Patricia Yarberry Allen, M.D. is a Gynecologist, Director of the New York Menopause Center, Clinical Assistant Professor of Obstetrics and Gynecology at Weill Cornell Medical College, and Assistant Attending Obstetrician and Gynecologist at New York-Presbyterian Hospital. She is a board certified fellow of the American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology. Dr. Allen is also a member of the Faculty Advisory Board and the Women’s Health Director of The Weill Cornell Community Clinic (WCCC). Dr. Allen was the recipient of the 2014 American Medical Women’s Association Presidential Award.

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T.S. Eliot wrote, in his poem “Little Gidding,” from the last of his Four Quartets, “For Last year’s words belong to last year’s language. And next year’s words await another voice.  And to make an end is to make a beginning.”

I enjoy thinking about the last line of this part of “Little Gidding”  as I ruminate about resolutions for each New Year. Sometimes my timing for certain resolutions is off.  The end may have already occurred and I missed it, or I learn later that I was pushing for a beginning before its time.

I look forward to sharing my New Year’s resolutions with readers of this site. As some of you may remember, my attempts at achieving resolutions have often been unsuccessful, (read here, here, here, and here) but always rewarding. And you make me accountable.

This year The Husband and I have decided to right-size our lives. I don’t like the much-used term downsizing when it is applied to one’s personal life. It is corporate speak that means that  lots of people just lost their jobs as a result of “downsizing.”  

Cognitive behavioral therapy supports the concept that re-framing issues changes how we think about them, and consequently how we feel. So, when it is time to move from larger to smaller, from one area of the country to another, perhaps the choice of right-sizing as a motivational term may help to re-frame this transition in life as opportunity, not loss.

We downsized big-time in 2008, when we sold our family home outside New York.  The children were launched and the house was now too large and cost too much to heat and cool and maintain for just two people. The sale of this house and a move back to apartment living seemed sensible, and downsizing seemed right at the time.

In this process I gave away many things, moved furniture and memories to our small house in the South, and stored items I could not part with in storage units in an area outside New York City. Last year I downsized again and gave away most of stored items, still leaving china, books and some furniture.

I made an effort to make the apartment a home, with a place for our memories, but also a place where friends and children could be comfortable. When we moved, most of our sons were single and no one had children, so it seemed to work. In truth, the too many books, the large piano, and my heavily edited collection of china and crystal made it mostly a place for celebratory meals.  It was never a place for casual Sunday night suppers.  We understand that our New York City apartment will never be a place for adult children to gather comfortably with young children and dogs.

Our resolution is to right-size the way we would like to live now, in anticipation of how we may want to live when we both don’t work 50 hours a week.  We want to have a smaller apartment in the city and find a small house in the country, a house that is far enough away to prevent daily commuting into New York City but close enough for long weekends by car and convenient for family and friends to join us. We have been looking for just the right house, but several promising ones turned out to have terminal illnesses after Dr. Dave, my brilliant engineer, and I completed our diagnostic evaluations. So, in October we chose to rent a house in the area we like in rural Connecticut for a year, to see how it goes.  We have friends there, and it is only one and half hours by car from our apartment. I loved moving everything from storage into the rental, loved sorting out the china, crystal, linens, artwork, and furniture that I had not been able to part with and restoring them to our life again.

The Husband and I love adventures, and this promises to be a big one.  We know how fortunate we are to have our health and work we love and how fortunate we are to have choices. We understand that this right-sizing will  involve teamwork and a capacity for dealing with much that is unknown.

We are also lucky to share a passion for these words from “First Fig,” by Edna St. Vincent Millay,

“My candle burns at both ends;

It will not last the night;

But ah, my foes, and oh, my friends—

It gives a lovely light.”

Happy New Year to each of you.  I hope that all your resolutions are happy ones, and that they all come true.

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  • D. A. Wolf January 4, 2016 at 1:36 pm

    I find myself at the stage where I am “streamlining,” and doing so on a regular basis. Finding what to keep, what (and how) to divest, especially if children don’t yet have their own homes (so they can take family treasures), is an interesting challenge.

    I love that you see this as an adventure, and I so agree that if you have your health, everything is possible as we transition to new life stages.

    Wishing you a happy new year.

  • The Latest Trend for 2016 (& Beyond. . .) January 4, 2016 at 5:43 am

    […] talks about another type of moving on. She refers to her latest life-changing move as “Right-Sizing“.” Isn’t that a splendid way to look at our lives in most every […]

  • Rebecca Foust January 3, 2016 at 8:06 pm

    My husband and I downsized two years ago and it has been life-changing. To have a house that can be completely broom-swept in under an hour is a wonderful thing! And even though it is much smaller than where we lived before, it was carefully planned so that we have more usable space. After years of writing at the kitchen or DR table, I now have an office with bookshelves–such luxury! And a garden though small is very efficient and yields more than enough for our fresh vegetable and fruit needs for 9 months of the year. And for the first time–new heating, water, and other systems not constantly breaking down and in need of repair–no buckets during rainstorms! No need of a screwdriver to open windows! Living here has made us realize how much time (not to mention $) was eaten up by our previous house. The purge necessary to move here was painful but also felt great. Less stuff to care for and keep track of–more time for the things we really want to do–

  • Pamela Goldman January 1, 2016 at 6:55 pm

    Loved this! Gives perspective to what is truly needed and important in our lives as we “mature”!

  • Znn Buttenwieser January 1, 2016 at 12:09 pm