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How About We All Start Clean in ’19?

January 6, 2019

We all want cleanliness. Order. Purpose. Not only do we want these things -- we need them. We dream of them. But where there’s order, there once was chaos. Messes make us feel uncomfortable, so we avoid them, yet the stuff of life has a way of piling up as we go. That’s a given. Just thinking about how to deal with those things that might be stowed in some box or taking up valuable space in a closet or, worse, hogging a whole room, is not easy. Indeed, perhaps the thinking is more difficult than the doing.

A few boxes is a start, but what lies beyond that? That query is a big one, and talking about it with my friends makes it seem more tangible and, thus, more doable.

You’re your own worst enemy when you operate in a vacuum. Sure, I will floss more, be a better listener, move more. I will explore more deeply who I am as a writer and as a person. The kind of ideas that matter are the ones you commit to doing. For me, it means figuring out what must go and what should stay.

My friends and I agreed during a Christmas party that meeting on New Year’s Day would be the perfect time to kick off our own personal and professional bright ideas. “Begin again,” offered one old friend.

I’m making a board of goals with my neighbors, I told my daughter. I explained that they planned to bring magazines, an array of pens and markers, a pair of pinking shears to add panache. I had large sheets from an old sketch pad with a lot of life still left in it. We would create our own dream map of wishes for the year 2019.

“Oh, you mean a dream-board, Mom,” my daughter said. I hadn’t heard the term, much less about the activity before my friends had mentioned it last week. “We do them at work,” she continued, sounding sure and confident, the way people do when they’ve experienced firsthand what you’re talking about.

This little kernel of revelation had stamped the upcoming dream session with a professional air of approval.

My dream girls arrived, stamping the snow off their boots, just after 10 a.m. Cranberry almond biscuits with orange zest were in the oven. I washed the butter dish. I laid out napkins. I took down the small plates in gold trim I’d picked up at the swap shop at our town’s transfer station months before. (One woman’s junk is another’s treasure.)

It become apparent early on that two ideas were important: to move our bodies more, and to create space in our lives to allow for more movement in our work and relationships. And so we flipped through magazines, stopping to cut and paste when an image symbolized a state of mind or when the print echoed an intention.

And there my dream-board lay, scratched with big ideas (and little ones) in green ink, promises that pointed in the direction I wanted to move this year. It was time for the next step. Isn’t it always time for the next step if you want to get moving? I was about to take those first steps by opening the flaps of one box. And there were several to follow. The act of making a dream-board was encouraging, but would it be enough?

The dream-boards with their scrawled urgency seemed to challenge time, resources and faith in one’s self. Could I do it? Could any of us meet back here in one year and say she had succeeded?

We decided we’d also be open to letting ideas go if they didn’t seem to be working. We agreed to meet quarterly to check in for progress. I thought about this as we moved from sharing our own stories and challenges to our plans for the here and now, with wiggle room for our future hopes and dreams.

An hour in, the magazines were splayed all over the woven rug, travel glossies with exotic destinations, pages spotlighting sportswear, books touting gourmet cooking, a plethora of covers celebrating all kinds of women of all shapes and sizes in form-fitting workout wear striking all kinds of yoga poses. Architectural magazines with aesthetic plans and home-and-garden magazines with inventive designs. Form and function. I added that idea to my board.

I’ve got some old boxes to go through. Tons of journals to reread. Poems and short stories to sift through. There are other things, too, like the kids’ drawings and writings and tiny creations I’ll save to give them when the time is right. And some things I’ll donate to Salvation Army and the local food pantry. One friend is going to clean out a closet she hasn’t touched in years. Another is throwing out boxes filled with serving dishes she’ll never use. Later, it occurred to her that I would probably end up with her dishes through the swap shop. That made us all laugh.

My dream-board gives me some space to move in the direction that works for me right now. It’s getting me to reassess and reflect, to figure out where I am today and where I want to go. Who do I want to be in 2019? How will I get there?

Today, I start with a yoga pass I haven’t used in months, a brand-new journal, a trip to the dump. Here’s to beginning again.

Bonnie J. Toomey teaches at Plymouth State University, writes about writing, learning, and life in the 21st century. You can follow Parent Forward on Twitter at https://twitter.com/bonniejtoomey . Learn more at www.parentforward.blogspot.com or visit bonniejtoomey.com .