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.