New beginnings, fresh starts. We get them all the time. The rise of a new day, beginning of a new week, start of a new month, and of course the ever-celebrated new year — I even like to count birthdays as a personal new genesis. So much possibility, so many reasons for renewed hope.
One of my favorite new month traditions is the turning of the calendar pages. In our 1-bedroom apartment we have four monthly calendars, and one daily — and these calendars are not even where we track our regular happenings — that happens on my Mac’s iCal. Why all the calendars, you ask? I think it all started as both a decorative and practical gift at Christmas, and then an opportunity to support a local church and youth group by forcing ourselves to buy their beautiful 12 pages of encouraging verses and stunning photography. When I turn the page there’s an almost-breathless moment of possibility — what will the picture be? What will the message be? What colors will adorn our wall? What kind of art will we see this month? What will the new month bring? So much promise.
While wandering through the library one time I came across a familiar book — “Possibilities: A Supplemental Anthology for Career Choices” — a text, published by Academic Innovations, that some of my former students would use to begin dreaming and thinking about possible life directions. Here is the first work of writing that students see, even before getting to the Table of Contents…
-by Emily Dickinson
I dwell in Possibility —
A fairer House than Prose —
More numerous of Windows —
Superior — for Doors —
Of Chambers as the Cedars —
Impregnable of Eye —
And for an Everlasting
Roof The Gambrels of the Sky —
Of Visitors — the fairest —
For Occupation — This —
The spreading wide my narrow Hands
To gather Paradise —
I absolutely love the image of spreading our narrow hands wide to gather paradise — a paradise rich in promise, rich in potential, rich in possibility. With this inheritance of wealth, can also come an overwhelming responsibility or question of what to do with so much possibility? How to be the best stewards of this gift?
As of today, in my season of unemployment, I have experienced nearly 200 new days, each rich with potential, and also somewhat daunting in how to make the most of it. There are certain routine elements which naturally take precedence — visiting job search sites, filling out applications, submitting resumés and cover letters, washing the dishes, preparing and eating my meals each day, checking the mail, vacuuming, sweeping, etc. — but then what to do with the rest of the time. Often I would find myself at the end of the day feeling tired, but dissatisfied and unfulfilled. My days would fly, but I didn’t feel any great sense of accomplishment, and would wonder where my time had gone.
In the same way that one might make resolutions for the new year, it was at the start of a month like today, that I began giving myself “to-do” lists the night before. When my head would begin swimming with thoughts — all the many projects I could work on, all the things I could accomplish — all fighting for prime front-row space in my mind, I decided to pour these thoughts out onto paper, so that upon waking and beginning another fresh, new day, I had some direction and priority. After a couple of weeks of following this pattern, pouring ideas out the night before, waking up and choosing amongst them the “tasks” of the day, I found a renewed sense of energy. Not only was I able to narrow my focus, instead of being overwhelmed by so many prospects, but I also felt a greater sense of achievement, seeing all that I had completed at the end of each day.
I continue in this pattern still today — and revel in the freedom of doing what I can, exploring the various projects that captivate my interest, and when time does not allow for the completion of all, moving some items to the new day’s list.
What does hope, possibility, promise, potential mean to me? It means new month, new pages; new day, new pages.