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Julie's favorite books »

Saturday
Dec302017

Reinvention

New Year’s Eve is upon us, friends.  December, harbinger of feelings and cookies, is nearly over. 

December sometimes makes me feel inadequate.  Don’t misunderstand: I like myself fine and I don’t think that perfection should be my life goal and I’m okay with the fact that I’ve temporarily changed my job title to Cookie Eater.  But the close of the year brings the pressure. 

For me, it begins with Black Friday (or the Monday before Thanksgiving, since Black Friday has now become a two week consumer-fest).  I begin the season wanting to purchase meaningful, useful, sweet gifts for the people I love.  I see the e-mail in my inbox: sale TODAY only (which is a lie, but whatever).  Ooh!  This is the place I was thinking about for that friend/co-worker/family member!  I’ll get it today and SAVE and it’s basically like I’m MAKING money.  But it turns out that homework is a hell from which there is no escape, and I made dinner and then I was so tired I watched that one rerun of Grey’s Anatomy and went straight to bed.  I deleted the e-mail the next day so that it wouldn’t remind me of my failure to be thoughtful and thrifty.  This process repeats fifty-three times.

Now I have many friends who love to shop, so they don’t need the e-mails.  They don’t need UPS like I do, and their husbands don’t say their house used to be a house but is now an Amazon Fulfillment Center.  These friends shop and manage to buy things without much pain.  I spend about ten minutes shopping and then my low-blood sugar and depression descend with such force that I’m awful for the rest of the day.

But maybe I should become a shopper.  This reinvention could also have the added benefit of helping me become more fashionable.  Maybe I’d start getting up earlier and then I’d curl my hair everyday and I’d always look effortlessly chic.  Yes, that’s it!  Shopping is the key to the new me!  The end.

Except then we were watching Colbert and Neil deGrasse Tyson was on and talking about his new book and the profound mysteries of the universe.  Maybe I don’t need to be a shopper; maybe I need to be more science-y.  Maybe I need to be above it all, understanding that the sun will soon burn out and we’ll all turn to protons or something.  I loved chemistry and hated physics, but that’s the old me.  Astrophysics is the key to the new me!  The end. 

Except I ordered the book, and if this book is intended for the average person, then the only logical conclusion is that I’m helplessly stupid.  Instead of Astrophysics for People in a Hurry the title should have been Astrophysics for ASTROPHYSICISTS in a Hurry.  I have yet to decide if I’ll burn it or keep it on the shelf to impress people who visit our home.  “Oh, that old thing?  I just read that to, you know, keep my mind working.” 

So to recap: Professional Shopper and Astrophysicist have been ruled out.     

But reinvention: that’s been the word of the moment for me.  I’ve been distracted by the cookies and Black Friday and also reading because I had to finish four books in two weeks to make my reading goal, but all month I’ve been Feeling the Feelings because this is a new season.  I’m working now (the kind where you get paid, which is neat-o).  The boys are getting older: I’m watching their shoulders broaden and hearing and seeing them in these new, beautiful, disconcerting ways.  They are becoming themselves and it’s happening with shocking, disorienting speed.  Weren’t they just waking up from naps and watching Elmo’s Potty Time?  I’m at the threshold of a new year, a new season. 

But this seems to be happening constantly.  Every season is a new season, requiring adjustment and contemplation and patience.  As the seasons have changed I’ve been a girl, a daughter, a sister, a girlfriend, a broken-hearted lovesick teenager, a college freshman with a tragic haircut, a pre-med student, not a pre-med student, a fiancé, a wife, a new mom, a mom of toddlers, a mom of preschoolers.  Each year is a mixture of sweeping change and tiny, unimportant moments that somehow move me from there to here until I’m not the girl I used to be.  Our roles, our days, our lives are marked by this relentless seasonality; the weather is always changing.  There are sunny days and cloudy days and storms to be survived.  We live many lives inside of this one life. 

This year, I’d like to embrace reinvention; I want to make it an inside job.  It’s easy to be moved along by the current, rocking slowly from port to port, especially if I believe the ocean is powerful and dangerous and unpredictable: why fight the tide?  But to be intentional is to study the conditions: to learn a bit of the water’s predictability, its sameness (or perhaps to learn my own predictability, my own sameness).  Only then may I chart the course, even if I’m hopelessly stupid and can’t use a sextant and can only manage to chart in retrospect.  Even if I’m only marking where I’ve been, I’ll learn how to adjust for the conditions.  I’ll learn to reinvent: in the heart, where it matters most.  I’ll learn discernment, which is one of the best tools in this noisy, shiny, blinking world.  Discernment will tell me what to shove overboard without another moment of thought.  

Feeling inadequate will be the first one to go.  Hi, I’m Julie.  I hate shopping and I have no hope of becoming an astrophysicist.  In 2018 I want more peace, more grace, more presence: I want to be where I am.  I don’t want resolutions; I want reinvention.  I want the deep work to start at the center, at the heart, at the root of it all where are stored the millions of sparkling, tiny moments of this life.  Reinvention will remind me “that human beings are not born once and for all on the day their mothers give birth to them, but that life obliges them over and over again to give birth to themselves.”*

Here’s to 2018, friends.  Happy New Year.

 

* Gabriel García Márquez, Love in the Time of Cholera