Yesterday I had to glance at the calendar to find an upcoming date in February, and I was struck by this:
Earth-shattering, isn’t it? These are the kinds of pictures that keep the masses coming back.
So yesterday when I was looking for that date in February, I saw clearly for the first time that January is not a beginning, or not just a beginning, but a bridge. It’s not only THE FIRST OF THE YEAR, RESOLVE, RESOLVE, RESOLVE!, it’s the space between December and February. That looks so ridiculous in writing, but I saw this on the calendar, and I took a breath. I know that this is a profoundly obvious thing to make note of (so wait…you’re saying that January is between December and February? Get Out!), but there I was with a handful of peanut m&ms, eyes wide.
What if we stopped talking about January as a fresh start–January being a metaphor for all beginnings, of course–and started just talking about it as a bridge. A traverse between. I’m not starting something new, I’m just rolling over the work of last month. Taking a beat to make a new choice. No pressure. There’s plenty of time.
I think that a lot of the reason that we try and try again and fail and fail again with things at the beginning of the year is that there’s a lot of pressure associated with starting something.
On your mark…
LOUD GUN SHOT SOUND! (no wonder we’re frightened.)
A number of my close friends have sworn off of marriage because of how unreasonable its premise is. The argument is that marriage is built on a false statement (I swear to like you as well in 50-79 years as I do now, maybe even more) and that it’s a passive act. By nature of the commitment, we no longer actively choose one another. Although I obviously made the choice to get married, I’m so appreciative for the perspective that those hold-outs have brought into my life. When I remember to, I like reminding myself that each day is an active choice. I like breaking free from the motivation-crushing confines of “have to” and making eyes instead at just…today.
Happily, I committed to marriage because I was too young (and endearingly dumb. It’s ok, we’re friends, we can say that here.) to genuinely think about what my end goal was. Now I think about what some of my personal (and very concrete) goals are these days and truthfully I mostly see what’s between this moment and arriving alllllllllllllllllllllll the way over there at some point in the future, because the beginning commences with the arrival in mind. And that gap is intimidating. But if I borrow from the blissfully ignorant boldness of my younger self, I see that marching confidently in the direction of a vague idea of something out there isn’t quite as foolish as it sounds. Or maybe it’s foolish, but foolish is a friend too.
In a book that my mama gave me for Christmas that I am loving, the author writes, “Every book, essay, story, begins with a single word. Then a sentence. Then a paragraph. These words, sentences, paragraphs, may well end up not being the actual beginning. You can’t know that now. Straining to know the whole of the story before you set out is a bit like imagining great-grand children on a first date.” (Dani Shapiro, Still Writing: the Pleasures and Perils of a Creative Life)
That little passage got many exclamation points from me in the margin because, we can’t know. But our human nature dictates that in the best of cases, we show up anyway. What we think is the beginning isn’t (and by definition is generally an end as well) and we think that we’re finished with something and then we’re not. But if we hinged our entire lives on the business of beginning and used those beginnings to predict the future, I think that we would just be disappointed by being wrong all the time. Better, I think, to not worry so much about starting, and focus instead on whatever doing might be within our reach.
So all of this is to say, January? I take it all back. I didn’t just start some things this month. I’m continuing. Continuing on with ideas that have been percolating, continuing to suit up one pant leg at a time, continuing to look for the bridges to carry me between this and that, continuing, continuing, continuing. Because I don’t want to lose out to you and your crazy fresh-start perspective. You’re just a space between, a chance to make a choice.