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Excerpted from The Gift of a Year by Mira Kirshenbaum. Copyright © 2000 by Mira Kirshenbaum. Excerpted by permission of Penguin Putnam, Inc.  All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher. HTML and web pages copyright © by SpiritSite.com.

"The gift of a year can in a way save your life."

  Mira Kirshenbaum, The Gift of a Year, Part 4

Above All, Enjoy Yourself

Whatever else it is, your special year should be a pleasure. Here's how Diana described what it was like for her.

Diana. "I couldn't quit my job, and I couldn't neglect my kids. But I realized I had to take my life in hand. I'd been feeling lost and unhappy, and I had this glimpse of what I wanted to do, which was somehow to reconnect to my love of nature. I'd always loved nature—biology and ecology were my favorite courses in college—but you know how it is. Once you're an adult you can get very far from things you really care about.

"So I guess I cleared the decks and found ... well, I didn't find it, it was more like I stole an hour a day and a few hours on the weekend. And I just did things outdoors, bird watching, nature hikes, you name it. You know what I was doing? I was grabbing a chunk of time by the scruff of the neck and giving it to myself. For once in my life I'd have the year of me.

"I could just smell the way this year would be my year, the way you can smell a bakery around the corner. And I knew that I'd somehow help myself turn a corner by the end of it. It's funny because I never thought I could afford it, time-wise, but sometimes if you just decide to do something, it's all there for you."

By reexperiencing her love of nature, Diana made an amazing psychological shift. Before her special year, her future had seemed foggy—lacking much of who she really was and what she cared about most. Afterward, she said the whole year she'd felt as though the sun had come out. Based on how pleasurable her year was, she now envisioned her future filled with wonderful experiences and real growth in her appreciation of the natural world. And all that from doing something that was so easy and so much fun for her.

Playing for Keeps

You might say, well, la-di-da, what a nice little luxury the gift of a year is. Just what the world needs: more self-indulgent women.

If I believed that I wouldn't have written this book. I was a poor kid, a refugee kid. Because my parents survived the Holocaust, when I was a little girl I sometimes imagined the Angel of Death standing at the foot of my bed asking me, "Why should you have lived when so many others died?" Survivor guilt. Lots of us have it. And it makes you take things seriously. So do you think I'd be busy with the gift of a year if it was just frosting on the cake? Okay, yes, for many women it tastes as sweet as frosting on a cake. And what's wrong with enjoying something wonderful?

But make no mistake. The gift of a year can in a way save your life. You need to think of your special year as an absolute necessity. Because it is.

Have you ever said something like, "It's time I did something just for me"? If you have, that's good. It's a sign that maybe something's going on that you need to pay attention to before it's too late. When carbon monoxide leaks into your house, you can suffocate before you realize what's happening. The same kind of thing happens to far too many women today. We pour our energy into what we have to do for others. Even if you're doing well at your chosen career, most of what sucks the time out of your life is duties you have not chosen. Meanwhile who you are, what you need, what's best about you gets deprived of air and slowly starts to suffocate.

Let's get real. What do you think will happen if you don't make yourself a priority in your life for one year? What do you think will happen to the dreams you need to make come true? To the parts of yourself you have to take care of? To the problems you have to solve?

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