Notes from Janus

Posted on January 1, 2010
Filed under Columns & essays, Just for writers | 19 Comments | Email This Post

And now, let us welcome the New Year/ Full of things that have never been.” — Rainer Maria Rilke

janus-statue-in-vatican-wc-pdIt’s perfect — how the month of January is named for Janus, the Roman god of gates and entrances, beginnings and endings.  With his two heads facing opposite directions, Janus inspires us to look backward and forward as we step over the threshold and begin again.

Last year was a year of change and transition for me and my small family.

My only child, who moved to Chicago after graduating from college in 2008, purchased his first condo in the summer. On moving day, his dad helped him haul boxes up and down the elevator of his new residence while I organized his kitchen. Unpacking my son’s dinnerware and utensils, I recalled other “firsts” in his young life. First day of kindergarten. First formal dance with his girlfriend. First day of driver’s ed. First day of college at Notre Dame. How quickly those days flew off the pages of our family calendar.

Meanwhile — almost overnight — my widowed mother lost her old spark. Independent for years, she began forgetting things. Important things. She forgot that certain people in her life had died. She forgot phone conversations we’d had the day before. When tested by the neurologist, she couldn’t recall the name of the county we live in, or what day of the week it was.  Not surprisingly, in November she was diagnosed with early stage dementia — a diagnosis that immediately reordered my priorities and changed the shape of my days.

Looking forward; looking back. My son moves ahead with his new life in Chicago while my elderly mother’s world grows smaller and smaller. Clearly, the seasons of family living are unfolding exactly as they should. And despite the inevitable heartache, I find myself feeling deeply grateful for every step, stumble, or leap that brought me to this path, this life of mine.

As a freelance writer with a supportive husband, I’m lucky to have the flexibility to help my mother when she needs me. Impromptu trips with Mom to the doctor’s office or the emergency room aren’t fun — but they’re not as much of a challenge now as they would have been when I had office jobs.

Still, there’s no denying that it’s been a very tough year for every writer and journalist I know. If there’s a silver lining in any of it, the sad state of journalism here in Detroit forced many of us to try markets we’d neglected or overlooked when we were employed full-time or working other assignments. Out of necessity in 2009, I developed new writing workshops. I worked harder at promoting Writing Home. I outlined a viable idea for a new book project. Several of my personal essays were published in national anthologies and magazines. Best of all, a piece I wrote about my Zen garden was accepted for the March/April 2010 issue of Victoria — a lifestyle magazine I’ve read and admired for years. Regardless, freelance writing is a crazy business, so I’m forever grateful to my local writer pals and support groups for keeping me (somewhat) sane last year.

Typing these notes, I’m also overcome with gratitude for all of you who read my reflections here. Your comments and support always cheer me. And I apologize for not visiting (and commenting on) your blogs and Facebook walls as often as I wish I could. Too often lately, real life has made it impossible to spend as much time on my computer.

I’ll be offline for most of next week too. It’s time to pull down the Christmas decorations and begin the ritual of clearing out things I no longer need — holiday treats and leftovers; old clothes and grudges; bad attitudes. Getting started this morning, I opened our front and back doors to let the old year out and welcome the new one inside. It’s an old Celtic custom that’s still praticed in parts of Ireland and Scotland, and it makes perfect sense to me. The first cold blast of January wakes me up and hurries me back to work.

So there you have it. Doors opening and closing. Endings and beginnings. I wish you all a peaceful, healthy start for your own new year. — Cindy La Ferle

Comments

19 Responses to “Notes from Janus”

  1. Dominique on January 1st, 2010 2:53 pm

    Happy New Year :)

    Congrats on your recent writing successes. I’m still plugging away at my own blog, and now I have to really turn my attention to developing that workshop I’m doing this spring on blogging for writers. Things are certainly challenging for writers these days, but ever more interesting as there are so many opportunities and avenues we never really considered following before that we feel free to follow now.

    Here’s hoping 2010 will bring us all more successes and happiness as 2009 fades into the history books…

  2. Bridgette on January 1st, 2010 3:25 pm

    Cindy, thank you.
    I’m off to open doors now!
    Best to you in the New Year!

  3. Istarrlife on January 1st, 2010 5:14 pm

    I really like that custom! Of we go, into 2010- higgley-piggley! That is a perfectly written post!

  4. Sharon on January 1st, 2010 7:53 pm

    Cindy, that Rilke quote has been my mantra over the last couple weeks as I look forward to a new year, a fresh start, lengthening daylight, and “things that have never been.” Here’s hoping we all enjoy peaceful moments amidst the opportunities and challenges in the year ahead.

  5. Cheryl Wright on January 1st, 2010 8:01 pm

    Lovely and precious thoughts Cindy. They carry a sense of “zen” which settled quite nicely with me today as I ponder what was, what is and what could be with faith in God, vision, focus, hard work, persistence and enthusiasm.

    Blessings to you.

  6. Debra Darvick on January 2nd, 2010 10:47 am

    Does the door charm work on Jan. 2, as well? I love that! Mega congrats on the Victoria acceptance. Thank you, Cindy, for being the center of so much good sharing. Here’s to 2010…..

  7. Cafe Pasadena on January 2nd, 2010 2:38 pm

    Thank you, Cindy, for visiting my Cafe in Pasadena today! Hohoho…

    Looks like you’re from Michigan. Did you know our current mayor is a Michigan grad? Plus, he teaches law at USC.

    I really like your blogsite. And, the fact you came out here to visit me from the warmth of Michigan can only mean I have to add your site to my blog list.

    Janus de God is for January? Ever thought of doing a series of posts on the various “God’s?” and what they represent?

    Well, Cindy, now I have to travel to your state at least weekly! Have your Merriest New Year!!

  8. Cindy Gray on January 2nd, 2010 2:46 pm

    Cindy–a wonderful piece. Living w/a loved one who has dementia is challenging, looking into an uncertain future is difficult and painful at times, living in the present is important–not always easy, but so very important. Thank you for your insightful perspective–life, indeed goes forward and so must we. I will welcome 2010 w/open doors. Sending you and your family many blessings in the new yr.

  9. Joanna Jenkins on January 2nd, 2010 5:20 pm

    VICTORIA MAGAZINE! I LOVE that magazine and will be on the lookout for your article! (You’ll promote it here too as a reminder, right :-) Congratulations Cindy! That’s BIG!

    Thanks for a great year of reading. Your are a gifted writer and I’ve enjoy every post.

    Happy new year to you and your family.

    Cheers,
    xo

  10. cindy on January 3rd, 2010 7:49 am

    Although taking down Christmas is not as fun as putting it up, I find certain satisfaction in finishing things, be it a season or a year or a decade. And yesterday I had to laugh as I used the last onion, the last bit of cheese, the leftover broccoli, to make a delicious soup. Clearing out and making way for the new invigorates!

  11. deb @ talk at the table on January 3rd, 2010 6:17 pm

    Love the door tradition !
    And I echo the gushing of your fans above.
    Cheers to your publication, looking forward to reading it.
    Your words are a gift.
    Thank you.
    (and as the school year begins, and I catch up on some reading and writing, I will add your review to the Amazon site. I realized I meant to do this.)
    Looking forward to all that 2010 brings. I think it will be fabulous. In the way that living always works it way out to be.
    Wishing peaceful days for your Mom. and you.

  12. elizabeth on January 4th, 2010 2:04 am

    This is such a wonderful post. I’m so glad that I visited today.

  13. Cindy on January 4th, 2010 7:34 pm

    Thanks to all of you for these wonderfully supportive comments, and for sharing some of your own New Year’s Eve rituals here. (Cindy H., you know that soup-making is high on my list of favorite rituals. Love it.) And I love how so many of you sound optimistic at the beginning of the year! — Cindy La Ferle

  14. Kathleen Scott on January 5th, 2010 11:11 am

    I’m adopting your door tradition. Great idea!

    I added your blog to Hill Country Mysteries after reading this post. So that my friends can share your insights.

    Hope 2010 brings great writing success. And continued strength and grace.

  15. cindyscoffeehouse on January 5th, 2010 6:50 pm

    Cindy, I love the Celtic tradition you mentioned about opening both the front and back doors! I think I’ll become an honorary Celt next January 1st!

    Cindy, thank you for your support over the years as a fellow freelancer in Royal Oak! We live in interesting times!

    Congratulations also on your articles in Metro Parent and Victoria!

  16. Marlynn on January 9th, 2010 8:24 am

    Cindy – thank you for coming over and visiting the Breeze. I, of course, wanted to come and visit you. What a fantastic find. I’m sorry to hear about your mother, but you are right, it is the cycle of life. I lost my mother 10 years ago and still miss the opportunity to be able to do more for her in her later years. God bless.

  17. Midlife Slices on January 14th, 2010 11:50 am

    I just read your latest post that included the poem and was thinking about Rainer Maria Rilke and then I read through the other posts and was pleasantly surprised when I came upon this one with a Rilke quote. I included a Rilke quote in my wedding vows.

    “Once the realization is accepted that even between the closest human beings infinite distances continue, a wonderful living side by side can grow, if they succeed in loving the distance between them which makes it possible for each to see the other whole against the sky.”

    This describes the relationship between my husband and I perfectly.

  18. Cindy on January 14th, 2010 11:57 am

    Thanks for sharing the Rilke quote from your wedding — that’s beautiful. And I remember being touched by it when I first read it too. — CL

  19. Nina on February 4th, 2010 2:07 pm

    Dear ms. la Ferle,

    I was looking for information on the roman god Janus when I came across your website. Although I soon found out this is not very useful for my essay, I kept on reading. I must say, you have an excellent writing style and I wanted to congratulate you on the way you can express your feelings – it’s a gift most of us aren’t blessed with. So there, keep up the good work and thank you.

    Nina M., the Netherlands

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