I read in a book today that the average human body contains enough iron to make a one-inch nail. I don’t know if that includes me because even during seasons of my life where I’m eating a lot of iron-enriched Marshmallow Mateys, I tend to test iron deficient. So maybe my body’s iron could only make a nail that was of an inch long, but the thought that it would be a product of the energies of all parts of myself combined makes me wonder what I’d use that nail to make.
It’s another new year. I feel like I sneeze and it is already time to throw away another calendar and get used to scribbling out the date on my paper because I’ve again misprinted the year. Like every other special day, this one comes with expectations of how you should feel. Renewed. Refreshed. Rejuvenated. Re-everythinged. It’s January 1, 2011 slipped away like a handful of sand, and I feel about the same as I did 24 hours ago.
I appreciate this annual benchmark and the obligatory self-reflection that it brings with it. It’s a time to reexamine where you’re headed and who you want to be once you get there. It’s a time to figure out what that nail, that all of the iron you had inside combined to create, should be driving at in your life.
This day each year, just when I’m supposed to feel the most empowered and inspired, I finished scribbling out my list of goals with a flourish and looked down to discover that they are (sometimes word for word) identical to my goals from the previous year or the previous 5 years. It is disheartening. If those same old wishes are rearing their ugly heads all over again, it must mean that you haven’t changed at all. You must be essentially the same stumbling-blocked kind of person you’ve always been and from the looks of it, you always will be.
It’s hard to perceive change in yourself when you’re with you every moment. Change tends to come in almost imperceptible degrees and since the product (your current state) is the only vantage point you ever get to look out at your life from, you are blind to those degrees and to the infinite, lesser versions of yourself that you’re triumphantly leaving behind you in the delicious dust.
It is only in odd moments when you happen upon one of those older versions of yourself, that you realize how far you’ve come. I climbed a hill very far from home this summer that I have climbed only once before, 4 years previously. The first time I climbed it, I thought I was at the zenith of my existence. I was with the best friends I had ever had, and when we reached the peak we cried freedom!’ into the wind. I had never felt so liberated or so grown-up or so capable and for years afterward, I continued to look back to that time as the first reading of my true life’s pulse.
I approached that same hill again, this time by myself and found that I wasn’t alone at all. I had left traces of my younger self in the airspace and the heather and on the rocks. I passed places where my companions and I had stopped to take pictures that have since become iconic to our friendship.
When I reached the top, I sat with 17-year-old me and we listened to the phantom echoes of those voices crying freedom!’ into the wind. She was not very impressive, 17-year-old-me. It made me sort of laugh to think that she thought so highly of where she was in her life. Laugh, because she’s since been so many other places and taken herself so much further than she thought herself capable of, even then. That place, a place undiluted by any other experience than that vivid first and its enlightening second, preserved a place in time that proved to me that I have changed. I think more clearly and love more freely and pray more fervently and dream more unabashedly than that girl would ever have imagined.
I’m glad that the opportunity to resolve to be a you more like the one you want to be, isn’t merely once a year, or once a week, but almost minute by minute. At the very least, you can wake up each morning having slept off any ill effects of the previous day and ready to barrel onward towards yourself.
I don’t want to use today to write a list of routine-changing goals that are usually responses to things I find disappointing about myself. I don’t want to write about the 20 pounds I want to lose or the 20 classic books I want to read. Those are ricochet shots that never really penetrate to the heart of what goals are made to achieve. That same book with the nail had a character that kept a card catalogue of people he wanted to remember. Each card had the person’s name and a single word to remember them by. Today is the day I will endeavor to discover what my card’s one word should be, and I will spend every day of this next year and every day thereafter finding out what it will take to get me there.