Out with the rat, in with the ox. “Year of” that is as here comes the New Year.  I wonder again what intentions to set for the coming trip around the sun? What goals matter, what vision quest, what resolutions, what dismissals? Dismissals I’m finding are so much easier at this stage of life. I pretty much say what I want, when I want, to whom I want and on occasion, let silence do its work. It’s not a perfect plan but it is one of the liberations of advancing in life that I’ve adopted. It is also a two way street.  For the most part I’ve come to cherish my friends’ blunt speak. Here’s an example. Me: “Do I look fat in this?” S/He: “Yup.” Me: “I can do a cartwheel!” He: “Nope. Not so much.”

Resolutions, goals…those can be more difficult to deal with. Where do you start the process of articulating them, of distilling their essence? One possibility is to follow the Japanese New Year’s tradition of tidying things up. Over December bills are paid, the house is cleaned, what needs tossing gets tossed, what issues can be faced are dealt with. Space in every sense of the word is cleared for the new. As the shift approaches trashy novels are put aside for deeper thoughts, deeper readings. The fridge is stocked for a clean diet. 

On New Year’s Eve day itself, ablutions be they hot spring soaks, cold plunges and the like are performed. Restored and reset perhaps that can be the place from which to discern goals. 

Resolutions though admirable are unrealistic for me. At least on cue at the stroke of the new year. Too ill disciplined, so rather than set my self up for failure I simply don’t make them. I know, chicken.  I do, however, set intentions. In the event putting them into writing helps manifest them, I’ll attempt to do so here and ask you to bear witness. 

First I need to take stock and clear out the old rat year. A recent NY Times article prompted its readers to sum up the year in one word. Mine was “tumultuous.” What with the closures of all nature, covid mortalities compounding the numbers of deaths, fiscal/political uncertainties I’m sure it has been a year of profound losses for all of us. I’d been living in NY, doing a play..all that ended. Concerts for the year cancelled. Six friends gone. Because my immediate family members have all remained healthy, because we have roofs over our heads, because my son is happy, because I have a remarkable life partner, my tumult falls I’m infinitely grateful to say into the realm of inconvenient and sad. The life that was, however, cannot be returned to. A new chapter has to be envisioned and built with considerations of what our new world looks like. 

I’ve read articles recently about corporations adjusting business models to accommodate consumers who, during the pandemic, have discovered that they’re happier with less. That’s cool. Less stuff, less noise. I’d like to incorporate that into the new year. 

Since we know now that a pandemic can happen, some consideration of this needs to go into being prepared should it happen again. 

Time is more precious now. I should use it more judiciously. 

Have adventures. 

So, my intention (gulp) for this new year will be about building the new normal, about building the new nest wherever that may be, about home and putting down roots from which adventures can be taken. My goal is for home to become a petrie dish for germinating the possible. I intend for this new chapter to be created to nurture health, to welcome family and friends, to be fertile ground for the expression of music and art.

Whatever our collective intentions and goals, perhaps we can all draw on our inner oxen over the coming twelve months to help accomplish what we’ve set out to do. Ox have qualities linked to physical and mental strength. They’re known to be hard workers and according to a Chinese zodiac blog, they are patient builders of their projects and dreams. So, goodbye Rat and all its mischief. Bring on the Ox. Let’s get to work. 

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