In this month when many envision the year ahead, some self-help book undoubtedly will suggest it's also time to answer the questions, "What should I leave behind from the old year?" and "What do you want to leave behind when you die?"
These are deer-in-the-headlights questions designed by life coaches to make clients squirm and think big.
It occurred to me, trying to answer them myself, that they really shouldn't be so hard to figure out. As humans, we are designed -- birth to death -- to leave things behind without thinking. Especially without thinking.
This occurred to me post-holidays as I stood at the door of my local post office. A neighbor, who had just dropped off the shoes of his visiting grandson, held it open so I could mail back my visiting daughter's hat.
"Not so bad," we agreed. No one left with someone else's cellphone or laptop. And my daughter could hardly have known that her 5-year-old nephew, wearing her hat for a mask, would stash it in a bookcase when they were playing hide-and-seek.
This is the same in-town child who, like his sister before him, has left his security blanket behind, only to discover the tragedy at bedtime when it is sleeting, and who in December left his winter coat stuffed under the car seat because it didn't feel cozy.
Most people think the mailing frenzy occurs the week before Christmas. Thanks to out-of-town visitors, I suspect the real spike comes after, when charger cords, single earrings and orthodontic retainers get a priority ride back to their owners. Visits can be divided into three parts: hellos, goodbyes and a trip to the post office.
It is not lost on me that visiting stepchildren, with no biological ties to me, are the only ones who have cleared the premises with all their possessions intact. This might suggest a genetic component.
I never have left a potluck without leaving behind a serving dish or spoon. I rarely miss it until the email rolls in, which politely inquires, "Anyone missing a (fill in the blank)?" My track record is so bad that I was elated last fall when a potluck guest left my house without her canister of paprika. It was as big as the state of Kansas.
Since once leaving my suit jacket behind at a business meeting (how is this even possible?), I have never trusted myself to come home with all my clothes. Somehow, it's become instinctive to retrace every step for a missing coat or hat before I search my closet.
As my mother used to observe, "You leave a trail." Which brings me to my original point: We all do.
So the challenge of January is simply to decide more intentionally what sort of trail we wish to leave, and to develop strategies for graceful recovery when the best-laid plans somehow fail us -- as in the case of my left-behind ice-cream scoop.
"I'll just leave it on your porch," said my friend.
So she did, with a perky blue bow tied around it.
"Aww," I said. "That was a nice touch."
She laughed. "Actually, it was just to remind my husband that it belonged to you. He kept putting it back in the drawer."
Which is all to say that in a tiny way, with no effort at all, I managed to be remembered.
Balancing Act author Pat Snyder is a northwest Columbus resident and life-balance speaker and coach. Find her at PatSnyderOnline.com.