New beginnings

It seems a bit unseasonable, but I’ve been thinking more about the New Year than Christmas—likely because I still have much too much to do in the semester to focus on the relaxation and coziness that Christmas means to me. The bracing clear-eyed view of the New Year’s Resolution—seeing and doing what needs to be done– is more what I need to get me through the next few days.

With that in mind, I’ve been thinking and evaluating. I’ve been planning my challenges for 2012—my reading goals, my writing goals, my life goals. I’ve been trying to critique this year, celebrating accomplishments and trying to ease up on the self-flagellation for the areas that I wish had been different. 

The amazing boyfriend gave me Caroline Kennedy’s most recent anthology of poetry, She Walks in Beauty, over the summer, and it’s been by my bedside ever since. I’ve been dipping into it, randomly, when the 2 AM insomnia hits or the morning schedule allows. This morning I came across this excerpt from a letter by Ralph Waldo Emerson to his daughter:

Finish every day and be done with it.
You have done what you could.
Some blindness and absurdities no doubt have crept in;
forget them as soon as you can.

Tomorrow is a new day;
begin it well and serenely
and with too high a spirit to be cumbered with
your old nonsense.

This day is all that is good and fair.
It is too dear, with its hopes and invitations,
to waste a moment on yesterday.

This sums up exactly both what I really fail at, and what I most want to be different. Mistakes, whether missed deadlines, messy kitchens, or overdue books, tend to become part of my mental landscape—menacing reminders of the distance between who I am and who I should be. When approaching a new project, I’m burdened by the memory of the quote that I left hanging in the last paper or the citation I screwed up. (That seems minor. But I’m going into academia—it’s really not minor.) When I check out books from the library, I catalogue how much I’ve had to pay in fines in the past year, and give myself stern lectures about getting my life together. Ditto for when I buy more lettuce than I can eat and end up wasting food. And when I choose pizza over baked chicken again and when I forget about the electric bill. All of these somewhat ridiculous standards of perfection that I require of myself and, inevitably and obviously, so completely fail to satisfy. And all this mental castigation doesn’t really accomplish a damn thing—if it did, I’d be perfect by now. 

So, next year—hell, this month—I’m working on taking Waldo’s advice: forgetting the blunders and absurdities that crept in yesterday, and focusing on the good and fair of today.

I’d embroider that on a sampler, were I a sampler making kind of gal. I just love this.

2 thoughts on “New beginnings”

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