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Thoughts on Sloughing, part 1

Years ago I decided to put off resolutions, life realignment, new exercise programs, tarot card readings and other prescribed New Year activities until the Chinese New Year.  After running through all the hubbub and indulgence and enforced merriment that is our western holiday gauntlet, the last thing I want to do on December 31st is look critically at my life and decide what needs improvement.  I’ve reserved the interim, January first through February 10th, for a good wallow in sloth and unrepentant torpor.  In other words, the exact opposite of what the larger culture seems to expect of us in these fresh days of 2013. But as the New Year reboot approaches, inevitable reflection begins and once again I seek to slough off whatever shortcomings are truly at the root of my discontent.

The epitome of patience

The epitome of patience

This year I’ve decided to follow the example of my friend and heroine Elizabeth Engstrom and choose a theme, or über goal, if you will, for the year (check out her blog on the subject here).   Many lofty ideas flood the brainpan, like Growth, for instance. However, after two months of living on sugar cookies, chili cheese dip and devilled eggs, growth as a concept isn’t something I feel drawn to.  In fact, having had a small nonlethal skin cancer removed last week, I feel that having been reduced by a few millimeters is a good thing and so look around for other things the removal of which might prove beneficial. There’s the whole image of the snake shedding its skin to contemplate, after all, which makes me think of releasing the old and outgrown and funky. So, I’ll try on Release as a theme.

Let me tell you, there’s nothing like reading Thoreau‘s Walden at year’s end to inspire you to gather all your less-then-treasured items, drag them to the curb, and stick a “Free” sign in the middle of the whole ratty mess.  If only we could do that with our character defects.  But forget procrastination, the Netflix addiction, persistent depression, or conflict avoidance, I can’t even get past the old sock thing.

As if ridding myself of those seventeen single socks, with threadbare heels, would allow space for something miraculous or helpful to enter my life. As if by lightening my load, freedom would be obtainable. Who knows, I might be possessed by a very bearable lightness of being, which would then allow me to achieve my dreams, unhindered by a mundane life and the possessions that define and curtail it.  But standing before the overstuffed drawers of my life, doubt assails me. If I do make space, who’s to say what might come to fill it? Is it not better to live with the familiar useless pile of whatever then to invite in some unknown thing or force that might up-end my security and kick me out into the cold as surely as I’ve rejected these harmless items?  How embarrassing would it be if after throwing those socks in the trash, the dryer suddenly regurgitated one of the long-lost ones and I’m forced to face the fact that I’ve prematurely exterminated its mate?  Who am I to interfere in the fate of the prodigal sock and its twin?

You can well imagine the paralysis that grips me every time I’m moved to ‘organize’, and am inevitably confronted with some object, which although having no discernible use, hints at a potential destiny which I cannot begin to fathom or predict. Which leads me eerily back to the overarching theme of this blog in general, Nutshells & Mosquito Wings.  Here’s the quote from Thoreau: Let us spend one day as deliberately as Nature, and not be thrown off the track by every nutshell and mosquito’s wing that falls on the rails. What to do, what to do, when one’s head is stuffed with tree detritus and insect parts?  I picked that quote because being thrown off the track is pretty much what I do. And besides, getting rid of “stuff” is only the tip of the iceberg.

This sloughing is serious business and so I’ll have to divide this blog into two parts.  Until then, enjoy the tail-end of the Year of the Dragon and continue to hoard accordingly.