Sea Change

Our big storm finally released its grip, with roaring winds all night, leaving the sky clear and frigid this morning.

So, here we are, saying good-bye to 2010 already. Tomorrow the decorations come down. I’ll clean the house and start the year a new. Fresh slate, carrying forward the best of last year and none of the worst.

I’ll try, anyway.

I talked yesterday about the temptation to make plans for big changes in the new year. It feels like a natural demarcation between old and new. And, hell, everyone else is doing it, right?

I’m starting one new thing for the new year. Tomorrow will see the launch of a new blog I’m participating in, The Word Whores. Our credo comes from Moliere:

“Writing is like prostitution. First you do it for love, and then for a few close friends, and then for money.”

I’m delighted to be in such amazing company, with six other smart, witty, imaginative and supportive women – all of whom I count as friends, as well as sister writers. Believe me, we all want to do it for money.

But this is a small change in the pattern of my life. I’m adding one blog-post a week. Finite, simple. I cringe when I see people resolving to lose weight, exercise more, write more and fix their love life. Yes, these are all wonderful things to do, but it’s TOO MUCH. The goals are vague. What does more mean? How much weight? What does a good love life consist of?

The problem is, if the goals are vague, then they’re doomed to failure. Because you can never reach “more.” There’s always “more” out there. It’s like always jam tomorrow.

The success gurus will tell you to keep your goals specific and attainable. There are good reasons for that.

I’ve long been a fan of tesseract theory. No – you don’t have to know math for this. It’s the idea that the pattern of large things reflects the pattern of its components. Thus the shape of a mountain range echoes the shape of a piece of gravel. A grown person reflects the shape of an embryo. If I want my life to look a particular way, then I try to make each day reflect those priorities. It occurred to me a few years ago that if I wanted my life to be writer’s life, then I might need to spend more than five percent of my day writing.

(Of course, we all turn out to be champion sleepers in the end, but that’s to be expected.)

This kind of change didn’t happen between 12/31 and 1/1. The pattern of my days has morphed gradually over the years, a slow and creeping conversion. A sea change, if you will.

The term “sea change” comes from Shakespeare’s The Tempest (one of my favorites), from Ariel’s song to Ferdinand:

Full fathom five thy father lies
Of his bones are coral made
Those are pearls that were his eyes
Nothing of him that doth fade
But doth suffer a sea-change
Into something rich and strange.

For those not well-versed in translating Bard-speak, Ariel is describing Ferdinand’s father’s corpse lying on the bottom of the ocean, slowly accreting the minerals of the water, until his skeleton becomes part of the coral.

The sea changes things, takes them in and makes them its own over time.

I borrowed this rant on the phrase from The Word Detective:

Unfortunately, as “sea change” has gained more popularity lately, its meaning has often been diluted and trivialized (“Gavin believes that this update indicates a sea change for the software and web applications…,” In the ultimate insult to the Bard, “sea change” has been harnessed as bizspeak (“Business is in the midst of a sea change when it comes to staffing and retaining superior talent,” New York Times), and I’m sure that somewhere out there right now a trucking company is promising a “sea change in package delivery.” Full fathom five them all, I say.

To me, this reflects our modern philosophy of get it done yesterday. A “sea change” is no longer a long, slow conversion. It happens overnight, according to the business types. Thus we expect our lives to change as quickly.

I know this is one of my periodic rants and I won’t bring it up again for a while, but this is my plea. Yes, absolutely, make those positive changes in your life. You can do that. You can make your life what you want it to be.

But take your time. Make small changes. Take baby steps. Allow for things to happen in their own time. Cast your grains of sand into the ocean and let them become pearls.

Start small. The universe will make it big for you. That’s how it works.

Happy 2011!