The last few days have brought record snow levels: schools and businesses are closed, people have abandoned their cars on side streets and, maybe for the first time in my adult life, I picked up a snow shovel and shoveled my walks, driveway and dug out my car on five separate occasions. Yesterday morning I slipped while trying to get my phone to take a picture of my landlord skiing down our street. The phone fell out of my hand and shattered on the ice. So my afternoon shoveling found me phoneless, without my constant earbud companions, and my brain insisted on thinking.
I've been avoiding thinking lately. Music, podcasts, the TV on in the background, anything to divert my brain from fixating. Fixating on politics, fixating on money, fixating on sadness and worry. Since the election I just want to put my head down and move forward, focus on chores, my job, my friendships, family. My dog. Relationships and responsibilities that, to some extent, I can affect.
Obviously, I'm not the only one who found 2016 a difficult year. Problems and troubles were micro and macro, individual and global. I felt defensive and misunderstood and confused both on a personal level and as a member of a larger community of friends, neighbors, women, Americans, taxpayers, artists, etc. And as much as I wanted to say something, participate in the discourse, offer an opinion, express my concerns, mostly I was silent. I felt like a train was rushing by and it was up to me to run alongside and grab a rail and hop on, but I just couldn't run fast enough to make the jump, to get on board, to help, to be creative, to offer wisdom and words and hope and support. I just got overwhelmed with the thinking about it all. What could, should, would I do? It was a particular torture, all that thinking and doing nothing. So I stopped.
But then yesterday I fell. And my diversionary tactics were diverted. I let a few thinks in: how could this year be different? It should be different.
I've spent my whole life making sweeping change, big decisions, attempting huge impossible goals, insisting on grand gestures. All that has led to monumental disappointment, failure, chaos. So instead, I'm going to start small. 2017 will be my year of baby steps. I'm going to write a blog post and not worry if it's brilliant or moving, or frankly, even interesting. I'm going to lose 5 pounds, not 20. I'm going to pay off a credit card and not carry around the weight of my student loans every minute of every day. I'm going to do one thing each day that makes me a better friend, employee, or family member but not all at once. I will find satisfaction in remembering to take the trash out on the right day, in not wasting produce, in making someone laugh. I will pick my battles more carefully. I will let it go of some of the guilt, some of the shame, some of the self-loathing, some of the anger, but honestly, not all of it. I will enjoy the company of those who enjoy my company, and not worry as much about those that don't. I will keep trying.
In 2017 I will keep shoveling. For as long as it snows.