhausted from a busy holiday season, and/or we’re getting ready for a new year’s celebration. Sometimes, we might take the time to review our major accomplishments over the year, but more likely we’re making lists of diet plans and other things we want to do differently in the coming year. Whatever we do, it seems there’s always a gap between the look-back and the look-forward, as though these final days or hours or minutes of the current year aren’t all that important, when in fact they could be the most important of all.
In the writing world, it’s often said that the final sentence is the most important one of a novel.
Or sometimes it’s thought of as the second most important sentence. Either way, it’s a critical line that serves to summarize a theme, offer a sense of closure, or evoke a sense of mystery about, or hope for, the future. An article on Huffington Post today stated that “a beautiful, or at least effective, final sentence anchors a story in a reader’s mind long after the book is finished.” For me, the perfect last line also suggests movement, whether forward or backward—or at least a landscape with opportunity for movement–rather than a feeling that the story, and its corresponding life, has ended.
Here are some examples of last lines (or, in some cases, the last two lines) which promise there is more to come, even if we won’t ever be able to read about it. These lines prove that life, for the character, is not over.
“She was seventy-five and she was going to make some changes in her life.” ~Jonathan Franzen, The Corrections
“And before us, long as the skein of wool I wind, stretches the vista of our afternoon.” ~Daphne du Maurier, Rebecca
“He nodded and went out…and in a moment I heard Winnie-the-Pooh bump, bump, bump—going up the stairs behind him.” ~A. A. Milne, Winnie-the-Pooh
“He walked away and he kept on walking.” ~Neil Gaiman, American Gods
“I’ve been there and am going back. Make of it what you will.” ~Leif Enger, Peace Like a River
“She closed her eyes and lifted her lovely, exotic face to the sky, and I hoped when she opened her eyes she would see that a brand new star was twinkling for her.” ~Yours truly, The Damnable Legacy
Okay, fine, you might say. Good for them. So what? How do these lines apply to me?
The so-what is the idea that fiction teaches us so much about life, and one of these lessons might be that the last line in any installment of our lives might be far more important than we assume. What we say and think and do in the final days, hours, and minutes of the year can, like a book’s final line, summarize our life’s theme for the year. Or it might offer much needed closure for chaos or sorrow. Or it might create a panorama with promise for what’s to come. Or it might even set us up, like a cliffhanger, for a sequel.
But before you come up with your last line, you might want to think about how you can meaningfully spend your final moments of 2015. Below are just a few ideas.
- Clean, purge, and donate – clear out the clutter, so you can create space for new relationships, activities, and energies.
- Call or visit someone – rekindle a connection with someone you haven’t seen for months (maybe longer), so you can go into the new year remembering the person you once were.
- Apologize – take responsibility for errors and sins of the year, so you can move forward with a clear conscience and the knowledge you’ve been forgiven.
- Express your gratitude – count your many blessings, so you feel supported as you cross the threshold to this new year of uncertainty.
- Challenge yourself – shake things up in your life physically, emotionally, intellectually or spiritually, creating new energy for what’s to come.
- Scan for health and safety – make sure your physical being and surroundings are in tip-top shape to avoid any unnecessary glitches.
- Get creative – get out your pencils and paints, an old instrument, or whatever medium you like to use, to help you pound out any lingering stressors.
- Share your self – tell those you love how you feel about them and welcome them to the next phase of your life journey.
Once you’ve figured out how you want to spend these last few days of 2015, write out your final sentence.
Sit down with a piece of paper and a pen. You might write a look-back of gratitude or forgiveness to the past year. Or maybe you’ll write a look-forward to a new experience. Maybe you’ll write it out in 3rd person. Maybe you’ll write down something you’ll then actually say to someone else, just before midnight on New Year’s Eve. It doesn’t matter how you approach it. Have fun with it! The only rules are: a) it’s got to be just one sentence (or two max; this isn’t a list of all of your accomplishments; it goes deeper than that. b) you’ve got to be truthful and intentional. After all, this might be the last line that anchors 2015 in your memory for years to come.