Promises to Keep

by Pamela Goode

I am, these days, a poster child for depression: unwashed, unclothed, unkempt, unmotivated. But strangely not depressed. Well, maybe a little, but it’s more an easing, an inching, a cautious seepage toward the new, the unknown (and frankly unwanted).

Change in the New Year is, of course, so largely mythical. And yet sometimes change doesn’t need to be tangible to be real. The symbolism alone can be crippling.

I don’t do change well. I don’t go to bed well. I don’t get up well. Don’t like to get in the shower; don’t like to get out of the shower. I love life, but the segue between episodes can throw me into a dither.

“I wake to sleep, and take my waking slow./I learn by going where I have to go.” Theodore Roethke’s tenuous broachings became a mantra when I traveled through Greece alone for three weeks, knowing no one, not speaking the language. I was forty-two, coming out of a dark place in the midst of a charmed life, and those words have worked magic on me ever since.

And so you will find me at the start of every new year, poised for the weeks-long morning of pajamas, tea and fire, short of words but long on the silent questioning dance with whomever lives inside me.

And it will lead me along the long road home, toward those promises I keep . . . but slowly. Have patience.

And yet, as changes go, this year will bring some of the largest for me: the marriage of my firstborn, the college graduation and home-leaving of my baby, the declining health of my sole remaining parent, the impending cross-country move of my son, two very grand art achievements, the tearful closing of Ciel Gallery, an intense two-year labor of love, and decisions about my path from here. Pajamas and tea, indeed.

I recognize, of course, that change, even dreaded change, often brings unexpected blessings, and even less blessed changes help us evolve, most often for the better, kicking and screaming attendant. But evolution requires action, a meeting head-on and toe to toe with our hearts on our sleeves and our brains ready to verbalize and vocalize.  Backs straightened, eyes peeled, belts tightened, no shields. I like being a warrior, but I can get pretty whiny when the battle isn’t on my own terms.

But the promises I’ve made will rouse me, stumbling toward Saturday classes, weekend workshops, dinners and swim meets, deadlines, and the occasional requisite cleaning. Every smile will help me loosen the grip on the shield, step into the future, open the heart a bit more. But the goodbyes will never flow as easily as the tears, and I suppose that saline cleansing is part of the plan. So bring it on Life. Almost ready.

“This shaking keeps me steady. I should know.
What falls away is always. And is near.
I wake to sleep, and take my waking slow.
I learn by going where I have to go.”