We all stand on the brink of the new year, the cusp between times.
 

No wonder it seems like a good time to shed the old and welcome the new. Resolutions are made now, drawing on the power of this change time to manifest them. Or that’s the hope.
 

But I urge you to consider this: you cannot make change until you have made room for those changes in your life. It is much harder to quit smoking when you don’t have something else to do with your hands (or lips) instead. Or lose weight, if you don’t make other changes that support your loss.
 

I believe we all – as witches – have THREE ‘new years’ each and every year:
 
          1. Our birthing-day. This is the most powerful one for me. I take time before the date itself to chronicle the past year. I look at my achievements and record them, honoring myself for having done so much. I especially am proud of those things I did that I did not plan to do. For me, those were opportunities that I took, rather than putting off, or ignoring because they weren’t ‘in the plan.’
 

          2. Samhain. The witch’s new year. This day represents the ‘pause’ point after the heavy work of the triple harvest (grain, fruit, and meat). Our ancestors worked long hours for many months to get it all done before the first freeze made it impossible to do much more. Samhain is a good time to reflect on your achievements, honor your ancestors and relax into the (relative) quiet of winter’s coming.
 

          3. New Year (calendar). For all that some call the calendar a meaningless invention, there is a whole lot of free-floating energy to be found in hordes of people recognizing that this in an opportunity for change. The energy is neutral, good, or negative, depending on your perception. For years I discounted it, believing that resolutions made now were grandiose and without true thought. Desperate resolutions, made out of need, not desire or because of the weight of society’s expectations, rather than true choice.
 

          And they can still be that. But we can make choices that arise from our contemplations at Samhain. We can use this time to make ‘course corrections’ so that we are closer to our true desires and clearer about what we want to manifest in the coming year. The desire to write a novel felt _right_ at Samhain, but you haven’t had the time to write more than an outline since then. Perhaps re-focusing to complete a chapter, a section, or a specific word count is the better resolution to make.  Instead of berating ourselves for not having lost any of the 50 lbs we wanted to lose, we can renew our commitment to lose weight in a slow, steady manner. We can re-set our goal to something more like ‘one pound a week’ or even ‘I will eat one piece of fruit every day and walk for ½ hour three times a week.’ (For some of us, it can be a major achievement to just stop drinking soda, or eating pretzels.)
 

As eager as we might be for a fresh start we are mindful that the old never goes out with a whimper. Changing habits can be as difficult as quitting drinking for an alcoholic or heroin for an addict. Its not just about willpower, although having the fortitude to deny one’s self that which once caused us pleasure has a lot to do with willpower.  It seems that creating new habits to replace the old ones is the most successful strategy for making permanent change.
 

For example: if you smoke indoors, and want to quit, the first thing to do might be to start smoking outside only. When it’s cold outside, smoking isn’t quite as much of a pleasure. Oh, and you’ll have to stop what you are doing to get dressed and go outside, so you’ll probably do it less often. You house will smell better and be cleaner, making three positives for one small change.
 

I’ve found that it is tempting to make sweeping changes and get really focused on doing it all at once. But it is almost guaranteed that you won’t be able to sustain the energy for all those changes and so you slip a little here, a little there. . . until you realize you haven’t made any progress at all, and despair sets in.
 

My greatest successes came from making changes in small increments. Last year, for example, I committed to eating less processed food and making sure that most of my meals came from organic/all-natural raw products. White flour and processed products were replaced by whole grains (brown rice for white, etc.). As a result, the quality of my food improved, and my flavor profile increased dramatically. This year, I intend to make sure my meals are more balanced, with less starch and meat and more fruits, vegetables and lean protein. NEXT year (yes, 2008) I’ll focus on portion control, if I need to. What this means is that in 2006 my weight did not fluctuate very much, even though I essentially did no exercise, and my health was better overall. In 2007, I will continue to enjoy as much food as I want, but it will be of such high quality that I am going to feel great. I will likely lose weight because my overall portions will be balanced and the need for ‘fillers’ (sweets and snacks) will be less. (This is true for me, not for everyone.) If I _still_ feel like I need to lose weight (or something) I’ll start watching the portions – that is the closest I will come to a diet.
 

Small changes feel harder, and don’t give us as big a result as fast as we want it. But they tend to be the changes that we keep up with. And so the longer-term result is much bigger and easier to maintain. Science tells us that if we want to make something a habit we have to do it for 30 consecutive days. The month of January is conveniently just right for that. Personally, I think that if we miss a day and get back to it, the habit can still ‘stick,’ but I’m an optimist.
 

So, I urge you to make your resolutions, make room for the new habits, change the old ones, and start small for long term success.
 

Happy New Year!

I just watched the state funeral of President Gerald Ford on the television. All throughout I was (sorry to say) bored. A bit sad, but I wasn’t exactly conscious when he was president so I never really formed much of an opinion.

I listened to the speakers praising him. I watched the three wreaths being placed. I got ready to change the channel when Mrs. Ford stood up and was walked forward – first by Cheney, then by her son (I think).  She was so frail, and blindly moving where they told her. The day must have been utterly exhausting. Just two steps up to stand near the casket and then she was reaching out, placing her hands on one corner. She bowed her head as if praying, or breaking down, the weight of it all suddenly too much to bear, just then. The studied, controlled face of a long-time politician’s wife finally broke. Just for a minute. But it was enough. Because when her hands reached out, I was stricken by grief. And I wept. (Bawled like a woman in emotional pain, to tell the truth). I was struck, literally, by how much she loved him. She will miss him deeply. He was her friend, her confidant. They went through hell together and loved one another all throughout.

The sound of the cameras clicking was a horror. A thousand beetles crawling across a marble floor. Each one preserving her moment of transcendent grief for all time.

I didn’t know the man, but I recognize his wife’s pain.

Thank you for sharing him with us, Mrs. Ford.

 

In a world where endoresments usually mean the person was given a fee to validate their opinion, I pretty much stay quiet. (Well, except for my review site, Facing North, but I keep that separate from my written meanderings.)

Today I am breaking that policy becuase I have to rave about a piece of software that every single person who has ever lost data — or might — needs to own: R-Studio from the magnificently mighty people at r-tools technology. Allow me to quote: “R-STUDIO is a family of data recovery and undelete utilities. Empowered by new unique data recovery technologies, it is the most comprehensive data recovery solution for FAT12/16/32, NTFS, NTFS5, and Ext2FS. It recovers data both on local logical and physical disks, as well as disks on remote computers over networks, even if their partition structures are damaged or deleted. RAID reconstruction and Dynamic disk support are included, as well as support for recovering encrypted files, compressed files, and alternative data streams.”

In non-tech speak that means that when my 150gb hard drive ‘went bad’ a bit more than a year ago, causing me to loose two books in progress, the original text of the published books, 20 years of data collected in my book of shadows, correspondance and images I was in a bad place. Very bad. A few calls to ‘data recovery specialists’ in my area (I’m near Seattle, it wasn’t hard to find several to choose from) got me quotes of $800-$2000. I can’t afford that, not if I want to make the mortgage payment. They also couldn’t guarantee recovery, in which case it usually would only cost me 50%. (I understand their point, but >>ouch<<). My partner consulted the oracle (Google, of course) and found r-tt. The program cost me just under $80. It has a demo version that you could try out first to see if it could even see the files that needed to be recovered. Thats right: i could get a very good idea of whether my data could be recovered BEFORE I even paid them for the program. As it turned out, I could, so I downloaded the program, and recovered my entire hard drive in a matter of minutes. Minutes. For $80. Maybe the most important aspect is this: I am not a techno-wizard. (Far from it, in fact.) This program was simple enough for me to use >>and<< it worked. Why am I telling you this now? Because earlier this week I switched to a new computer. In order to save time, I copied all of my files onto a DVD. (It was going to be used by someone else -- I know, I know, I should have formatted the HD so that data wasn't going to be found, but it wasn't important to do at the time. Turns out that was a good thing.) I checked the DVD to make sure the files copied over (there were several layers of folders) and the first couple of folders and subfolders looked good.  So I deleted the files off the old computer. Uh oh. Several days later I discovered that one subfolder -- full of irreplacable data gathered over three years -- was empty. The DVD recordered simply made the subfolder, but didn't populate it. A quick look atthe old computer showed it wasn't there, wasn't accessible... oh no! R-tt to the rescue. I renewed my registration ($20 this time) and ran it. Found all my deleted files. Undeleted them and copied them to the new machine. Took maybe 1/2 hour, including the re-reg time. So, for about $100, in less than two years R-Studio saved me a MAJOR hassle. Now I'm spreading the word.

Life is a process of becoming, a combination of states we have to go through. Where people fail is that they wish to elect a state and remain in it. This is a kind of death. – Anais Nin

Thank you Anais for your wise words.

What are we doing but trying to be-come? Become some THING some ONE somehow transforming the inner image into the outer (or vice versa, I suppose). I know my image of myself is not what others see — it never has been. Occasionally that is a good thing, frequently it is annoying.

But what my love sees when he looks at me is not what I see in the mirror. It is painful and joyous all at once.

Yet, this life, this existence, this presence I carry through my life is an ongoing process of becoming. As it is for all of us. Some of my students get it. Most don’t. No shame on them, nor glory. It just is.

Haven’t you ever had a friend who you loved dearly but who never managed to ‘get it’? A while ago (perhaps I am dating myself here) the media called it ‘tough love’ when you just let that person go to hell on their own merits. I don’t have a different phrase, but I don’t think love enters into it. Not without a lot of philosophical wrangling and a good dictionary.

I can be a terrible friend. I’m a poor correspondant and although I will be there when asked, I don’t offer to be there very often. Most peopel probably take that as a signal of a lack of caring, but its not. I just don’t want to ‘butt in.’ I have a tendancy to over-manage and to take on too much, and my not offering is my attempt to curb that… enthusiasm. It is protective of me, not dismissive of the other. I’ll admit I’m self-centered (reason #7 why I don’t have children, I can barely manage to keep cats alive) and I’m better at serving a large amorphous unseen community than I am a small circle of intimates. I do, however, care deeply about my friends. All of them, even the ones who are no longer a presence in my life.

I’m introverted, and horribly shy. Getting up to speak in front of an audience is hellish. Leading physical ritual is barely any better. I have the curse of the need to be perfect at what I am doing when in ‘public’ — and public here is defined as ‘in the presence of another human.’ Being with others, even the ones I love, is draining on me.

All of this was unknown to me a decade ago. Even five years ago I was only becoming aware of the reality. I still don’t manage it very well, but awareness has prompted understanding and that will lead to strategies I can use to improve. . . to move to the next stage of becoming.

Of course my next question is: Be-come what?