In this quiet, sated space between the discarded wrappings of Christmas and the bright, fresh promise of a brand new year, I would normally become introspective. With leather-bound journal against my knee, my favorite ink pen poised in hand, I would dedicate myself anew to those qualities, desires, and pursuits I wished for.
Better known as RESOLUTIONS, they were rarely effective, mostly because I wasn’t being specific enough — i.e. the vagueness of ‘be more organized’ — or it was something I already was — i.e. ‘become a writer’. In truth, I already was a writer, there was nothing to become.
I suppose there was an image in my head of what writers looked like, how they moved about in the world, the length of their publishing credits. Perhaps a more correct version of my Resolutions should have read as follows:
1. I will wear scarves every day.
2. My desk will be in a room lined with bookshelves and have bookends of Romulus and Remus — the founders of Rome.
3. Coffee will be chugged all day.
4. Cursing will only be permitted when spoken in French.
5. The gardener will speak French so he can understand when I yell obscenities out of the window as the sound of his electric shears and leaf blower interferes with my creativity.
6. I will stay up until 3:00 a.m. and not arise before noon.
7. I will publish a piece every other day, even if it is just how to find French-speaking gardeners.
Perhaps such a specific list would have helped me achieve something which I perceived as being ‘writer-ish’. But I doubt it would have made much difference.
And it isn’t just writers who are plagued with this malady of failing to recognize the seed of their inner voice. I’ve heard similar comments from photographers, dancers, nurses, cooks.
“I’d love to be a chef,” she says, while pulling a perfectly risen soufflé from the oven.
“I wish I could become a photographer,” he gushes, snapping away at the wild birds feasting at the feeder.
“I regret not becoming a nurse,” she sighs, helping her aging mother back to bed after checking her blood pressure with a store bought cuff.
“My dream was to be an ice skater,” he whispers as though ashamed, then takes off noiselessly across the indoor rink.
We all see it in them. We understand the woman taking care of her mother is practicing a form of nursing; the one desiring to be a chef is doing exactly that for her friends and family, the photographer, dancer, skater are all practicing their loves. The singer in the church choir may not be in an Operatic performance, but she is invaluable to those in attendance on Sunday morning.
Somehow we have come to believe payment received for a thing is its only measure of validation. The higher the salary, the better the work.
I challenge you to think differently this year. If you haven’t already found your heart’s desire — and I’m not talking about a significant other — then see if you can figure it out and then set about doing it, regardless of payment or acknowledgement. The joy in the act will bring you so much happiness, and who knows what might happen down the road.
Instead of resolutions, think about wishes and desires. As for me, I am starting a Pinterest Board for my 2015 Goals and Aspirations. And then I’m simply going to sit with myself and write.
Writing makes me a writer.
There is a poem I have loved for years which I believe expresses this quite well. I wasn’t sure why it spoke to me at first, only that it settled over me like a soothing cup of tea every time I read it. Now I finally understand it.
It is titled Love After Love and the author is Derek Walcott.
The time will come
when, with elation
you will greet yourself arriving
at your own door, in your own mirror
and each will smile at the other’s welcome,
and say, sit here. Eat.
You will love again the stranger who was your self.
Give wine. Give bread. Give back your heart
to itself, to the stranger who has loved you
all your life, whom you ignored
for another, who knows you by heart.
Take down the love letters from the bookshelf,
the photographs, the desperate notes,
peel your own image from the mirror.
Sit. Feast on your life.
Are you making resolutions this year, or are you peeling yourself from the mirror, hiking the El Camino, reading the literary greats, taking a class in kickboxing?
Tell us all in comments what you are thinking about as we approach this New Year and a brand new chance to be what we’ve always wanted to become.
Renee Johnson is the author of Acquisition, and The Haunting of William Gray. She is currently working on a Young Adult novel, while editing a suspense novel which has international flair–an homage to her love of travel and foreign food. She lives on a farm in North Carolina with her husband, Tony Johnson, and one very spoiled German shepherd named Gretel.