The green Publix grocery basket held four bars of Ivory soap wrapped together in cellophane and a blue and white box of Mueller’s pasta noodles. I waited my turn at the self checkout scanner. I was emotionless. Not even an hint of expression on my face. I could’ve been a robot purchasing items for my humans because I certainly didn’t feel like I had a pulse. Usually, I’m rather chatty in checkout lines. I smile at the cashiers and ask them about their day. I wave at acquaintances across the aisles. Or better yet, much to the embarrassment of my children, if the person ahead of me appears friendly enough, I’ll peer into her buggy and joke that the contents had the makings of an invitation to dinner. *Hardy - Har - Har*
Not today, Jesus. I don’t have it in me today. It was the week between Christmas and the New Year and I was empty. I had not one ounce left. Not one last drop of humor. Not one more squeeze of entertainment. I was in survival mode with soap and pasta.
Whether we want to face this day or not, we must step over the threshold of a brand new year. We survived. We took the last few clumsy steps, albeit exhausted and dragged ourselves across last year’s finish line. Some were lucky enough to say they thrived this past year, and if that included you, please settle down all your thriving and prospering for a moment. Have a seat. Give grace a chance to cover the rest of us, as we’re still wrapping bandages on last year’s wounds.
We can make the decision to have resolutions, or not make any at all but we cannot avoid the sensation that there IS a chance to start over. New Year’s Day is the newest of the new. The freshest of the fresh. Sure, EVERY day and EACH moment has the chance to begin again but New Year’s Day almost forces your hand. You can’t help but think (even if just for a moment) what you’re leaving behind and what lies in the days and weeks ahead. New Year’s Day is the tunnel. Either you’re leaving the light of an amazing year and entering the unknown dome of blackness or you’re leaving the inky past behind and your eyes are adjusting to the brilliance of something new. It’s the point in the tunnel that you’re coming through or going in that marks your life at the transition of the New Year.
But I like to think it’s what you CARRY with you over the threshold of the New Year that makes the difference. It’s not really deciding if you are going because let’s face it, if you have a heart beat then guess what - you’re going...but the decision lies in what you’re bringing with you. If you imagine packing your bags for the transition, what are you pulling onto your shoulder?
Let’s return to my grocery basket.
Pasta is comfort food. It’s easy. It meets a need. It’s what I know. There’s so much history in pasta, I don’t have to think about how to prepare it. Just about anyone can toss some noodles in a pot of boiling water and make enough to feed three sets of neighbors. You don’t have to be Italian to appreciate the warmth of a good plate of pasta. Noodles twirl on your fork and splash sauce on your face. They have the ability to make you and your family feel safe as you gather around the table for a meal. You can love your life for just a few minutes while your body loads on heavy carbs.
Soap is fresh and clean and new. It lathers up to wash away whatever you need. Bubbles spill out of our hands and have the capacity to carry away tears or fears. Suds give us a chance to feel like we can try again and have a fresh start. A clean slate. Soap, weirdly enough, reminds me of my friend, Neal. I don’t think he’d mind that I told you his name. Every so often, Neal will post a line about soap on Facebook and it makes me smile every time he does it. He’ll write - “It’s a new bar of soap day.” I’ve never asked him why he posts about soap, but I suppose the unknowing makes it fun for the rest of us. It’s a clean start for Neal’s family. Even if it’s not for us, the bar of soap reminds us that we can find a bit of freshness and start again too. A new bar of soap can be opened on an average day in the middle of September. No need to wait for a new year to start again.
So let’s return to today. We are standing on New Year’s Day. The threshold between old and new.
What are you carrying with you from last year (and all the years before) into the the new year?
Are you bringing pasta....comfortable, safe, easy and routine?
And a few bars of soap...fresh, clean, new beginnings no matter which day of the year?
You’re not too far gone right now. It’s New Year’s Day. You can still see last year. The door between the two years is still open. Are you leaving behind all the disappointments or packing them up and shoving boxes and crates filled with them across the New Year date line? Are you bringing regrets and sorrows with you even if they weigh you down because at least it’s what you know? You have the opportunity to shove some of those boxes back across the imaginary time line and slip on your backpack filled with carefully chosen pieces of your history. If the last 12 months were great and you’re ready to leap across the threshold and spin into a pirouette, please allow the rest of us a moment to unpack our mess so we can decide what we’re bringing with us. We’ll travel lighter and maybe go farther this time.
If you have a shred of spirituality, there’s some comfort in knowing that you right now in this time and space, are exactly where you are supposed to be. Your life - even if it doesn’t make sense - or you believe it lacks purpose - you must know that we are connected to the greater good. If your heart beats, then there’s still something you have to offer and a life you’re supposed to live.
My bag is heavy, but manageable. I’m loaded down like *every* mom who carries all the grocery bags from the car to the kitchen in one trip. But at least I’m packing soap and pasta. You thought I was going to give up pasta, didn’t you? Like it’s a bad thing? Pasta is safe and warm and easy. And sometimes your life needs that. You have to allow the space to return to something that you know and give yourself a soft place to land. And a big bowl of pasta is just that safe place. Figuratively and otherwise. Pasta is an easy weeknight dinner that can heal the heart break of tough days and disappointing outcomes. What your life and the new year doesn’t need is shame or regrets and heavy boxes of junk you’ve stored up and historically pulled across every, single year.
Set them down. Let them go.
This year, pack lighter.
Go for that thing that has been inside of you, begging every year to come out. Let the rest of us know who you are, who you know deep inside you can be. Start fresh with a new bar of soap and then you can tell us about your dreams over a plate of fettuccine.