So, as a timely gesture, I finished the book I was reading IN 2009 (ehem) this morning.
It seems, it would have been even more timely to finish it, say, yesterday, but still...it was timely in a different kind of way that I finished something as a way of beginning. That I finished this particular book as a way of beginning.
I'll explain: as a holiday gift a friend of mine gave me a book. The Year of Magical Thinking, by Joan Didion. A book that I did not hesitate to dive into, and which I finished in under one week.
Incase you are unfamiliar with this book, I'll start out by explaining that it is, arguably, one of the most depressing books you will ever read.
SPOILER ALERT: Her husband dies. Ofcourse. This is only a spoiler if you are incapable of reading a book jacket. And I don't mean a fictional character, I mean, Joan Didion's actual husband. Around page 2. Also, SPOILER ALERT: Her daughter dies. Not in teh book, but while she is touring to promote the book. Again, Joan Didions actual daughter. Also not a spoiler if you read the news or have ever heard of a thing called google, or even, really, can read between the lines on the back cover reviews.
So, it's a book about grieving, a book about the way grieving changes the way you think. It's a book about endings and superstitions and letting go and the very impossible task that is, in certain situations. It's a book that is that much more wrenching in it's real world context.
All that being said. One thing that stands out to me as I think, right now, about new beginnings. About cycles, about renewals. What stands out to me is the small part of renewals that bears striking resemblance to grieving. The part the carries the past as a signpost the future. The part that seeks symbolic change as part of hope that we can move on, can move forward.
But in reality few events are so stark, few events so cathartic. Few events present us with a definitive end, an unquestionable beginning. Certainly not a date. Certainly not a countdown, certainly not a page, ripped off in a calendar.
And if I am going to lose ten pounds and give up drinking in 2010, or start saving, or stop swearing, or whatever, then that started before 2010. It started when my belt buckle got tight, or I noticed myself slurring or I looked at my bank account and GULP.
And the moment I try to leave that past behind my resolution, my cathartic change becomes that much less significant, that much less compelling.
The reality is we move along. And we can never vow to never be the same. And if we are lucky we will use these signposts, these moments, like news years, like birthdays, like confession and yom kippur and a near death experience as reminders that resolutions are bound to fail if we think of them as such, but that a significant day can, at best, be a good moment to take stock. To note what we are liking, to note what we are not, and to try to take that into consideration as we, every day, become a little more who we always were and are destined to become.
And that perhaps we should leave the cathartic events to the horrible moments we can not observe on an infinite timeline. things like death, like loss. cause life, if you live long enough, will give you too many things to say goodbye to on a permanent basis. things much less emotionally negotiable than the last seconds of 2009.
And such permenance is so jarring, so contrary to our perception that we'll go a little but crazy with the reconciliation.
Yes, better move along as the fluid beings we have the potential of being, using such holidays simply as reminders of all we do and all we can be.
Because letting go is hard enough when you have to do it, and beginning again isn't nearly as fun as it sounds. Not when you have so much to gain and so much to lose.