A story about choosing change.
Brooklyn’s sidewalks smell like abandoned pine this week, as the thistles of tossed Christmas trees crack in the frost and bake in the sun. Every year, these streetside graveyards of wrinkled trunks and wilted branches make me sad, the way they’re piled haphazardly on their sides like toppled toy soldiers stripped of their sparkle, robbed of their due dignity and honor. I feel almost embarrassed for them, until the trash trucks graciously arrive to tow them away. But maybe I’m just projecting my own insecurities onto the expended evergreens. Maybe they’re content, sitting there, settling into their doneness. They lived good lives, didn’t they? They were chosen carefully and posed with graceful pride. They were adored and adorned and admired with oohs and ahhs. They were encircled by gifts and giggles. They were tinsel-topped and carol-sung and fitted with shimmered stars. Their time to shine was intended to be temporary, as is the case for most things, however golden. Still, letting go is never easy. There’s something admirable about the trees’ humble, unassuming surrender to the push and pull of present reality. … This is a confusing time of year. After several months of forward-thinking anticipation, of planning feasts and preparing decorations and wrapping up presents for eagerly awaited opening, we plummet into deep, cold, stagnant-seeming January. There’s an oddly disorienting sense of ending and beginning at once. That’s what I always love about these first few weeks: the raw nowness. As the sparkling celebrations end, the stark shift back to normalcy is refreshing, if startling — what’s done is done, insists January, like the foresaken firs and pines. But the future, too, feels distant, with its sweetness as far-off and uncertain as spring. You’re stuck here, January says, in this in-between phase that’s cold and unromantic and unadorned. You’re stuck right here, right now. The present is uncomfortable, and it’s no wonder that we struggle to sink into it. We’re not particularly at ease with what now means. We whine. We worry. We attempt to escape. New Year’s resolutions provide the perfect outlet, offering relief from the dull ache of reminiscence and the itchy awkwardness of presence, with the promise of a better tomorrow. Join this gym! Try this cleanse! Buy this makeover! This will be the year when we find love and wealth, when we get hot and happy — it’s all in our impending future, according to…
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