The first New Years Day I ever spent with my husband, back when we had only been dating for a few months, we drank champagne on the National Mall then went to the Hirshhorn art museum.
This year we decided to again do some New Years museum hopping, and in fact, I hope this becomes a tradition now that we’re back in DC, the land of free museums. We met our friend Layla downtown, where a massive line was forming outside the Renwick Gallery for their new exhibit, Wonder. But the fine employees of the Renwick were doing a good job of moving the line along.
“Paul and I have never been the Renwick before,” I told Layla.
“Neither have I,” she said, “and I used to work in that building right across the street.”
That’s when Paul let it drop that he’d never seen the White House before.
“Well I’ve never been inside it,” I said. “Unlike some people I know.” I raised my eyebrows at Layla, who’s been on two – count ‘em two – White House tours.
“No,” Paul said. “I mean, I’ve never even gone to look at it from the outside.”
“What? Yes you have.” Paul spent a million years in grad school at the University of Maryland, a mere metro ride away from downtown DC. Certainly he’d walked past the White House at some point, or maybe seen it while on a middle school field trip. But no, he insisted that he hadn’t.
“Well, it’s right there.” I pointed down the street. We decided that after the Renwick we’d take a stroll to see it.
Inside the Renwick Gallery (the first building in the country built specifically as an art museum), nine artists had each been given a room and told to do something creative with it. (The official term for this is “site-specific installations.”) I’m not sure if they picked out of a hat or what, but while one artist got the massive, ballroom-sized salon, another one got the stairwell.
But they all worked wonders with the rooms they were given. We saw a giant rainbow made of embroidery thread, a life-sized tree made of interlocking wooden pieces, and pink-stained walls patterned with giant, shimmering insects.
After exploring the wonders of the Renwick, we stepped outside into a cool but sunny day and walked over to the White House.
I was still trying to understand why Paul had never seen it in real life. “I guess you lived nearby, so you always thought you’d come here eventually but never actually made the effort.” It was like when I lived in L.A. and never went to see the Hollywood sign.
“Yeah, I guess,” Paul said. He was busy looking for snipers on the roof.
After seeing the White House, the National Christmas tree, and the Washington monument, we hit the American History Museum before heading home. “We need to come down here more often,” Paul said, and I agreed. We talked about making one Sunday a month be a museum day. We didn’t say the words “new years resolution,” but it sort of was.
I have a lot of New Years resolutions already. For example, I intend to wake up earlier and meditate five times a week. (I’m using the website Headspace for meditation, and I’m really enjoying it so far.) I also have a lot of ideas about how I want to approach my writing career in 2016. In the past year, I’ve had several disappointments. This year I want to honor that feeling of disappointment and then working on letting it go as I try to regain my energy, focus, and self-esteem.
I want to find a new writing project to get excited about, but I also want to embrace where I am right now in the process and not be so worried about getting to the final result. Because what is the final result anyway? A published book? Once I reach that, I’ll just have another goal in mind. So instead of always chasing the next thing and never being satisfied, I want to enjoy where I am right now. I want to appreciate that some days I will go in circles and make seemingly no progress, but that’s okay because it’s all part of the process.
Maybe I need to think of myself as one of the artists from the Renwick exhibit. I don’t get to choose my room – some things are beyond my control — but I can still do something wonderful with what I have been given.