A therapist I knew once mentioned a client who kept her Christmas tree up all year because it made her feel good. The woman brings to mind Miss Haversham from Dickens’ Great Expectations who from the moment of her abandonment at the altar does the rest of her life in a wedding dress. But whether it’s the holiday or our grief we might strive to embalm, time will not yield. A steadfast river, it carries us through cycles that exact change in all its stages. Trees surrender in dormancy against winter’s crush, the dazzling death of leaves feeds the earth for rebirth, a wild chorus of bloom that must fade so it can return. Cycles command nature and our own bodies in countless ways, sustaining an invisible orchestra of functions, but time adds guideposts to our journey, inviting our mental and emotional participation in inevitable change.
Temporal landmarks, says motivational podcaster Mel Robbins in relaying the work of researchers, is a date, experience, or physical thing that triggers motivation for a fresh start as it marks the passing of time: birthdays, the birth of a child, divorce, the new year. When you make that birthday wish over the candle, you break—in Mel’s words—from your past self for a moment, feeling bigger and more hopeful. Bringing a child into the world means the birth of a parent, in it a new identification. Divorce also impacts your identity in its breach from the life you had as a couple. The separation pulls you from the past you and, if you allow it, from the things you’ve judged in yourself. January 1st hands you a blank slate where something ends and something else begins. It’s another mile in the road of your life.
While our Christmas Lady blissfully ignored the parade of seasons outside her window, and Miss Haversham plastered herself into the temporal landmark of an aborted wedding, most of us welcome the opportunities for pause and refueling that nature and time afford us. Though I’ve found that I white-knuckle the mere thought of change, the shifts in my life—and more importantly, in my thinking—have virtually always wrought better things, the mind-bending upheavals in particular. Cornered on the precipice, I’ve had little choice but to contrive a way down before I would somehow find myself on higher ground.
On the edge of a new year that had brought apprehension of change, I choose to flip that fear into anticipation of possibilities. My problem has been my hard-headed attempt to understand my life. In conversation with neuroscientist Dr. Andrew Huberman, Former Navy SEAL Jocko Willink has said, “Often the best way to contend with adversity is by taking action. The more you sit with the adversity with the upper hand inside your head, the worst it’s gonna get.” I need to get out of my head and act, physically step into small adjustments in my day that will revise my life in the coming year. I start by feeding myself doses of happiness, soaking in the sun-bathed breath of trees, tidying my desk so it invites clarity and creativity, writing against the groanings of a brain that’s begged oiling. Will I find my words again? Oh, enough. Enough self-doubt and naysaying.
I will fall away from this year. And meet myself high on the other side.
If my life in books counted off the page, I could boast quite a social life. My diverse bibliodiet of fact and fiction includes Pulitzers I study, tracing the contours of the words for clues to their savoir-faire. Best thing is when I fall in, pestled upon a page of genius. I feel ridiculous. Don’t try to fool me into thinking it’s doable. High art is not five feet three. Art at its best shows me the by-ways behind the crags. It cuts and bruises. In The Art of Memoir, Mary Karr shares some questions she asks to “help students diagnose their own blind spots” ~
1. What do people usually like and dislike about you? You should reflect both aspects in your pages.
2. How do you want to be perceived, and in what ways have you ever been false or posed as other than who you are?
1. My friends usually like me because I’m tenderhearted, blunt, salty, and curious. I’m super loyal, and I laugh loud.
2. People don’t like me because I’m emotionally intense and often cross boundaries….Small talk at parties bores me senseless…I’m a little bit of a misanthrope. I cancel lunch dates because I’m working.
She believes we are to bring to the page the best and worst of ourself, that is, our full and authentic self. Yes, I think you see me in clear color and dimensions, in fact more than the people in my life, at least those outside my family, do. One tempers into social roles and expectations, especially by middle age. These socks have to match. I also feel muted in the rituals we call socializing, not able to talk books or art in the circles that motherhood have circumscribed for me when I’m happier in company with the immortal dead and fellow hermits in the cave of their mind. When the tea party is over, I invite a wordsmith over for some wine – and days I need it, the scotch. Ah, the way good prose jolts, and in its beautiful ache. I want to drive under the influence – and once I’ve stepped out into fresh air, too start climbing.
Poets are strange –
Why can’t they just call the spade
a spade? And what’s a rock but
rock: sandstone, shale from the tiredness
of weather? Coal and limestone, plant
and animal dross
— but nature wastes nothing.
Why do poets look for metaphors under
every rock, the walls that hold the creek, earth
that crumbled, forged resolute, and grew above
my grandmother’s rib, beat hard when she was
widowed with six children on the road
fleeing the Communists
fleeing the Communists
fleeing the Communists
and soldiers who ran out to drag their own
men screaming without their arm
back to the trenches in
too many battles and
and bald children in hospital beds who still
know how to laugh.
Why can’t poets be simple? They see
a crushing burial in heat and time:
marble, quartz, gneiss
— living, burnished beauty.
Poets. They think they can say it
better than rock.
1. Individuality and community.
Blogging gives us the best of both, lets us develop our self in “the collective heartbeat”. (Anne Lamott)
2. The freedom.
Anything goes: some days this is my own TED stage or talk show. On others, my stand-up. Sometimes it’s my notebook.
3. The empowering.
You can take yourself as seriously as you want to and ask others to.
4. The humbling.
You remember you’re just a leaf in the forest. Let’s keep it real.
5. The immediacy, the organic exchange.
6. The traffic.
The comment board is the interface of lives and a place where people can lend their perspective to expand yours.
7. The pay-out.
It’s the immigrant ethos. You sight unchartered space in blogosphere, nothing in your pocket. You stake your ground, work hard, and can build something of worth.
8. The low maintenance.
Comb my hair? Figure out which top to wear? I can blog in my bathrobe behind my smiling avatar, ever presentable.
9. The low cost.
I got the premium plan to keep the ads away, for your sake and mine. I felt vandalized when they started popping up. There is no motive for my writing other than the joy and I’m not here to mark out a trail to a pretty place that empties your wallet. Anyway, at 27 cents a day it beats spending on gas and an overrated drink at Starbucks.
10. The Efficiency.
I’m all set. Honey, no need to write anything for my funeral. Just pull up the comments for the eulogies!
How many songs do you still know from high school? The old band – cooler than ice cream in its day – revs up the radio and you’re right back, lyrics sure after all these years. Which is why Holistic Boy learns a lot of things through music. He had the optional challenge of memorizing the first 17 verses of Exodus 20 in the King James the past school year and so I went to work. After writing the melody, I found the perfect male baritone (for the voice of God), and recorded countless takes on the piano with Husband and Son on drums. The families in our homeschool community were given the best version to run at home. T and many of his homeschool friends learned it easily as we sang it a verse at a time in our weekly gatherings. The final stage presentation was open to anyone who wanted to perform it this spring, whether they had mastered it or not. Some who made Bible Master were too shy but I was so proud of the kids that night. We had five-year-olds up there. The 17th century diction and syntax were not easy but they got it.
1 And God spake all these words saying, 2 I am the Lord thy God, which have brought thee out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage. 3 Thou shalt have no other gods before me. 4 Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image, or any likeness of any thing that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth. 5 Thou shalt not bow down thyself to them, nor serve them: for I the Lord thy God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children unto the third and fourth generation of them that hate me; 6 And shewing mercy unto thousands of them that love me, and keep my commandments. 7 Thou shalt not take the name of the Lord thy God in vain; for the Lord will not hold him guiltless that taketh his name in vain. 8 Remember the sabbath day, to keep it holy. 9 Six days shalt thou labour, and do all thy work: 10 But the seventh day is the sabbath of the Lord thy God: in it thou shalt not do any work, thou, nor thy son, nor thy daughter, thy manservant, nor thy maidservant, nor thy cattle, nor thy stranger that is within thy gates: 11 For in six days the Lord made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that in them is, and rested the seventh day: wherefore the Lord blessed the sabbath day, and hallowed it. 12 Honour thy father and thy mother: that thy days may be long upon the land which the Lord thy God giveth thee. 13 Thou shalt not kill. 14 Thou shalt not commit adultery. 15 Thou shalt not steal. 16 Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbour. 17 Thou shalt not covet thy neighbour’s house, thou shalt not covet thy neighbour’s wife, nor his manservant, nor his maidservant, nor his ox, nor his ass, nor any thing that is thy neighbour’s.