Resolution: To write you no more

I mentioned the other day that I don’t make New Year’s resolutions anymore, but if I did, Maria Popova offers a list of suggested resolutions that is definitely worth considering:

1. Cultivate honorable relationships
2. Resist absentminded busyness
3. Live the questions
4. Pay attention to the world
5. Make room for “fruitful monotony”
6. Refuse to play the perfection game
7. Master the art of loving
8. Choose understanding over judgment
9. Make use of your suffering
10. Tell the world how to treat you
11. Use discipline to catalyze creative magic
12. Heed the intelligence of the emotions
13. Master the art of growing older
14. Walk your own path
15. Embrace your divine dissatisfaction
16. Celebrate enoughness

This stripped-down list, devoid of source and story, is thought-provoking but flat, so I urge you to treat yourself to Popova’s original list of 16 Elevating Resolutions for 2016 Inspired by Some of Humanity’s Greatest Minds over at Brain Pickings.

As an aside, when I sat this morning to type out the title of this post, not knowing yet what the title would be, my fingers automatically typed the title and first line of a David Helwig poem, and then the poem spilled out in its entirety from the cavern in my heart in which I’ve carried it for close to 40 years.


To write you no more poems.
No more, I tell myself, no more.
But still the words come out,
as once, as ever, as now.

I came to where I am
by growing where you were,
I sometimes find your words
are on my lips.

But you are gone,
you have your love,
and I perhaps exaggerate
as lovers do
to prove that they
are there at all.

Yet say again
that where I go on being
whatever it is I am,
you are there, you are there.

~ David Helwig

I don’t know which book of Helwig’s poems “Resolution” is from, I only know it’s not from Atlantic Crossings (Oberon Press, 1974), which has resided in my book collection since March 26, 1980. I know the exact date because it’s three weeks prior to the date stamped on the Calgary Public Library card inside “my” copy of the book.


I didn’t intend to steal the book, I swear. I just kept forgetting to return it, as I’m still wont to do, and then I moved to New Westminster, and it was easier to toss the book into a packing box than catch a bus downtown and return it to the library.

Perhaps I should make a New Year’s resolution: never steal another library book.

No, I don’t need to do that. I don’t abscond with library books anymore. Haven’t for decades. Now—and perhaps to assuage my guilty conscience, or maybe simply because I believe so fiercely in libraries—I donate books, dozens, often. Not to mention how I’ve bolstered the operating budget of many a library with the payment of my overdue fines.

As another aside, I just found out this morning that David Helwig is the father of poet, novelist, and Anglican priest Maggie Helwig, who wrote Girls Fall Down, a novel selected for the Toronto Public Library’s One Book campaign in 2012. And look at this: the TPL has a program where you can buy a book online and support the library at the same time. For people who shop for books online and (reformed) accidental book thieves, it’s an innovative way to support local libraries. I hope it catches on.

6 Responses to “Resolution: To write you no more”

  1. mariko

    wonderful poem, interesting thoughts for today.
    i solved my need for books by volunteering at our library, and it’s been satisfying and interesting, and lots of books i love have a good home there.
    thank-you, mariko

    • commatologist

      I’d love to volunteer at the library, cool that you’re doing that. Thanks for reading, Mariko.

  2. carin

    What a bundle of lovely gifts here. Thanks for sharing the list. Printing it out to read on a regular basis until what needs to sink in sinks in. And the poem… favourite lines: “I came to where I am/ by growing where you were”. Eyes watering as I type. As for accidental library thieves… we should form a club. (Lovely to see evidence of the old system, date stamps, etc.; I also remember rifling through narrow drawers of index cards listing book titles… dinosaurs still occasionally sighted in those days.) (:

    • commatologist

      Dinosaur that I am, I miss the date stamps and the wooden drawers of index cards. Not sure I’d want to go back to that system, but it was all quite tactilely satisfying. (By the way, I’d never have taken you for a library thief. We should form a club.)

  3. wilfred bright

    Right On! I say,rather than trying to relate my feelings of gratitude in more refined words. I read through all of the 16 Resolutions on Brain Pickings as to your suggestion and that helped immensely in the passing of what would have been just another boring day in this obscure corner of my little world.
    Fruitful Monotony, I can relate to that but my take on that idea would be the fine tuning in the art of existing in total obscurity but in a creative functional way and relying on instinct, intuition and observation, much like a sponge. Like James Baldwin said; “It takes a lot to wrest identity out of nothing.”
    Thankyou Leslie.

    • commatologist

      Thank you, Wilfred. You prompted me to ponder that Baldwin quote, and my wondering about it landed me on another Brain Pickings page where Popova quoted one of my favourite poets, David Whyte, as saying “our sense of slight woundedness around not belonging is actually one of our core competencies.” And of course I had to click the link through to the conversation with David Whyte where he expands on that, and I smiled when I realized he was talking about pretty much exactly what you just said about “the art of existing in total obscurity but in a creative functional way and relying on instinct, intuition and observation.”

      Here’s the way he said it:

      “To feel as if you belong is one of the great triumphs of human existence — and especially to sustain a life of belonging and to invite others into that… But it’s interesting to think that … our sense of slight woundedness around not belonging is actually one of our core competencies; that though the crow is just itself and the stone is just itself and the mountain is just itself, and the cloud, and the sky is just itself — we are the one part of creation that knows what it’s like to live in exile, and that the ability to turn your face towards home is one of the great human endeavors and the great human stories. It’s interesting to think that no matter how far you are from yourself, no matter how exiled you feel from your contribution to the rest of the world or to society — that, as a human being, all you have to do is enumerate exactly the way you don’t feel at home in the world — to say exactly how you don’t belong — and the moment you’ve uttered the exact dimensionality of your exile, you’re already taking the path back to the way, back to the place you should be. You’re already on your way home.”

      And of course when I think about those words in relation to you, I smile again because you and I have similar ideas about where home is. Leslie


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