Monday morning, back to work. Orders for Scholar & Poet Books piled up on our dining room table over the weekend. We’ll be taking more than 35 packages to the Post Office to be mailed today. Some are self-help books on diet, procrastination, and clutter management. Some are theology books, some poetry, some fiction, some children’s books, some history. Words to buttress a new year of aspirations. Which words will I apply to my year?
I’m not one for making New Year’s resolutions, really. The sense of obligation and failure tweaks too much of what I’m trying to outgrow. It struck me as I was flipping through a book of poetry by a Korean writer that we have our cultural and familial flavors stamped on us pretty early. Guilt, shame, obligation, work ethic, judgment. If we are aware and astute, we grow to recognize it. If we are brave, we engage with it and come to a deeper understanding. My Anglican family leaned toward perfectionism, rationalism, judgment. There was always a “right” way to do something. I want to push myself to get past that kind of assessment and look more kindly at what is in the world. I’ve noticed a few things that are: I’m getting older and putting on weight more easily. Without judging myself too much, I want to be aware of my health and support it. I’m aware of my desire to write my memoirs. I want to turn that desire into an artifact. I’m also aware of my desire to live lightly and gently on the planet. Without nailing goals to the doors of my consciousness, can I make efforts and decisions that will guide me closer to the life I envision? We’ll see.
Steve & I finished reading D.H. Lawrence’s The Plumed Serpent, so we set up another book selection. This is kind of a game for us. Steve picks a box full of likely candidates and numbers them. I pick two numbers, look at the books, and choose one. The reject is then out of the running. I keep doing this until I’ve gotten down to one book. This is sometimes an agonizing process because I want to read them all! This is where I have to tell myself that I can’t make a “wrong” choice. If we get stuck with something we don’t enjoy, we can always abandon it and choose something else. If we pass up something intriguing, we can always go back to it. So, out of 24 books, I came away with Italo Calvino’s The Road to San Giovanni. I feel bad about putting Rilke’s Letters on Cezanne on the reject stack, but I’ve been dipping into it anyway. No, I’m not “cheating”. I am living. No, I’m not “undisciplined”. I am feeding myself. I think of Anne Lamott in Traveling Mercies describing the epiphany she had when she broke through her habits and learned to eat. It’s not about setting up rules so that you can get neurotic about them. It’s about feeling a hunger and responding to it. Choosing what to read, choosing what to eat, choosing how to live. It can be a simple, graceful process. Why do we often make it torture?