Tuesday, January 4, 2011

My New Life (I Wish!)

I don't make New Year's resolutions, other than to write heartfelt notes to the people who send me, in time for Christmas, personally signed (for which I'm grateful) reports of their yearly achievements (no one is busier, it seems, than the newly retired).
 
However, every January I imagine new ways to radically change my life.

One snowy January in Maryland--back when it still used to snow there--I decided that academic writing was o.k. for salary and promotion purposes, but what I really wanted to do was to write for real people, and thus embarked on an alarming and thrilling venture into magazine and newspaper freelancing.  I wrote giddily and earnestly about stuff that was unrelated to my professional life but close to my heart:  raising children and vegetables, milking goats, training dogs, making do.

Another January, living and working in DC, and newly diagnosed with CFS, I was struck with the idea that the road to healing lay in returning to my earthy roots--goats, chickens, and swiss chard.That impulse eventually brought me to Vermont where, possibly as a result of the wisdom that supposedly comes with age, my post-solstice inspirations have taken a milder turn.

This year, I resolved to rearrange the room where I make stuff.  I never know whether to call it my study--for that is where I write--or my studio--since that is where I draw and sculpt.  And that very duality makes the space both interesting, and hard to arrange.

It is a smallish second-floor room, with tall windows, two facing north, one facing west.  In it there is a single bed, covered in red dog hair, where, reclining odalisque-like on many pillows, I write on my laptop and nap with Bisou.  There is a six-foot-long cafeteria-style table where I do my drawing and clay sculpting.  There is a bookcase, a small chest with a CD player, and a desk, consisting of a heavy board resting on twin two-drawer file cabinets.  I have never liked working at a desk, and I reserve this one for things like filling out insurance forms and other tedious tasks.

My rearrangement today consisted only of moving the sculpture table to where the desk had been, the bed to where the sculpture table had stood, and the desk...wherever.  But the physical change matters far less than the change I feel inwardly, the rush of hope that the light coming in from a different direction as I sculpt, the different view of the front field as I write, will make of me not necessarily a better, but a different sculptor and writer.

All this is not very Zen, I know.  I should be content with what is, and make space in my heart for it, and gaze compassionately on myself and my misguided urges.  But for just a little while, the naive Western illusion that change is really possible, that a new life--a new me--is just a few adjustments away, keeps me going, keeps me hoping.

4 comments :

  1. I love rearranging furniture. I love even thinking about rearranging furniture. Zen or not - changing my physical space, sometimes even in just tiny ways, helps bring it back into focus. I can see it better. And it definitely changes the view - inside and out. That's a nice thing, especially in winter.

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  2. And just thinking about rearranging furniture is so much easier on one's back....

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  3. I almost never think about rearranging furniture and rarely do so - wait, make that never. Tom and I have inhabited two dwellings in our life together: a studio where we happened to also live and a house where we also have to have our studios. In both places we have moved in, plopped the furniture here or there, and left it. Okay, we had no furniture in the first place and I believe we rotated the dining table a few years ago in our current home but that's it.

    On the other hand I think a lot about hope and how important it is to me. In those dark days when it has disappeared I find it hard to get up and keep going. Hope's return is like the epilogue in Don Giovanni - those wonderful dancing bars that signal that life not only goes on but has a spring in its step.

    I sometimes think, though, that my addiction to hope is a weakness. Perhaps in the way that you feel insufficiently Zen-inspired I hear Spinoza admonishing me to "abandon Hope and embrace Joy"

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  4. Thanks for that Spinoza quote--it does sound Zen! Also makes me think of Camus, the bit where Sisyphus is forever pushing the rock up the mountain, and smiling.

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