Posts Tagged ‘Beginnings’

Hand wash cold

May 9th, 2008    -    4 Comments


A reprise, because somebody somewhere knows what this means.

I recently ordered a set of samue. Samue is a style of street clothing for Zen monks. This tiny piece of printed rice paper came tucked into the garment. I have no idea what it says, and for that very reason, I find it quite charming.

I imagine it could be laundry instructions. Maybe it says “Inspected by No. 12.”

It reminds me that, with only a change in perspective, the most ordinary things take on inexpressible beauty.

Planet Lazarus

March 18th, 2008    -    16 Comments


Last weekend I sat in the middle of more than a dozen newcomers who participated in the Beginner’s Mind retreat at my Zen Center, and it was a remarkably powerful experience. Powerful because it always is. Remarkable because attracting more than a dozen people out of the drunken sunshine of a lazy LA Sunday to practice eight hours of silent self-discipline is a miracle. A miracle, I tell you.

Now it’s nothing much to boast about compared to what they’re calling America’s most popular church, the church of Be as Rich as God Wants You to Be.

And it’s a pittance compared to the self-styled gospel worshipped at the altar of Be as Rich as You Think You Should Be.

But it is a miracle in the plain and ordinary church that I frequent, the church where, invite as we might, many are called and stubbornly few ever choose to step even one foot inside, the church of Be.

Sitting there all day in this simmering brew of effort, willingness, endurance, open-mindedness and sincerity, sitting with strangers in a slow bake of solidarity and mutual encouragement, percolating in the intimacy and acceptance of a shared experience, I was overwhelmed with delight and gratitude. When it was over, we all left on weightless wings, sailing on gusts of freshness, into the lives we had, only eight hours earlier, been desperate to leave behind.

Truly, miraculously, we raise the dead.

Please come next time. There is always a next time, and there is always room for you.

Weed by weed

March 15th, 2008    -    14 Comments


I wrote this post yesterday and I was holding onto it for later, but holding on is not at all the spirit of this post, or the teaching of the weed.

I used to know a deeply intuitive and provocative woman, a woman of many arts and aptitudes, who said she was going to write a book called Start What You Finish (as opposed to that book we’ve all had recited to us a billion times, Finish What You Start). I well understood her point. Before we even start something we are already mentally rounding the curve toward the steep and sticky part, the complex, exhausting, immeasurable length of it, the part we can’t imagine doing, and we stop before we’ve begun. How to keep from doing that would make a great topic for a book.

We lost touch with one another, but as far as I know, this was one project she never got started.

This morning I sat down to work on the kind of work I get paid to write. Honest, I don’t get paid much or at all to write this other stuff. So I’m looking at my options on this wide-open morning: to crack into the research brief entitled “Competing on Analytics,” or the “Encyclopedia of Statistics in Quality and Reliability.” (I’m not making this up.) Or maybe I’ll just scroll one more time through my primary source, the white paper I already wrote once, “Making Performance Measurement Work.” I need to pull together an outline and key messages to ghostwrite an industry article on “Operational Dashboards.”

I give up. It’s not happening today.

Today, I’ll weed.


We used to enjoy having a carpet of green weedy ground cover across our rolling backyard garden. I say enjoy but I really mean accept because what, in the end, is more enjoyable than simple acceptance? Our vista looked neat and green, but the ground was mostly weeds. Then when our nervy neighbor began hoisting his two-story addition overlooking our home and garden last year, we raided the retirement fund to landscape the whole schmeer with towering bamboo and darling little mounds of grass called “dwarf mondo.” Isn’t that the cutest name? Dwarf mondo, i.e. little big. Because it’s a little thing that can cover a big space.

We replaced all the topsoil with rich, fragrant dirt and planted precious little plugs of mondo across the roaming whole of it so that now I still have a green grassy ground cover but I do not enjoy it nearly as much. No, I have replaced that sense of carefree disregard with the drive and agitation I imagine a surgeon feels as he surveys his upcoming schedule of life-and-death procedures. Now, I am a backyard neurosurgeon, prying sprigs of weeds from between the delicate roots of my baby mondo, my vast and miniature world, my little big.

When I look up across the endless stretch of the job before me, I surely want to quit.


But if I manage to regain my focus on what’s at hand I realize it’s just one weed. There’s always just one weed to do next. I do it weed by weed, and the weeds always show me how.

I’ve come to believe that every impasse, obstacle and impossibility is just that: one weed, saying, “Pull here.”

I don’t ever finish. But I always start. Weeding is something you start but you’re a fool if you think a gardener is ever finished, if you think a garden ever stays put.

Today I’ll weed. And when I return to the job I’ve set aside, it will start in an altogether different place, a different space, with different openings and perhaps, greater ease. Everything moves through this one place in time, the infinite and unimaginable totality of existence moves through this one moment of motion: the tug, as I dislodge a weed from the earth. When I do that, I dislodge it all.

Starting anything is starting everything. The finish, if you want to call it that, takes care of itself.


In homage to a certain treatise on birds.

The smile spread

February 29th, 2008    -    9 Comments


I thought I’d told it all, but yesterday when I was doing an all-day sit at the Hazy Moon, I remembered something. Without realizing it, I began this recollection on February 24, which would have been Maezumi Roshi’s 77th birthday. I decided to add this benediction, with a smile.

Coming softly down the carpeted stairs on the last morning of sesshin, she saw Roshi and his attendant having tea, the way they did every morning when she passed by. This time, Roshi asked her to join them. He introduced her.

She’s been having her own business for over 15 years, but she can’t be over 16 herself! He laughed at his own flattery.

Actually, today is my 37th birthday, she said.

Why would you want to spend it here? His smile spread.

I was hoping not to meet you, she said, letting the truth be playful for a change.

Then let me write you something. And come to see me before you leave.

After the morning sitting and the work period and the closing remarks, she came to see him, giddy to be finished and facing only the full blue sky of a return flight to Texas.

He sat in his study, behind a deep wooden desk made serious with the surrounding stacks of papers and books. Looking up, unshaven, he handed her a square flat package wrapped in sturdy rice paper. When she unwrapped it she saw that, to Roshi, writing meant calligraphy. The bold black strokes danced down an ivory bristol board.

Let me read it to you, he said as he came forward. Congratulations on the anniversary of your birth September 26, 1993. He pointed to two large characters stacked on the right side. Spring and fall.

Do you want to see my inspiration, he asked, pulling a leather bound volume from the bookshelf. He turned to a page, pointing at the last two lines.

She read to herself: No matter how much the spring wind loves the peach blossoms, they still fall.

Do you know what it means? he quizzed. She shook her head no, but she knew without knowing. He had seen through her all along.

That would be 1956, then, the year you were born? He scratched his stubble and she nodded.

That was the year I came to America, he said.

They hugged then, a full familiar embrace, and she ran to catch the ride that would take her home.

***
Happy birthday, Roshi. Happy birthday, Everyone. It’s always a good day to be born.

Some other place entirely

February 28th, 2008    -    11 Comments


It seems like it’s over even before it begins:

Inside the dokusan room, she bowed again, a full bow to the floor, then lifted from the waist and stayed seated. Maezumi Roshi sat two feet away. She spoke as she’d been told, stating her name and her “practice,” which was counting her breath, although she didn’t really know how to do it, or whether she did it at all.

He spoke. Are you a teacher?

No, she wasn’t a teacher. She had her own business in Houston, Texas. A public relations business for more than fifteen years, although she was going to sell it and change her life and all of that. And all of that.

And you came to Zen by?

Not by her parents, and not her training, not anyone in particular, not that, no, no reason at all. By a book, she half-lied, ashamed that an endlessly broken heart could send her tumbling all this way.

He nodded and talked. Kept talking and saying things she would not remember or ever repeat, streams of words assuring, encouraging and appreciative and she felt her face hot and wet and knew that she had been crying for some time. He asked her to turn sideways and he lightly touched her shoulders so they lifted, and he showed her how to relax her neck and lower her chin in posture. He was slowing down now, winding it up. Do you have a question, he asked, in courteous dismissal.

Yes, she seized, aiming to do her best. When I get up right now do I do a standing bow or a full bow?

He tossed his head back and laughed and called her sweet, and she caught her breath at the sound of the nickname only one other had ever called her. Smartness alone isn’t as nice, he said. She stood and bowed and left the room, walked back to her seat in the zendo and sat down in the spot where she started, in some other place entirely.

***
You could also try this place, or this place, or even stay right here.

Wake up when you get here

February 27th, 2008    -    6 Comments


There’s still time to dive into the story because it’s just starting.

By 9 p.m. she was back in her upstairs room, the first night done. She had followed everyone else’s moves, a half-beat off, corrections whispered by well-meaning strangers. The sitting was easy and quick. She shuffled off with the other newcomers early for a lesson in eating “oryoki” style, using monk’s bowls with chopsticks and chanting, all choreographed in unison like a mealtime ballet. Come breakfast she would be lost.

It was a strange night in a strange place and she didn’t sleep, which wasn’t strange at all. Where oh where have I ended up? She wrapped her head in a pillow to fend off the all-night noise from the street below, and gradually sunk into the wide-eyed defeat that accompanied nearly every night’s tossing. Hours evaporated. She heard a gentle rap at her door. It was Roshi, calling her name to wake up for the dawn sitting period. He said the r in her name like an l. The clock said 3:30. She washed her face and dressed, went downstairs and out back and sat in her spot on her cushion in the dim light of the zendo.

The room filled to stillness, and the timekeeper struck the bell three times to begin the sitting. Before long, Roshi and his attendant rose and walked out, turning down a side hall to what she had been shown the night before as the “dokusan” room, where the teacher saw each student in a private interview, sometimes several times a day. This was the real stuff of Zen, she knew. The eyeball to eyeball encounter that revealed all. And this was the tight spot she still hoped to opt out of, unready to defend her feeble motivations for being here.

The attendant returned to the zendo and announced that the dokusan line was open for those attending their first sesshin. No mistake. This meant her. Right now. Her legs responded and she stood, picked up her cushion, and watched her bare feet move in autopilot across the parquet floor. This was how she found herself kneeling in a shadowy hall waiting to show herself to a Zen master. Against her better judgment. She craned her ears to listen for the next cue recollected from last night’s hasty lesson. From inside the interview room , Roshi rang a tiny bell, signaling her to enter. She stood, walked, stopped, bowed, went inside and closed the door behind her, guessing at the moves.

***
All week, and all because of the Beginner’s Retreat coming up on March 16.

Both feet

February 26th, 2008    -    9 Comments


From a story that seems like it began yesterday:

She followed her guide out the back door and into a shaded garden, where she could now see that this place, a collection of houses and apartment buildings painted pale yellow with blue trim, covered perhaps half a block. They walked across the yard to the far house, which she took to be the teacher’s.

They paused inside the door to remove their shoes and padded through the downstairs in stocking feet. In the living room the woman pulled up and did a little bow. There in a nubby upholstered armchair sat a little Japanese man, bald-headed and smiling. She fumbled at the bows and nods, invisibly, she hoped.

Hers was a large guest room with three twin beds. She was too early, and where she thought there would surely be something, something important to do, there was nothing to do but quiver and wait. Wait first for supper, then the first sitting period beginning at 7. This was what Zen Buddhists called a “sesshin,” or a meditation retreat. Four periods of seated meditation a day, two hours each, divided into 30-minute periods with walking meditation in between. Meals, services, work and rest in all the other hours. Starting at 4 in the morning and ending at 9 at night. She’d been warned that, even though this was a beginner’s retreat of only three days, it would be the hardest thing she’d ever done. These days, everything was hard for her. Eating was hard, sleeping was hard, speaking and making sense was hard. She laid down on one twin and listened to the street noise barge through the open windows: cars, buses, horns, shouting, the forlorn refrain of an ice cream truck. She was too afraid to cry.

Shortly before 7, she put on her loose black pants and t-shirt and went downstairs to walk over to the zendo, the meditation room. It wasn’t like a lecture hall. With just over 40 people sitting along the walls, she wouldn’t be overlooked, but she could still be inconspicuous, she thought.

Just outside the backdoor, she found Roshi, now in his black robes, standing with his attendant. They looked at her and smiled.

“Are you ready for me to torture you?,” Roshi kidded, the words softened by his accent and his laugh.

“I do that well enough myself already,” she joked, flush with the narrowness of her escape.

***
To be continued all this week or until I find out how the story ends.

Once paradise

February 24th, 2008    -    4 Comments

I’ll be leading another one-day beginner’s meditation retreat on Sunday, March 16 in Los Angeles. That reminds me of a story.

The taxi driver was lost. Not lost, but not where he expected to be. She sat silent in the back while he retraced the turns then stopped on a narrow street crowded with pastel apartment houses and faded cars. Airport fares didn’t come to this part of LA. She paid, grabbed her duffel and stepped out.

It was a raggedy neighborhood not far from downtown. Tiny bungalows perched off the curb behind chain link fences; noisy, messy lives on full view through open kitchen windows. Only if you looked up, straight up, at the palm trees swaying against the perfect sky, did you realize that this was once paradise.

She was unsteady after the big trip. And disappointed. A three-hour flight and she was standing on a painted porch without a soul in sight. The door was locked. She rang the buzzer and an intercom voice answered. Come in, the woman said, we’ve been expecting you. The automatic lock unlatched. She went inside.

She’d always mistrusted the mean little black pillow he sat on when he turned his back to meditate, mornings and nights. Once she had tried the pose beside him, only once and only to please. Follow your breath. Count to ten. She didn’t get it. It hurt and it was dull, almost impossible to do and who would want to? So when he chose it, day after day, a sacred routine, she tiptoed past, petrified that this strange seduction would drive them apart.

Much later, a slender red spine caught her eye on a night spent roaming what remained on the bookshelf. When she opened a page of the Chinese verse, the ache in her gut yawned wide and the words fell in. Dropped all the way down and echoed back again. She took her bed pillow and folded it into a high square and sat on it. First, for five minutes. The cool space that surrounded her seemed so significant that she wrote the date down in a book by her bedside: June 18, 1993.

She read more books and bought new ones. The man at the yoga studio said it’s called a zafu and it’s $36. She left work at lunch and bought her own hard black cushion. That night and almost every night after she sat and watched the wall, measuring the time and her intent. Why am I doing this? What am I hoping for? She remembered his reverential reference to a teacher in Los Angeles, one of the first and now one of the last. One day she dialed directory assistance and asked all the questions without, she thought, revealing her doubts. When the woman said they had a special training planned for September 24-26, she said yes send me the form because it coincided with her birthday and only just then she had begun to believe in magic.

She went upstairs to the office and was greeted by a kind-faced woman who handed her a schedule and keys. She nodded at all the instructions but couldn’t respond, taking in the cases of books and papers and mismatched furniture that filled the room. How nice you’ll be houseguesting with Roshi, she heard the woman say, and she squinted at the rarefied name of the teacher she’d hoped to avoid.

***
More to come. There’s always more to come.

Turning words

February 12th, 2008    -    5 Comments


In 2003 – March 16, 2003 to be exact, because I still have the paper– I drew a Wheel of Life as I described in yesterday’s post. My daughter was then two and a half years old. Under my “Career” aspect I wrote “Power of Pen.” I can recall being uncertain and inhibited about my ambition, but I was asking for something invigorating to come from my writing. I drew a quick sketch of an open book with little squiggly lines and a pen on top. The next day, a former PR client called me and asked if I’d be interested in writing a book with a man whose last name happened to be Power.

I had never written a book. I had written many things – articles, papers, brochures, websites, speeches, business plans – but I had never written anything published in my own name so that I could credibly call myself an author. Awed by the coincidence, I said yes to the invitation. Over the next weeks and months, I met and spoke to a series of people involved in the project so they could assess my ability. It was a very long shot, but each presentation was the opportunity for me to believe my own b-s about myself. In the end, not surprisingly, we didn’t do a book together. But by the end, I knew that there was a book to be done by myself. The little power trip was to empower myself.

This is the kind of thing that comes out of the wheel. Not always so immediately, so glaringly, but in its own time and fashion. Everything, you see, turns on the wheel. Just this weekend as I was fomenting this topic, it came to me how psychically and spiritually powerful the circle is. Familiar with the enneagram? Fascinating. The Celtic wheel? The labyrinth? The bagua? A mandala? We all know the wheel of the zodiac. How about the dharma wheel? And then there’s that little cheerio close to my heart, the enso. The list goes on and on, and it isn’t a list, but a whole greater than the sum of its parts.

It’s your life in motion.

I would write more but I’m already inspired to move beyond. And you are too.

The pi of life

February 11th, 2008    -    9 Comments


1. Take a pencil and draw a large circle on a blank sheet of paper. I usually turn one of my salad plates upside down and trace the outer rim to get a circle true and wide.

2. Eyeball the center of the circle and make a dot there. Don’t trouble yourself to get the exact center.

3. Use a ruler or straightedge to divide the circle into halves, then quarters, then eighths. Don’t worry about the equidistance of the lines.

4. Now you have a pie with eight roughly equivalent wedges. Don’t quibble about how equal they are.

5. Quick, without thinking, label the top edge of each wedge with a word for one aspect of your life. For instance, I might write, “Work,” “Family,” “Finances,” “Health,” “Practice,” “Travel,” “Marriage,” “Fitness,” etc. Don’t study or ponder what your eight aspects are. Just jot them in as they come to you. They change over time and with circumstances.

6. Without stopping, look at each of the labeled parts and write a word or two that describes exactly what you would like to see occur in each of those areas in your life. Write these words at the bottom on each wedge, near the center of the pie, as you rotate it around. Leave most of the wedge empty and white. Try to avoid time spent in formulating the words you write. Just let them materialize without self-editing.

7. Remind yourself to use an immediate and short-term perspective. Be daring, but be specific. That means, for instance, instead of writing in the “Work” section “Successful Internet Gazillionaire,” write something like “Breakthrough Idea.” Later on, after you have an idea, develop a business plan, attract investors and design and program your enterprise, you can collect your gazillions.

8. Just as fast, look at each section and quickly sketch a visual to represent the outcome that you’ve described. It doesn’t matter how much accuracy or detail you use in your drawing. Do not judge or even think about this. The point is to take a dreamy concept and convert it into raw physical form using your intuitive eye.

9. This is not simply a list of things to do, which is itself a miraculous potion. This creation is your Wheel of Life. Label it with your name in one corner of the paper, like I do, “Karen’s Wheel of Life” and date it. We call it a wheel because wheels turn.

10. Place this somewhere it will be in sight everyday. I put mine on the top of my printer, which sits on the top of my desk at eye level. The point is to have visual access to this diagram automatically, without dwelling on it, and let the aspirations magically penetrate your thought and behavior patterns.

I began this practice, drawing a pie and turning it into my wheel of life, about 12 or 15 years ago. I don’t know where the instructions came from. It was about the time I was hungry and thirsty for everything, so I taught myself palmistry, astrology, and tarot cards. Get the picture? It was all about getting the picture.

I offer it now because of the conversations I keep running into about long-distance life planning and all such things about how to really do what we otherwise only talk or think about doing. Sometimes I re-draw the wheel every two or three months. There have been times, for instance, like in the early part of my daughter’s life, when I fell completely off track, and didn’t draw a wheel for years. Looking back, I can see that those years were indeed when I fell off track, wondering all the while where my life went!

I can’t emphasize enough that this exercise is to articulate immediate intention and action, rather than extract a list of “100 things” that can veer off into the inexhaustible and unimaginable future. Let the things you put into the pie be the things you wouldn’t think would happen tomorrow, but in some subtle and unpredictable way, could happen tomorrow. The way this practice works is that it brings your own readiness and aptitude for growth into manifest form, out of the smoke and dust of mere wishful musings.

All this week, I’m going to tell you more about why I believe this works, and what transcendental company you keep when you call forth a picture of your own pi of life*.

*Humbly inspired by the genius of Yann Martel’s “Life of Pi”, which will convince you that we are indeed the authors of a mysterious truth that is indistinguishable from fiction.

Return to sender

January 18th, 2008    -    12 Comments


And so we come to the end of our series on writing, the day that we confront the rather convincing body of evidence that no one likes you, no one wants to read you, no one wants to publish you and you’ll never work in this town again.

No, no, no, no, no, no. A million times no.

First you start showing people your work. No.
Then you start sending queries. No.
Then you try an essay or article. No.
Then you start sending proposals or manuscripts. No.

Not at this time. Not a right fit. Not a good match. No.

I mean yes.

Because every one of these dead ends is a beginning. Seriously. This is not cotton candy rainbow fairy talk. Every time you hear no, every time the door slams, it swings back open just a crack and gives you a glimpse of where you should go. And it’s never that far away.

Sure, every time I went to the inbox or the mailbox and saw that SASE shoot me straight back through the heart, I fell hard. I fell face first. I laid there in the dirt. I rolled in it; I covered myself in it; I was filthy dirty low. Then eventually I’d get up and dust off.

“I’m giving up!” I’d tell my husband as I crept back to the desk, opened a file and started over. We tell ourselves that these blind, idiotic, insensitive, stupid editors and agents are blind, idiotic, insensitive and stupid. But they are usually right. It really isn’t the time, fit or match. You really haven’t finished. You really aren’t ready. You still have a little turn or two to make.

Rejections usually point you to the last place you want to go, dammit. To the place you’re afraid of exploring in your work, to the discipline and the form, to the point you’re afraid to make, to the authority you’re afraid to claim, to the resistance you so stubbornly clutch.

One day I really did give up. I stopped trying to sound like someone I wasn’t. I stopped hiding from who I really was. I stopped making stuff up! The very place you fear you are lacking is your source of hidden treasure. Go there.

If you’re afraid to start, start.
If you’re afraid to say it, say it.
If you’re afraid to cut it, cut it.
If you’re afraid to send it, send it.
If you’re afraid to try, try.
If you’re afraid to change it, change it.
If you’re afraid to let go, let go.
If you’re afraid to give up, give up. It won’t be the last of you!

No matter where it leads, trust your life completely and you’ll end up someplace new. In that spirit, I make a deep bow to the glorious eye, hand and heart of Denise, who just this week proved my point in multitude. Not only did she give this gift to her beautiful pregnant friend Stacie, they both gave the gift back to me. You see it here. And that’s how it always ends. I mean begins.


Photo Credit: Boho Photography

Change with a capital G

January 10th, 2008    -    20 Comments


Did she win? Can we vote? Is it time?

We pause for this political message, which I hope is not political.

My daughter has always had an interest in the election process. She learned to read by sounding out the Kerry/Edwards bumper stickers in the preschool parking lot. She has accompanied us to the polls. Of course she’s aware of laws, and wars, and her parents’ occasional invocation of the former and abiding aversion for the latter. Her reaction sweetly mirrored our despair when she said in 2004, “Have we ever voted for anyone who won?”

This season I am not particularly attracted to any candidate and repelled by only a few. You can see how I’m teetering on the knife’s edge of an opinion. I am inspired, however, by my daughter, because she is purely, gleefully, hopelessly, and totally for the girl.

Perhaps this is the state of mind when you’re a girl in the state of 8. She and her friends are totally, unabashedly, fearlessly girls. And by that I don’t mean anything in particular, but that they are completely free and unafraid to love themselves. They love themselves and they love each other. They adore one another. They hug and kiss each other endlessly. They have not yet acquired any reason to withhold themselves, to judge themselves as too this or too that, to hide any part of their hearts or minds. Of course they notice the boys, they like them too, in silly ways that you can tell will soon be too much.

“The boys all love me but I only love Amy,” she said last year in first grade.

This year she has new crushes and allegiances, and one of them is Hillary. “Because she would be the first lady president!” she says while jumping up and down. In her unbiased and uninformed view I see something I no longer see in myself and hardly anywhere else.
I see a place that I fled, through pain, cynicism and calculation, many, many years ago. I see the place that my daughter herself may abandon as she feels the weight and strictures of the world we live in. I see the Girl’s Team, and I wonder if I shouldn’t glance back over with an open mind.

I don’t call myself a feminist. I try not to call myself anything. And believe it or not, to be a Buddhist is to work your whole life on getting rid of the -ist. And so I read with unexpected awe this eye-opening essay by Gloria Steinem earlier this week, “Women are Never Front-Runners.” Oh, I know what the arguments are, the feelings, the hunches, the dislikes, the gossip, the distaste. But when I see the brutal lash of cynicism, the extraordinary criticism, the arrogant, all-knowing, analytical, dismissive discounting of what and who this woman is, I flinch. I flinch because we are so much harder on her than the boys. Have I been this hard on myself, just for being a girl? Am I sending my daughter into this cruelty, where she will never again jump up and down for the girl?

In short, when my girl speaks, I listen because there is a message in it for me. There’s a message in everything that comes our way.

The other night I told my daughter that the girl might not even be a candidate for president, and I told her who it might be.

“Would he be the first African-American president?” she asked.

Yes.

“Cool!” she said, her eyes once again twinkling with the possibilities.

The good towels

December 31st, 2007    -    17 Comments


It’s a good time of year to institute change. It’s the time of year when change is instituted whether you think it’s good or not. Fact is, it’s always that time.

If you have a particular notion of what Zen means, you might think that we don’t go in for setting high-minded standards such as New Year’s resolutions. It’s true that we don’t go in for setting standards and making judgments. But that doesn’t mean that we can’t see when our favorite pants no longer snap. No one blisses out when that happens and so, resolutions can be useful.

The best resolution I ever made was the only one I ever kept. About five years ago I resolved to floss my teeth every day. My friends got a chuckle over that, thinking perhaps that a Buddhist priest would have a more noble aim. But that’s the problem with noble aims. They rarely hit their mark and you could develop gum disease in the process.

Having spent the greater part of my life as a cynical, wise-ass, know-it-all, I never made New Year’s resolutions before that. I didn’t believe in New Year’s. Hell, for most of my life I didn’t believe in anything, except maybe that hard work trumped all. I believed that at the end of the long, bitter, bare-knuckled crawl up the crest of the rainbow to a better somewhere, there was a pot of gold with my name on it. The name would have been Karen K. Scrooge.

I believed in the reward system, and I held myself to it. I would save today for a rainy tomorrow. I would put the new shoes at the top of the closet, the pricey liquor at the bottom of the cabinet, the jewelry at the back of the drawer. I would save the good towels for company and the good dishes for a special someday. Everything had a better use, a brighter day, some other day.

The thing is, somedays never come, and that’s why we call them someday. I saved my china and crystal in the boxes they came in, and after my eleven-year first marriage, I sold them that way too. In the original bubble wrap. No worthy meal had ever been served on those painted plates; no lips had ever taken a salutary sip from the gold-rimmed stemware.

It’s easy to fall into that trap. That someday trap. Someday have a party. Someday treat yourself. Someday go somewhere. Someday have fun. Someday celebrate. Someday be happy. Someday raise a toast to the life you’ve been saving for.

2008 Someday Resolutions

1. Use the good towels.
2. Get a lot more good towels.
3. Dump all the crappy towels in the house and replace them with good towels.
4. Wear the diamond necklace.
5. Wear the silver locket.
6. Wear the gold chain.
7. Damn it, wear all the real jewelry I keep in the back of the underwear drawer.
8. Wear something else from the back of that drawer.
9. Celebrate with a martini.
10. Use the special martini shaker and glasses we’ve never used.
11. Wow, these are good.
12. Let’s make another batch.

The Morning After Someday Resolutions

1. Blllechhhhhuuuuuhhooowwwwwwhhhhhh.
2. Use the good towels.

And tell my husband every day that I love him.

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