I AM old enough to remember going to school on the first day of a new school year and being given those now extinct resources, textbooks!
I am so old that I can even remember being given new ones!
The teacher – sorry, educator – would carefully instruct us how to open the book for the first time. How to run our fingers down between the pages so as not to crack the spine of the treasure we held in our hands. Do you recall how the new book used to smell?
This nostalgia returns each year when new diaries start appearing on the shelves.
Even though my life is now virtually digital and in an almost paperless environment, I still love browsing through the diaries and pretending I need to buy one for the new year.
While I love the electronic age and know there are better uses for trees than chopping them down for paper, I do still miss starting a new diary at the beginning of the year.
There is something about writing the first line on a virginal page.
Prize-winning author Annie Dillard says in her pre-laptop description of writing, "When you write, you lay out a line of words. The line of words is a miner's pick, a wood carver's gouge, a surgeon's probe. You wield it, and it digs a path you follow. Soon you find yourself deep in new territory. Is it a dead end, or have you located the real subject? You will know tomorrow, or this time next year."
A new year is like that new book.
You crack it open with champagne and cheers, and then, on the empty page of time, you lay out a line of days. Each day is a word, each week a sentence.
Sometimes the ideas will be clear and you will experience your life like wine gurgling into a crystal glass of joy.
At other times, like a blocked writer, you will stare at the day constipated, wondering why you should even bother to get out of bed for this one.
Maybe you won't.
Soon though, as Dillard says, "... you will find yourself in new territory". New job, new relationship, new challenge, new suffering, old betrayal. Like Freddy Mercury, you will sing, "Is this the real life? Is this just fantasy? Caught in a land slide, no escape from reality."
Day by day, month by month, the story of 2013 will build. You and I will write our lives. This is not the time for editing and evaluating. Let your life flow.
Trust that the story that is unfolding for you is both novel and classic.
Believe that the plot will reveal itself eventually. For now, all we have to do is show up, pen in hand at the empty page. Day by day, word by word.
So I invite you to join me in class as we open the magical new textbook titled 2013.
May it instruct us well. That's the Spirit!
Peter Woods is a pastoral therapist and conflict mediator.