Every December 31st and January 1st I find myself floating on a sort of New Year’s euphoria. Suddenly, time becomes a clean, white, empty slate upon which we can write, a blanket of newly-fallen snow. The possibilities are endless, and the first footsteps to mark that landscape are special. I’m always in a hurry to begin.
Growing up, it was a tradition to venture to Barnes and Noble or the calendar shop at the mall and pick out the new year’s theme. Suddenly, I was holding the future in my hands and it had faces and artwork and important holidays. Without it, I’d feel naked… forced to stare at the trout calendar my parents stuck to the fridge. My calendar had to be me.
This year I’ll make a calendar for each month on the first of that month. Last year I was determined to create all twelve months right away. I wanted each month to be unique, to show the correct moon cycles (including the crescent and gibbous moons), to accurately convey the spirit of each month. I wanted it to be perfect. I worried over it. I got tired. The calendar became a chore, and it didn’t have to be.
It’s a calendar, for crying out loud! Over-thinking things might as well be my middle name.
I think that in some weird way, designing my own calendar was not about keeping track of hair appointments and birthdays but about controlling time. Time – a mechanism of which we are inside and therefore cannot control, and yet we keep trying. Isn’t it exhausting?
So this year I paused and realized that my calendar isn’t a task-planner. It always functions as an autobiographical map of my footprints: how many words I wrote in a day, which book I’m reading or just finished, the day’s unexpected jolt of wisdom or grace. A supplement to my journaling and jotting. Where I’ve been not, not where I’m going.
I have no-frills planners for keeping track of the dentist and appointments – a thing I’ll mostly likely toss at the end of the year. But this calendar… it’s something different.
This is not about planning. It’s about experiencing. So for me creating a calendar is about getting ready for the month, just that month, and fill in the blank squares day by day. Little chunk by little chunk. Much easier to chew. That’s how we experience time anyway. At this point, no healthy amount of squinting will bring December 2016 into focus, so why even glance at its blank horizon?
I don’t even want to think about February until it’s actually here. Who would? It is probably the most loathed of months, if we were to do a poll.
It goes back to Thoreau: simplify, simplify, simplify. There’s only so much I can fit into this month, this week, this day, this hour without going crazy. So I’ll look ahead only so far as I have to and enjoy these moments as they come.
And mark them like footprints in the snow.