The gaily decorated cards, received or sent, the increasing intensity of sales alerts, and the obligatory, or beloved, gatherings of family and friends; it makes sense that we move toward change at the holidays. We’re facing an ending as we move into a new year. Facebook hammers us with choosing words of intention, emails promising the best way to fight holiday weight, and people we know declare this to be the year that they’ll do Whole 30, run a marathon, or go vegan. We focus on self and community with a different intensity.
My mom gave me a book about authors describing their favorite bookstores. “I never give a book as a gift without inscribing it,” she said. Sure enough, there was her familiar hand with words about how I’d been born with a book in my hand. She also gave me Felicity by Mary Oliver. Its pages are filled with spare poems, short wisps of language that carry an emotional value far greater than the ink on the page would have me believe. My mom inscribed the book with words of how I brought her felicity. My face flushed and the books felt strange in my hands. It’s been so long since I’ve read with any regularity and longer still since I have felt like I have the time, space, or voice to write.
It’s impossible not to think, “How did I get here” and “How can I change it or deserve it more?”
I can be a difficult person, I set high expectations for myself. I am alternately forgiving and unyielding with people. The credence I give old instances of not fitting in sometimes hold me back and I am nearly incapable of declarations of what I want, more incapable still of unclenching my hold on the family to-dos. My writing and my dreaming have always been where barriers fall to dust and where time expands. I can share without hesitation, whether about how deeply the ache of motherhood has healed me or how the after-shocks of abuse are timeless and unpredictable. I share, and yet, even though I may strip myself bare, there are parts I keep and in the end all of me is stronger for the process.
Yesterday I put the tree away. It seems strange after loving the spirit of the holidays, but my sentimentality hits a low point every December 26th and I cannot wait for the vestiges of Christmas to be gone. The dimmed light and twinkles of the holidays become a thick veil through which I cannot focus or breathe. It is a ceremonial purge for me. Away with the needles, down go the decorations, stow the gifts, wipe the surfaces, and open every blind.
2017 certainly had its share of challenges, wounds new and old, but even if it’s hard for me to admit, there has been good as well. As I consider self, I realize that I will always have work to do. The things I can focus on for self are writing, dreaming, and working out will always refill my cup. This year I learned to draft on the battle cries of others as well as to turn away from the things that aren’t for me (kale, lularoe, crossfit). It has been the beginning of, as Sean would say, running my own race.
Some words for 2018:
I envy people who can set an intention for a year, but I am not one of them. I am going to try exploring different words at different times, because my tendency is to let cobwebs gather in one place as I focus on another. Currently I am intrigued with a few words, though I won’t limit myself to these:
Consider—in so many ways. Consider how much of an impact a single decision can make, a smile on the sidewalk, the phrasing of something to subtract petty barbs, the emphasis of a yes or a no. Also this, consider a new thing, a new way, sit in the seat across the room, don’t make hollow air apologies. (incessant I am sorry saying)
Shame—evaluate where it comes from. Shame chips away at things, never benefitting anyone. I don’t believe that shaming the dog, your spouse, your child, or yourself yields the things that we want. Don’t wield it, don’t wallow in it, but also really, figure out where it’s coming from.
Release—the bitterness. I’m all for grudges and letting the bridges we burn light the way, hell yeah, but if it comes to a point that you are unable to function or override the grinding of your own teeth, that’s not lighting anything but an ulcer in your gut.
I haven’t been writing a lot and books have been gathering dust, but I am still a reader and a writer. Perhaps I’ll keep the word pencil in mind as well, to remind myself that we can erase and rewrite. Or underline.
May your 2018 be full of words, purpose, and care of self.