I took a long walk today, expecting that I would come up with a New Year's resolution, like people do. I walked the back roads at my favorite city park and passed joggers and people walking dogs. Waving a little wave and saying, "hi!"
It was awful.
I couldn't bear another moment of, "There's somebody coming towards me. I'll look down and cover some distance and then look at them again to see if they're close enough for a smile. OK, it's almost time to smile, hold it, hold it, look down, look up, hold it and... Oh, I smiled too soon."
It was all just too awful. I was just so tired of things like saying "hi." I wasn't sure I could bear it another moment.
There were mounds of snow and mud everywhere. I looked both ways and cut into the woods, pushing through branches, and spent all afternoon jumping over fallen logs and catapulting myself over half-frozen streams with rotting sticks. I got really dirty. My glasses fogged up. I slipped and dropped to my knees in the mud. I pretended I was a bear, that I was a monster in the forest; if anybody hiked through my land, I would gobble them up! I slid down an embankment and traversed a pit of mud by jumping from rock to rock. I missed my girls. I thought how about how my daughters have hair the color of the forest floor; how immaculate they are, how nothing else comes close to replicating their beauty.
Nobody could see me, I was too far off the trail.
Nothing matters when nobody can see you. You could have the world's worst secret, you could tell it out loud and it wouldn't matter. You could be the world's worst goal-setter, the worst keeper of resolutions, and it doesn't matter when you're a bear in the woods.
I might have been tempted to resolve again to lose weight this year, to keep a cleaner house, to get in shape. It's a good thing to be; one of those people who wear bike helmets and spandex shorts and who carry an apple in their back packs and have special gloves for biking. Fit and lean and organized. I'm pretty sure those are only the kinds of goals I make when people are looking.
The truth is that nobody is actually looking, and if they are, it doesn't matter. The people who really see me know what I am, and they either accept it or they don't. I can either let that hurt me -- or not. Nobody else cares. I don't need to be fitter and more organized. All I need to be is the thing I am when I'm alone, crashing through the brambles like a wild thing. I need to love my family, I need to love my children and husband and my friends and people who are kind and who touch me. None of those people want me to be "fit" in the New Year. None of those people want me to stop straining against my ties.
My resolution for this year, and all of the years, is to be a monster, an animal. It is to stop trying to be something else, and to let myself be what I am. To let the glory of my creature-being be enough.
I don't want to mold myself and improve myself according to a set of standards that I didn't invent. I don't want to be easier to digest. I don't want to fit better into the clothes they sell. I don't want to make more money or organize my mismatched things. I don't want to plan my future to the exclusivity of living my present.
I want to be a bear. I want to be a storm in the trees. I want to be an animal. I want to love what I love. I want to have too much of good things. I want to throw everything away. I want to be what I am. I want to be happy, like the way I am when nobody is looking. I want to be this creature, strange and inappropriate and imperfect and great and strong and powerful. I want to walk until my legs are sore, crash, crash, CRASH. I want to sing songs that make people afraid. I want to tell stories that say too much and make people nervous. I want to love in ways that change the world. I want to be perfect, just like I am, with mud on my hems and forgotten hours turning into evening. I want to be a terrible, wonderful monster in the moss.
What is your resolution this year?
This piece was adapted from something I wrote at Last Mom On Earth.