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.