The Blank Page.

It’s a new year, and turning over the cover of that 2020 calendar is as daunting as facing the dreaded blank page—if you’re a writer, anyway. Something as innocuous as an empty Word doc can take out the most seasoned of us. That maddening blink, blink, blink of the cursor saps the creative juices faster than a 1-star review on Amazon. Who needs it? Snap the laptop shut and watch some TV.

I didn’t do any writing over the long holiday season—which seems to begin right about the Labor Day weekend now. Summoning the courage to stare down that cruel cursor to type this brief post required an inordinate amount of coffee and some personal incentives I’d be mortified to share.

This year, cracking open that first blank page of my new planner was even more harrowing. The pages of the new journal are entirely blank, but for a faint background of gridded squares. I discovered the bullet journal system a few years ago, and I can’t explain how freeing it was. No more of those rigid squares dictating that the span of each day! Each new page offers a fresh opportunity to invent a new system for tracking appointments, to-do’s and gratitudes. Being self-employed, I consider myself the CEO of MSU  (as in “Making Stuff Up”), and the bullet journal system allows me the creative freedom to invent on a whim.

So why the new journal angst now? This is the first full year in twenty that parenthood hasn’t dictated some sort of schedule for my days. Both kids are in college now, and I’m still struggling to figure out how to jump start my weekdays without a mad dash to the high school. Sure, they still need me to pick them up from the Amtrak station when they visit home, and I’m thrilled to do it. But the days between holiday visits yawn long.

Which brings me back to the blank journal page as I contemplate what this CEO of MSU will make up for this year. Reading more than five minutes (maybe 30 seconds) of the news underscores the dire need in the world. A new war looms while the old ones persist—and my son is of drafting age, if that were to become a thing again. Thousands of children separated from their parents at the border. Far too many shootings at schools, churches, temples, mosques, law enforcement encounters, and in our homes. A billion critters incinerated in Australia. And every year passing is now the hottest on record.

The urge to make a meaningful difference in a world that seems “The End of Days,” is powerful. And my lack of will get to moving seems pathetic in comparison.

So I got myself to a workshop to set intentions for the New Year. Our instructor guided us through a series of questions to inspire thoughtful contemplation both of the year past and the new year ahead. Somehow, the words pour onto the page when someone else tells me to do it.

The kicker came when she suggested we pull out our calendars and mark down the dates when we would tackle the most pressing tasks. Which brought me back to those blank pages in the bullet journal. I immediately set out putting dates on pages and tasks by dates without a thought for the mockery of blinking cursors or the trips I’m not making to the high school anymore.

Even if it is all MSU, it’s mine to do, and the urgency of threats to Life-as-We-Know-It demand I get busy.

Now, if only I had some trick to get myself to tackle the mold in the shower. . . .

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