It’s December 27th. The work year has been wrapped. The gifts were selected and exchanged. The well wishes shared. The food prepared and leftovers assembled and stored, beguilingly, in the fridge. One zap in the microwave to an instant replay of our favorite holiday tastes, conjuring the best of our family memories and traditions.
But the biggest indulgence of all is nothingness. Nothing on the calendar. And a wide open week ahead, to fill– or not–as we like.
Into this wide open possibility, I started my day with a random act that was at once thrilling and terrifying. I deleted my email. Every last one of the work and personal inbox items that veritably ruled my life all year long.
My newly downloaded IOS gave me the giddy-making one button power to finally round up and annihilate the 7000+ ghosts of deadlines passed and the weedy camouflage of junk mail. I feel liberated and ready to reset that which I’ve allowed to shackle me.
As I get older, I’m realizing I no longer want to be as cavalier about what I do with my days, my life. So today, well into the middle of my life, I contemplate the possibility of beginnings.
I like this passage on Beginnings from David Whyte’s book Consolations: The solace, nourishment and meaning of everyday words.
Beginning well or beginning poorly, what is important is simply to begin, but the ability to make a good beginning is also an art form. Beginning well involves a clearing away of the crass, the irrelevant and the complicated to find the beautiful, often hidden lineaments of the essential and the necessary.
Beginning is difficult, and our procrastination is a fine ever-present measure of our reluctance in taking that first close-in, courageous step to reclaiming our happiness. Perhaps, because taking a new step always leads to a kind of radical internal simplification, where, suddenly, very large parts of us, parts of us we have kept gainfully employed for years, parts of us still rehearsing the old complicated story, are suddenly out of a job. There occurs in effect, a form of internal corporate downsizing, where the parts of us too afraid to participate or having nothing now to offer, are let go, with all of the accompanying death-like trauma, and where the very last fight occurs, a rear guard disbelief that this new, less complicated self, and this very simple step, is all that is needed for the new possibilities ahead.
It is always hard to believe that the courageous step is so close to us, that it is closer than we ever could imagine, that in fact, we already know what it is, and that the step is simpler, more radical than we had thought: which is why we so often prefer the story to be more elaborate, our identities clouded by fear, the horizon safely in the distance, the essay longer than it needs to be and the answer safely in the realm of impossibility.
Email deleting may not be courageous, but it’s a start.