As I sit here writing on Saturday night, it seems hard to believe that New Year’s Day was only a week ago and Christmas Day just two weeks ago. Both days – the whole of the festive period, in fact – were blissful, but seem like a fond and distant memory now. Although we may only be eight days into the new year, I feel well settled in 2011 and looking forward to the months that lie ahead. It is still officially winter for a while yet, but internally I feel the fresh shoots and new beginnings of spring. Maybe this feeling is because there was sunshine this afternoon & the day seemed so bright and glorious after what seems like months of grey skies and cloud; it’s as if a carpet of snow has finally disappeared to reveal new life – lots of green – underneath. Maybe this feeling is because my new diary looks crisp & fresh, wonderfully white and blank – waiting for lots of new plans & adventures (& undoubtedly the more mundane ‘check bank statement; mend socks’ kind of lists too). Maybe this feeling is because I am experiencing a new start: a new job, living away from home for a few days a week, all the new experiences that these two changes bring – experiences that will fill the crisp, white diary.
Maybe this feeling is because various long-term goals and projects have drawn to a close recently and I feel released from them. However pleasant or satisfying a task maybe, if it goes on for long enough then it’s inevitable that we long for completion, an end, a sense of achievement and finality. Today my mission to use up every lipbalm that I own finally came to an end. This has been a mammoth undertaking, three years and two months in duration. One day, I realised that I owned a ridiculous number of lipbalms. The lipbalms came to symbolise so much else: a waste of money, a waste of natural resources, the accumulation of more stuff, buying, buying, buying, trying to fill a whole but always feeling empty. So I decided to break the cycle and vowed to not buy another until everyone that I owned had gone. Little did I imagine that it would take 38 months to achieve this aim (although the fact that I only use lipbalm at night and in the morning should have been a clear indication that it would take some time to chip away at the mountain of pots, tubs and sticks). But here I am – released from the bondage of excessive petroleum-based product ownership. In many ways, I feel the whole lipbalm saga (of which there haven’t been seventeen previous posts, although I have mentioned it in the past – I just chose seventeen for the post’s title as it seemed to capture how long I feel it’s been going on for) is emblematic of the whole ‘life of one’s own project’: it’s been about mindfulness, listening to myself and not to marketing pressures, patience, determination and a bizarre obsession with little tiny things that seem to represent much bigger issues.
And what did I do when I finally chucked the last tube this morning? Why, I went out and bought another pot (two in fact – one for home, one for my travel bag for work). I went for the classic choice of Vaseline in the end, as I felt so overwhelmed by the amount of choice on the lipbalm shelves – it all just seemed too confusing. At the same time, buying these two tins of Vaseline was perhaps one of the most satisfying consumer choices I have ever made. It felt great to be buying something when you can hand on heart say that you really don’t have anything left that you can use instead – a clean start, a fresh slate, a new lipbalm beginning to accompany all the other changes and fresh starts that are happening. And what colour are the Vaseline pots? Green and white, of course – like the blank pages of my new diary and the new shoots in the fields outside the window.