My coworker tells a red-faced customer that the New Year starts with our bones.
He is referencing the seasonable cold front that, only just now, has arrived in New York City. But, as I stare from the coffee shop window out onto the still-dark avenue, I think it’s possible his theory has nothing at all to do with the weather.
He’s right though, the New Year does start with our bones. And, after letting some heavy weight drop, I am left again — feeling empty. Just a feeble frame.
This feeling is a familiar one.
September 9, 2012. I stood in the center of my Portland living room. I remember staring with empty eyes at my black, cubed, IKEA bookshelf. I read the title off the spine of every book I owned.
It was my first day sober, and, I didn’t know what else to do. I could not sit or walk or make calls or cook or watch TV. Most importantly — I could not drink. I could only do this one thing — stare at my shelf full of books. And then, I sat on the stoop outside my tiny kitchen, my elbows pressed into my knees, and I smoked an entire pack of Parliaments. A lonely skeleton.
Days and weeks past. Then, months. Now, years. And, where substance is concerned — I am human again. I can see myself in the mirror without having a drink. I have created something. That old skeleton — a spine, made up once from those of my books and my rib cage, made up once from twenty premium cigarettes — is now covered with flesh. I made matter with which to cloak myself. And, with practice, I learned how to uncover meaning in my own assembly.
Meaning will come and go. But, one thing is sure — Time will always create new bodies for us to build. And I have come to believe, despite the hardship, it is important we continue the difficult work. Unending. Tedious. Painful. Slow. Rewarding. Beautiful. Unexpected. — Grace.
We sew our veins, organs, and muscles into place. We cover ourselves in this — our skin. Unique. Never again to be duplicated. We all start out with these bones. And, at the end, which is never really the end, we are something we weren’t before. Original in our effort. We are our own life’s work. — We become our willingness to begin.
In the New Year, cold descends. We feel it. The work commences.
It starts with our bones.