The Road to Hell

may be paved with good intentions, but I’m eager to believe that a well-considered plan can take you someplace fabulous just as easily. Eager, commonly associated with beaver, an animal not so much known for its wisdom or global thinking, but hey, teeth are good. On the plus side (and I’m not only referring to girth and the “ungainly waddle” here), National Geographic touts that “beavers are second only to humans in their ability to manipulate and change their environment.” I may be dragged into each new year kicking and flinging obscenities, but I do plan to channel a bit of that busy-beaver energy for good. So yeah, eager as a rodent for change.

1) Create. I will write and I will make art. I will clean off my art tables and use them. I will close the computer; I will not check email every time the phone beeps. I will not put every request ahead of my own need to create. At least one day a week. And that day will be Tuesday.

Yum, c. Pamela Goode2) Eat. I will cook more. I will cook European. Not only is the food healthier — it’s beautiful, and it’s soul-satisfying. If I can’t live on the other side of the Atlantic and toss together suppers of dirt-fresh market finds on the terrace, I can make the plates pretty enough and healthy enough and al fresco enough to pretend.

3) Love. I will make more of an effort, or a wiser or more intuitive effort, to connect with those who are difficult to access — those who are afraid to love, don’t know how to love, have been hurt by love, can’t trust, won’t trust, whose hearts have been trampled, or who simply haven’t a clue what love is, how to express it, or how to sit back, open their arms, and receive it. I will try harder to give without being afraid of the response.

4) Discipline. I feel bad that this isn’t the discipline my husband might long for (I can be an unruly child), but it’s the practice my spirit covets, and that is silence. Not a constant silence (I love to warble and whistle and dance), but a deliberate one — a chosen rest. Not a lack of communication (because real communication is everything), but simply a lack of spoken words. I suck with words. I say the wrong thing in the wrong tone and worry too much about the word choices and tones of others. I’m hypervigilant when it comes to verbal communication, and it’s exhausting. I’m going to gift myself one day each week free of that weight.

I’m raring to go, but there seem to be a few things to attend to first — a four foot high porcelain poodle in one of the guest beds, a blonde wig left over from a LOST party on the towel bar, a red patent leather slingback on a nail near the kitchen cornice molding, and of course the trail of gingerbread crumbs moistened with butterscotch schnapps leading from the computer table to the Swallowing Sofa and back again.

On the other hand, touches of whimsy are so necessary to a Well-Lived Life.

Promises to Keep

I am, these days, a poster child for depression: unwashed, unclothed, unkempt, unmotivated. But strangely not depressed. Well, maybe a little, but it’s more an easing, an inching, a cautious seepage toward the new, the unknown (and frankly unwanted).

Change in the New Year is, of course, so largely mythical. And yet sometimes change doesn’t need to be tangible to be real. The symbolism alone can be crippling.

I don’t do change well. I don’t go to bed well. I don’t get up well. Don’t like to get in the shower; don’t like to get out of the shower. I love life, but the segue between episodes can throw me into a dither.

“I wake to sleep, and take my waking slow./I learn by going where I have to go.” Theodore Roethke’s tenuous broachings became a mantra when I traveled through Greece alone for three weeks, knowing no one, not speaking the language. I was forty-two, coming out of a dark place in the midst of a charmed life, and those words have worked magic on me ever since.

And so you will find me at the start of every new year, poised for the weeks-long morning of pajamas, tea and fire, short of words but long on the silent questioning dance with whomever lives inside me.

And it will lead me along the long road home, toward those promises I keep . . . but slowly. Have patience.

And yet, as changes go, this year will bring some of the largest for me: the marriage of my firstborn, the college graduation and home-leaving of my baby, the declining health of my sole remaining parent, the impending cross-country move of my son, two very grand art achievements, the tearful closing of Ciel Gallery, an intense two-year labor of love, and decisions about my path from here. Pajamas and tea, indeed.

I recognize, of course, that change, even dreaded change, often brings unexpected blessings, and even less blessed changes help us evolve, most often for the better, kicking and screaming attendant. But evolution requires action, a meeting head-on and toe to toe with our hearts on our sleeves and our brains ready to verbalize and vocalize.  Backs straightened, eyes peeled, belts tightened, no shields. I like being a warrior, but I can get pretty whiny when the battle isn’t on my own terms.

But the promises I’ve made will rouse me, stumbling toward Saturday classes, weekend workshops, dinners and swim meets, deadlines, and the occasional requisite cleaning. Every smile will help me loosen the grip on the shield, step into the future, open the heart a bit more. But the goodbyes will never flow as easily as the tears, and I suppose that saline cleansing is part of the plan. So bring it on Life. Almost ready.

“This shaking keeps me steady. I should know.
What falls away is always. And is near.
I wake to sleep, and take my waking slow.
I learn by going where I have to go.”