On a cloudy New Year’s morning, I was browsing through images in the online library for my digital art display, looking for one that suited a reflective mood. Composing my intention-setting blog post was still a work in progress. Last year’s resolution—to replenish my energy while being careful to avoid overscheduling—had left me feeling somewhat better than in the previous year, but as December went by, I still didn’t feel that my energy had gotten back to where I wanted it.

Where that not-quite-there feeling came from, I wasn’t sure. Physically, I gained better fitness after a second season of virtual coaching, in which my husband and I won more medals at the rowing regattas. Work hadn’t been overly stressful, and I was sleeping reasonably well. I didn’t have any overwhelming demands on my time. Still, there were days when a small errand or additional task set off my subconscious threat detectors, leaving me with a sense that my time needed to be more vigilantly guarded.

There seemed to be no real basis for that in the present. Everything I needed to do was in fact getting done, and I had enough free time to laze around reading novels or whatever. That didn’t appear to be translating directly into more creative energy, though. Here I was on New Year’s Day, and I still didn’t have a clear intention for 2023 or a blog post to go with it.

In the digital art library, an image of a curving walkway, apparently in a public park, caught my eye. It didn’t suit the season, with yellow-tinged treetops of early spring in the background matching the path’s dusty color. I clicked on it anyway, just to see how it would look as an imaginary window on my wall.

Photo of a dusty yellow walkway with grass, boulders, and trees in the background.

A pigtailed girl in an old-fashioned dress ambled out of my subconscious and stepped onto the walkway. She looked vaguely familiar in her bright red shoes, with a small dog prancing at her heels, but I couldn’t quite place her.

“You’re not one of my past selves, are you?” I asked, in a doubtful tone.

The girl responded with a cheery smile and a shake of the head that set her pigtails bobbing. “No, I’m Dorothy, your to-do list. You can call me Dot. After all, you’re in the dot-com age where most of your planned tasks involve staring at a screen. I make a good personification of them, if I do say so myself.” She twirled in a happy pirouette, and the dog gave an enthusiastic yip.

I took a step forward on the walkway, realizing that the hard surface under the yellow dust was made of neatly laid bricks.

“Oh, you’re Dorothy following the yellow brick road!” That explained the sense of familiarity, but how she might relate to the mundane tasks on my to-do list baffled me. Taking a quick glance around, I didn’t see any wicked witches or other potential hazards. The scenery just looked like an ordinary park.

“I’m Dot,” the girl told me once more, “and right now, I am standing still on the yellow brick road. Even in adventure stories, we’re not obligated to keep moving all the time. This is Sunday, and it’s also New Year’s Day—is there really anything that you need to do right now?”

I considered the question for a moment. “Not much, just some laundry and a rowing machine workout, neither of which has to be done at any particular time. I do need to get my New Year’s resolution and a word of intention clear in my mind, though, and finish writing my blog entry.”

“You want to change how you feel about time,” Dot helpfully summed up the rambling thoughts I’d been sifting through before her arrival, “so as not to tire yourself out by staying on the alert for things that aren’t really dangerous.”

“Yes—it sounds rather silly, doesn’t it, when you put it like that.”

“Not at all. Even if leaving something undone is not dangerous in itself, worrying about it can cause real problems.” Dot reached down and gave Toto a gentle pat. “If you didn’t write your usual New Year’s Day post, your readers wouldn’t pay much attention because they are busy with whatever is going on in their lives. Some of them might notice, but they wouldn’t fault you for lacking imagination. You would judge yourself for falling short of your own standards, however—and that’s where the harm lies.”

Small shadows flitted over the yellow bricks, and I glanced up to see a troop of winged monkeys briskly flying by.

“Okay, that makes sense to me, Dot. How would I turn it into a resolution and a word of intention? Resolve to remind myself not to feel burdened by self-imposed tasks? Unburdened?”

“That’ll work, yes—and one more reminder, too. Sometimes, getting where we want to go is a lot easier than we may think it is.” Dot gave me an impish wink, clicked her heels together three times, and promptly disappeared from the picture.


  1. Wow—love this—so cool! Happy New Year & wonderful post. ✨✨✨

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