Last week I wrote 2014 on a check and started getting nostalgic, “Oh, 2014 is ending, I will never write that number again; I will never get that year back … etc.” It’s a dance I always do, here’s why:
I hate change. I react to change the same way I react to sulfa drugs – I break out in a rash and take to my bed. For example, ten years ago my husband built our family a beautiful new house; on the day we left our old house (which was tiny, heated mostly by our oven and had a ghost), I was totally nauseous and cried in the car the whole way to the new house. When my daughters started preschool, I cried with nostalgia. When my daughters left preschool, I cried with nostalgia.
And people totally feed into my neurosis when they say shit like, “Oh your daughters are so lovely, enjoy it while you can, it goes by so quickly!” I KNOW THAT, YOU WITCH! I DON’T NEED HELP REGRETTING THAT TIME IS PASSING AND EVERYTHING WILL CHANGE!!
Ages ago, I read Care of the Soul by Thomas Moore (okay, full disclosure – I skimmed the book, and kept a few snippets to pull out when I needed to seem deep… like now). Moore says, “The soul always longs for what it used to have.” Or something like that, as I said – I skimmed it.
But that is sure true for me. My soul always looks back with longing and even sadness.
And my brain always looks forward with fear. So there I am sandwiched between melancholy and fear. I’m a fun date.
But getting back to that check I was writing, I discovered a sentence that has been transforming my fear AND appears to unhook my caboose of nostalgic longing. It also seems a perfect mantra for the New Year. I got it, as I get most things of import, from my sisters.
In November, I was leaving Austin, Texas after working there for 4 months. I was packing my suitcase saying goodbye to the magical little house I rented (see my November blog) – and was saying things to myself like, “I will never have this time again, I will never live in this house again, I will never sit on this porch and drink coffee again, etc.”
And suddenly I remembered a sentence my sister, Jessie, said to me, “With all the little and big changes throughout our day and lives, all the “little deaths” as it were. Look forward to them with delight.”
Yes, I thought, “look forward with delight.” Packing up the Austin house suddenly wasn’t an experience in loss – it was just packing.
My sister took this idea of, “looking forward with delight” from a book we read together called Preparing to Die. (Okay, full disclosure, I own the book but my sister actually read it … and gave me the cliff notes.) Jessie came to visit me in Austin and we sat on my screened-in porch and had long discussions on certain chapters and paragraphs. Seems morbid? Possibly, but this is because I am so fucking scared of death that my only choice is to run toward it. I used the same technique confronting my fear of dinner parties. They terrified me – so I decided to have them ALL THE TIME. It worked.
Now I don’t have to have them anymore.
The actual quote from the book is, “Look forward to death with sheer delight.” Well, that is a tall order and light years away from my reach.
BUT! I can look forward with delight at the year to come. I can look forward with delight at what might happen this month, this week, and this day.
I’ve heard that the best way to change a habit is to replace it with another habit.
So instead of my usual perverted mantra, “Fear and worry take a lot of energy so get started early.” I say to myself, “Look forward with delight.”
And it’s not logical, it’s not like I weigh the pros and cons, “Oh, 2015 will be a better year! The number 5 is so much easier to write than the number 4, blah, blah, blah.” It’s beyond reason. It’s an orientation.
So I am going to look forward to 2015 with delight. I hope you are too. I mean what’s the worst that can happen? … Oh crap, I did it again, didn’t I?