Why do I keep that old thing? Why do I use a tablecloth that is falling to pieces, faded, and stained with years of picnics, breakfasts, and dinners? It has served the family well, for generations, but isn't it time to get rid of it? Probably.
It has to be ironed, for one thing. But the smoothing out of wrinkles can be deeply satisfying. The fabric is so old, so soft, that it yields to the hot iron easily, settling into a relaxed order that I can feel in my bones. Silly, isn't it? To almost feel as if I could submit to such a process and come out all the better for it. Ready to serve again, ready to offer up a clean resting place for dishes and cutlery, bowls of pickles and olives, roast chicken and baked potatoes. Ready to be spattered with savory juices or melting butter. Ready to be anointed with a drop of two of red wine from a glass that's really too full.
Settled. That's the word. I long for that. Retirement hasn't been the relaxed and satisfying life that I expected. My energy flags. My body is too heavy from years of a hard work life and little attention to keeping it healthy. Too much fast food, too many late night glasses of wine, have made me sluggish in the approach to this new status.
I resist the smoothing process, I am unwilling to acknowledge that my old energy levels are beyond me, that I can't push through to achieve a goal. I am unwilling to deal with the inevitable bout of flu, or a summer cold, or the general aches and pains when the weather changes. I am stubborn. I know this. My grandmother and my mother told me repeatedly how stubborn I am. I want to submit to a smoothing -- but I am determined to hang on to the lumps and bumps, guarding them with a fierce, jealous pride.
Is this the reason I have no resilience in the face of adversity? Probably. Letting go and accepting new ways of dealing with what used to be merely quotidian tasks seems to be impossible.
Maybe this is why, when I stand here ironing this much-loved cloth that has covered so many tables, I begin to understand that to gain a new order, I must let go of the old.
In my heart I do believe that transformation can occur in the most unlikely places. But I've never owned that it might be really true for me, at my core. But I am ready, now, I think.
In this winter, I am waiting and ready for a new kind of spring.