Having been remiss in my blogging, I have taken on WordPress’s Bloganuary challenge as a good incentive to return to writing more publicly.
The Prompt: What is something you want to achieve this year?
My first reaction to the prompt was a very negative judgment I have held about New Year celebrations and its seemingly mandatory announcement of New Year’s resolutions. Why not resolve to make that change, to sustain that wished-for practice, every day of every year? Why do we play this game and allow ourselves to make these new year’s resolutions only to let go of them within days of making them, and then resolve to resolve again on the first day of the year? I haven’t been able to embrace the practice of new year’s resolutions for decades.
In the height of my working years, for about 15 years, my greatest pleasure on New Year’s Eve was to sit in my office and prepare for the new year — the new tax year — because for all I could imagine, that was the only difference between the end of one year and the beginning of the next. I had a 20-foot long desk, framed by windows its length. For the previous 365 days, I transcribed court trials, 100 pages a day, as I looked out over a lawn that invited the deer to come graze its greenery, their visits a brief respite from my work, before they would again disappear into the encroaching fir forest and tangle of vine maple, wild hazelnut, and wild cherry.
Pushing deadlines all year long, I accumulated chaos in my work space. On that last night of the year, I brought peace and order to my space. I cleaned out file cabinets, removing all the invoices and receipts from their folders, after which I’d return those folders to the cabinet, now gaping and empty, ready to receive the next year’s financial data to satisfy the not-so-magnanimous possible inquisition of the IRS. I sorted through small piles of accumulated papers — notes, articles, things at the time I’d thought important to keep — now delegating them to one home or another: a waste basket or a file folder into which I would never look again.
Only after the file cabinets were emptied, and my 20-foot long desk was put back into order, would I turn my attention to the two six-foot-tall, four-foot-wide bookshelves where the books had attempted new architectural creations: horizontals upon verticals, horizontals upon horizontals, cracks violently crammed with foreigners, and openings left to wonder what had been there before and how they had been able to sustain their empty space. The books found new order for a brief time.
I am retired now. Though I still transcribe court trials to supplement a meager social security check (a check quickly losing any clout to ward off what I see as corporate greed). I no longer have a 20-foot desk. I no longer have the binding machines and other paraphernalia necessary at that time to keep the wheels of justice rolling. My 700-plus books now exist on a Kindle. I no longer even have a house – by choice. Instead, I have simplicity. I have a laptop. Transcripts are delivered electronically. The few invoices I generate also reside not as paper but as computer language. What would have been a stack of miscellaneous clippings now exists as screen shots in my laptop, more than likely to be mirror its sister folders from years before, never to be viewed again. Ah, the things we cling to. The things we let go of.
It’s been 12 years now since I’ve spent my New Year’s Eve preparing for the next financial year in that way. Now I open Quicken and click “update,” and it pulls in my deposits and expenses for the year from banks and credit card companies, and then several other clicks produces the reports I need for the only event that produces the tiniest bit of angst in my stomach: doing my taxes. Being a contract “employee,” taxes involve 1099s and deductions and write-offs and much more than submitting a W-2 earnings report. It looms like the sinister devil that it is, creating negativity and judgment for the monster our government has become.
It’s been 12 years since I’ve enjoyed the quiet solitude and — yes — joy of sitting in my office on New Year’s Eve, doing what I considered to be the only reasonable and sensible thing to do to acknowledge the end of one year and the beginning of the other. I criticize the partygoers who “bring in the new year,” and I chuckle that most of them feel like shit on January 1st. And I recognize that their resolutions, so loudly proclaimed, will fade within days. Ah, but my judgments reign.
I recognize this negative thinking is simply a carryover from my disdain for the whole holiday season which is, in my criticism, nothing more than commercialism honed to near perfection, a frenzied cry to top the previous year’s spending frenzy. The money changers are richer yet this year with the rise in credit card interest.
I’m very aware of how my criticism and negativity boils over like thick hot mucous seeping into every crack of my thinking. I can’t seem to embrace the joy and community and love that others seem to experience during this time of the year because I deem the whole season to be messages from false gods. I’m aware that I don’t like this about myself. I don’t like the judgments and criticisms that leak from me sometimes like a foggy mist that I barely perceive, sometimes like storm surge that I can’t ignore, usually because it found voice and others heard it and challenged me.
I criticize the myths that people live by while, I realize, I have created my own myth that brings me no joy! Disguised by self-righteous denial, my judgments and criticism are no different than any other addiction.
I see the crumbs that lay on the path behind me. I see the road signs that appear before me.
Long before “the season” arrived this year, I made a mindful decision to embrace this season differently, to create a different myth to live by. Instead of purchasing gifts for my children or grandchildren, who are all privileged and having all that they need, I instead gave to multiple organizations such as Doctors Without Borders, The World Food Program, Mercy Corps, Action Against Hunger, et cetera. Instead of criticizing this time of year for its consumerism and, and, and… I took the first step on a path heading up a mountain to quiet my mind so that I might enjoy true joy and a sense of peace. It’s a steep mountain. I look forward to the views.
What do I want to achieve this year?
I wish to walk the path in which I maintain a deep, sustained practice of mindfulness and to let go of the obsessive need to discriminate, judge, and choose.