Come January–every January–I want to run away from home. Doesn’t really matter where home is, or what’s happening, if it’s January, I’m looking around for my walking shoes. It was in January that I turned in my notice at the Chicago school where I was teaching and told them I was moving to California. By February I had emptied my house. Whenever I wasn’t teaching I painted fabulous, improbable pictures of beaches and flowers and flowing sand dunes.
It was in January that I decided to leave California and move to Oregon. Four days later my house was in the U-Haul and we were chugging up the Grapevine, on our way to a new life. January is for seeking the new, strange horizons, for planning gardens, for making clean sweeps of the house, for throwing things away, for starting fresh. January demands change, and never more than this year.
I sensed January’s first stirrings yesterday. For the first time in a year, I took a blank journal, went to a restaurant, and sat and wrote. I wrote my way through a lot of crap–layers and layers of accumulated garbage that have held me sluggish and murky this year. By the time I was finished I remembered why I practice meditation–and I understood why this last year I largely gave it up. Meditation promotes awareness, engagement with the world, action. I spent most of this year hunkered down, escaping my world whenever I could. It was a tough year. I wanted anesthetic, not awareness.
Journaling felt like waking up. I came home and spent the afternoon editing the first part of a novel I started long ago–it’s a sequel to Good On Paper. And as I wrote, I realized that I was doing the January thing again–I was running away from home, this time by going back to a world I loved creating, and missed when the book was finished. I’m not sure what will happen this time, but I know that I’ll enjoy living there and finding out.
I suppose it’s not surprising that, after all that writing, I dreamed a story last night. This doesn’t happen often, but when it does, I pay attention. And last night, it happened. I dreamed a children’s story about three lifelong friends. Nothing to do with my journal, or the novel–just a lovely little story, a side trip, so to speak, a little detour through a scenic byway.
It’s a paradox, really–I avoided journaling because I didn’t want to have to think about the scary choices I was facing. I just wanted to escape. It took a return to journaling to remember that the escape I was seeking–and still seek–demands facing the demons, facing them down, and marching triumphantly on into all the stories to come.