January 1, 2012
As this day approached, I began to pore over my thoughts and memories about January “Ones” from the past – events, people, resolutions, and if I am honest, the occasional hangover. But no matter how hard I thought about it, nothing significant was coming to mind.
I might have written about my lukewarm feelings towards New Year’s Resolutions, which might be due to my seeming inability to keep them. I decided that would be a subject better kept until late February or March, when I typically get around to turning over any new leaves that might want to sprout.
I could have written about my most memorable New Year’s Eve nights, but that would have been embarrassing, since most of them involve a bunch of little girls, banging our mother’s pots and pans with wooden spoons just before we passed out at 12:01. Fun? Yes. Engaging in print? Probably not.
Perhaps I should have written about the neighborhood party we attended last night, where middle-aged mothers rocked out to Just Dance 3 on the Wii system, thinking we were still in our prime, but that might have just sounded like déjà vu to many of you.
So I gave up and let it go, hoping that next year, I would have something insightful to say about the cosmic passing of one year into another.
But after our late night out, Tim, Molly and I had an early morning drive to Huntington Beach ahead of us today. As you can imagine, the roads were fairly quiet, as the sun rose on this New Year’s morning. The fog rolled in and out as we crossed the lagoons in Del Mar and hugged the rocky coast for most of our 90-mile drive. Molly, still in her feety jammies, had buried her head in her pillow with her pink blanky protecting her from the unwanted morning sun. Tim reclined his seat back and vetoed any music with too much bass, or vocals. Left to my own devices, I turned on my favorite NPR station and listened to an interview with singer-songwriter Ryan Adams.
After a long period of non-productivity, Adams shared how hard he worked at completing his most recent album, including an exercise he called “Stacks.” Alone in his office, he would sit between two stacks of books, one on his right and one on his left. On any given day, he would go back and forth between the two stacks of books, randomly reading lines, trying to make a connection between one side and another, with himself as the conduit.
Tim scoffed at the idea, thinking it sounded contrived, but I was intrigued. What kind of books were in those stacks? How were they organized? How often did he get ‘lucky’ and actually find an idea for a song, a line, or a melody by that seemingly random method? The interviewer laughed at Adams description of his creative process and moved on to her next question, but I wasn’t able to get the image out of my mind.
Adams creative exercise sounded like a perfect metaphor for a way to live a more meaningful life. We compartmentalize things; we put them in stacks and think they don’t touch each other, or hope that they don’t. We stack up our feelings, hopes and fears about our work, spouse, friends, family, kids, money, spirituality (or lack thereof), health, self, security, etc… in these little ivory towers. I have plenty of stacks and some are grouped roughly on the right, and some on the left, but they have no conduit except me. Unless, like Adams, I am willing to sit down and open up to the possibility for overlap, connection and meaning, those towers stay solid but compartmentalized, and almost surely unable to contribute to personal growth, or a greater outcome. I might know what is in each stack, but I won’t know what they might inspire in me, if I don’t look at them in total, in relationship to each other.
So although I won’t call it an official New Year’s Resolution, I am going to try to live my life a little more like “Stacks” for the next few months and see what happens. By opening up the different towers of my life to each other, I hope to find new connections, be inspired and generate some original thoughts. That last one is my main goal. Psychologists have said that 98% of our thoughts are repetitive, the same ones we had yesterday. I don’t know about you, but I’m a little tired of those. As I begin 2012, I am ready for some new material and I hope you’ll join me.