There's so much I want to tell you — but how?
I have a few principles that I try to embody in my work as a writer, and I take them very seriously. One of them is, as Gandhi said, to "be the change that I wish to see in the world." One change I wish to see in the world is an internet culture in which we rejoice in sharing the things we truly value most, the things that bring us the greatest joy and laughter, that stop us in our tracks with their beauty or poignant vulnerability or deep-rooted truth. I wish more people put as much energy into telling the world what they love and why, as they do complaining about what they dislike.
So I try not to complain. When I am drowning in grief or writhing from injustice, I try to own up to it as best I can and turn it into something beautiful, something that has meaning. Or at least something funny.
But sometimes it's hard. Really, really hard.
That's how sick we all are of this bullshit nonsense. You're sick of it, too, I know. You're sick of the internet outrage machine. You're sick of controversy and condemnation. You reshare links to things you hate just to tell people you hate them, and somewhere inside, you hate yourself for doing it, because you know it's useless. You're sick of the noise and the fury, signifying nothing. You're sick of a society that asks you to hold onto everything so tightly, with so much certainty and righteous indignation, that your fingers are curled into fists and you can't remember the last time you gently traced the scars on another person's skin as if they were something beautiful.
Today is Lughnasadh, and I find myself returning to the strange mixture of work and rest, grief and celebration that always marks this time of year for me.
It is the acknowledgement of fear and loss during the most fruitful time of the year that marks this as a holy season. It is this mingling of love and sorrow, hope and grief that transforms the cycles of production and consumption into something more: a sacred harvest. When we forget the hard work of our ancestors, when we distance ourselves from the sweat, blood and tears that connect us to the living reality of those who have come before us, when we anesthetize ourselves to the grief we feel at the struggles they faced and the sacrifices they made — that is when we risk becoming mere consumers. Grief serves a sacred purpose, for we cannot grieve what we have not loved. Grief is one of the fruits of love, even as joy and prosperity are the fruits of labor.
Because I'm such a Hipster Pagan that I've come full circle, in recent years I've stopped disparaging New Year's Resolutions for being "too mainstream" and decided to re-embrace the practice. After all, the word resolution is a vast and complex universe in itself. Like words such as integrity, balance and attention, resolution can mean many things, and spending some time considering its nuances bears some surprising (and surprisingly delicious) fruit.
So for those of you who might be on the fence about making resolutions for the coming year, here are some thoughts on what resolution means to me.
"One day I am sweet, another day I am sour," says the Irish trickster god Manannan mac Lir in his guise as the disheveled traveling buffoon whose hat is full of holes and whose shoes squish with puddle water when he walks. Manannan appears in folktales sometimes as a buffoon and sometimes as a richly dressed bard of talent and renown. When he is a buffoon, his words are sweet and his music sweeter; when he is a master of his craft, he comes off as a fake and an ass. When he is at home, he is a king whose otherworldly castle is thatched with white birds' wings. But the half-thatched homes of the mortal bards will never be complete. While the poets are away gathering their feathers, the winds have already swept away the last day's work.
Which is the real god? The king, the poet, or the wandering buffoon? Which is the real writer? Which is the real me?
For several years now, I have thought of waiting tables as a hunter-gatherer kind of job. Each morning, I stalk my prey at their usual watering hole, serving up coffee and eggs with a sleek and casual smile; I am quiet, unobtrusive; I bide my time. My earnings are gifts from the gods of generosity and good luck, coming in unpredictable floods and trickles. I gather the silvery coins from the tabletops, I fold the bills into my apron pocket, and I move on again, cleaning, preparing for the breakfast rush, the lunch rush, the next herd to come and go. I'm no agriculturalist.
My first customer of the morning was a disheveled-looking woman with suitcases and overflowing canvas tote bags piled up around her in the tiny booth where she sat sipping her coffee and fingering an unlit cigarette back and forth across her knuckles. The waitress from the midnight shift shrugged and shook her head. "It's not like she's out of her right mind or anything..." I glanced at the woman grinning dreamily across the dining room. "When she came in, she threw up her arms in the air in a bear-hug," my manager chimed in, "I thought she was going to attack you!" I walked a fresh pot of coffee over and topped off her mug. The woman winked. "It's cold enough out there to shiver my timbers!" I smiled. "That's what we're here for," I said, gesturing gently with the steaming pot.