One foot in front of the other

It’s that time of year: resolutions, fresh starts, and promises to ourselves.

I read other people’s blog posts about their resolutions to recommit to their exercise programs, focus on their work, be more true to themselves, eat only organic foods, buy only from local bookstores, finish their novels, learn new languages, be better.

I read and I feel inspired, and then I feel depressed. And tired.

Some days in early January, the most I can resolve to do is get out of bed each cold, dark morning and start the water boiling for tea. I want to be better, more productive, more creative, kinder. Instead I feel a bit lost. Angry, if I admit it. My words leave me.

January’s fresh calendar advertises clear, open days to fill in as we wish, but life has shown me that January can also be a kick in the teeth, a black “X”, a curtain drawn across the window of a life.

Resolving to do anything makes my shoulders hunch up around my ears. What is the point of trying to do anything at all?

Well maybe the point is not having a point. Put the lists aside. Be open. Stop struggling. Listen to music. Read if you want to. Write a single decent line—or word. Stare into the middle distance and remember something hilarious someone you love once said. Bake a loaf of bread. Walk your goofy dog. Take a photograph. See what the day will give you.

Do the work that needs to be done, and then let yourself off the hook.

The clock won’t stop ticking. Time won’t stop sliding past. Another January comes and goes and people you loved who aren’t here won’t come back simply because you resolve to improve yourself. But if you cut yourself some slack and stop trying so hard, maybe you can come back to yourself, the way you were when (as Loudon Wainwright put it), “nothing bad has happened yet”. When you believed in fresh starts and resolutions.

I can try.

7 thoughts on “One foot in front of the other

  1. This is so nice and reflective; much preferable to lists and intimidating resolutions, if you ask me. I agree: put one foot and then the next. Soon you might be dancing, or running….or walking very slowly. Either way you’re moving, which is no mean feat for January.

  2. January is a hard month for me as well, though it has gotten easier over the years. I think what surprises me the most is that grief can still catch me off-guard even after all this time. My favorite grief book (now that’s a bit of an oxymoron) had this to say to me today:

    “No, this was not ‘meant to be’ and it is certainly not ‘better this way.’ How can death ever be prescribed? How can the loss of hope be better than its fulfillment? This only is meant to be: the tenderness and fidelity with which we remember the dead and endeavor to fulfill the hopes of the living.”

    (The book is a collection of meditations on grief. I often just flip through and see what page speaks to me.)

    As you said, you have to remember to let yourself off the hook, and just take care of yourself. Easier said than done some days, I know. Hang in there.

    • I’m sorry to hear it’s a hard month for you, too. It is odd, isn’t it, how you can think you’ve come through to the other side, and then you get blasted with grief as if it’s as fresh as the first day? Years on, I wonder if that will ever change?

      Thank you for writing, and for the quote, and your thoughts. You hang in there, too. Spring will be here eventually…

  3. My favorite way of handling it is to turn it around. Look forward to that time by scheduling meaningful things right then to carry you through. Remember the person, celebrate the life, do things in that person’s name (do something good for someone for no apparent reason in that person’s name), do something you did together and talk to him/her as if he/she were still there doing it with you, do something in memory of something that they were known for…think of as many things as you can comfortably think of and do them as a gift to your person, you, the others who will benefit from the gestures. Celebrate. Hard now, easier the more you do it. It keeps the love alive…it does for me anyway. xo

  4. i keep coming back to your beautiful (despite its meaning) line–a curtain drawn across the window of a life. that phrase just resonates with me–it’s poignancy and it’s depth of meaning. despite the drawing of that curtain, the life does remain inside you. and so it will be when you leave this earth and your Hyla has to go through her own grieving and learning to live w/o you nearby. the appearance/experience of joy-filled moments and creating those moments for others is what eventually rises to the surface and allows us to smile and open our eyes to new and beautiful things again. that we are all part of the cycle of life is in its own way both mystifying and reassuring. acceptance is key. that and just letting yourself be free from expectation–others’ or your own. just be you. that is enough. and when you have the strength, love others. that’s all.

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