Another Year

On the day we make big resolutions for a shiny new year that stretches ahead, I’m still working on the rough draft of my new life as a woman alone facing the world, knowing the time ahead is much shorter than the time behind me.

Jim always followed the architect/builder rule: Measure twice before you cut.

My artist/author friend Cheryl Harness says her former art director would see several drafts of a drawing before approving one, and then she wanted the finished product pronto. “Slow trigger and fast bullet,” was her saying.

Cheryl equates it with a pitcher, deliberately winding up, then throwing a fastball. Runners in a race listen for the “Get ready, get set, GO!”

In my case, lots of change requires planning, preparation, and development before the final effort of slipping into an altered lifestyle.

Because I’ve lived in this house over half my life, I’ve accumulated a lot of record-keeping paper I don’t need. My shredder has worked overtime as I’ve demolished income tax files back to the late 70s. I’ve given two old four-drawer file cabinets to a friend, and my load feels lighter just having bid farewell to unneeded documents and owner’s manuals for things I no longer own.

Yesterday I tackled the recipe drawer in the kitchen, which held a hundred little booklets from products like Jello and Bisquick, recipes that came with a fondue pot and a food processor, and ones I’d cut out of the newspaper. The recycle cart is getting full again.

Also in that drawer I found an old journal. On our anniversary I wrote, “In three years Jim and I have grown dependent on each other. He actually asked me where I thought we should put the sand (to be mixed for mortar), and I ask him the silliest things. Yet in lots of ways we are very independent, too.”

Now I have to rely on that independence to acclimate to my new life.

I have so many decisions to make as I carry my shovel into my office. Do I really need four drafts of the same book in a file, or can I settle for the paperback itself? Can I throw out decade-old letters by my students from when I taught a writing correspondence course?

This cleaning out of detritus is a process. What I’m not cleaning out are memories. Those live in my heart and mind, and they will stay.

But I’m looking forward to this shimmering New Year. I’ll keep preparing for a different life by shaking things up around here, but there may be a few more rough drafts. Or is life just made up of multiple rough drafts? Shouldn’t we all be open to change even if it’s not forced upon us?