Here’s my column for New Year’s Eve as I wrote it (not as it was published, with a healthy two inches stolen to allow some stupid ad to run below me, not that I’m bitter or anything).
If you haven’t watched “A Knight’s Tale” yet, you should. Even if you pick it up out of sheer love of all things Heath Ledger, that will be enough for me.
But on this day when people start thinking about quitting smoking or running in marathons, or being more kind or less strident, or any of these things, perhaps you should take a few hours out and watch this silly, yet wonderful movie.
Laugh at the guy who walks down the road naked, or the other one who keeps wanting to “fong” people. Swoon at Heath Ledger (I’m partial to that, myself), but more than anything, consider the moral (if there is one) of the story: you can change your stars.
There are several lines in the movie that I can quote and pull out at odd moments. One of my favorites is when the character Chaucer says “Writers give the truth scope.”
Another is when the hero is being told to leave by his loyal friends–to run away, rather than be arrested for impersonating a noble. The hero again turns to Chaucer and says, “Would you see me run, then?”
And Chaucer says, simply, “with all the pieces of my heart.”
That line makes me cry every time I watch this movie, almost as much as when, well, I won’t tell you the end if you haven’t seen it.
If ever there was a New Year’s story, it is this one of the peasant who finds a way to be himself and still become a nobleman. He “changes his stars.”
I have used this line on my daughters when they tell me they “can’t” or “won’t” because of some story we have told them or they have told themselves about who they are and what their strengths or weaknesses are. Change your stars, I tell them, become that which you think you have no chance at.
As we think about altering our lives in the new year, perhaps this is the time to consider what stars we might change, what course we might alter, armed only with the sheer will to do so.
It would be great if we could decide to lose weight or quit smoking or run for political office and these things would just happen. But they don’t. We have to act.
Over our Thanksgiving holiday, my daughters all threw pennies in a fountain and made wishes. “Do wishes come true?” my youngest daughter asked.
“Only if you start working toward it once you’ve stopped wishing,” I told her.
“Darn it,” she said, “now I’ll never get my wish.”
But once I learned she wished for a box of donuts and not an Ipod or a laptop, well, let’s just say her stars began to change a little.
Still, we began the talk of how to make our lives be not what it is, but what we want it to be. We began the conversation, sort of a realist’s guide to fanciful wishing. Start where you are, the conversation goes, and put one foot in front of the other until you have the thing you wish for.
Our stars can change; we have the tools within us to change our habits, our weight, our careers—or, simply, our attitude toward all of the above.
It is all there waiting for us to do; but we have to know what we want and ache for it with all the pieces of our hearts—and then we have to begin the long walk toward those stars, stepping over, around, and through the barriers before us.
Here’s to a new year of changed stars and dreams backed up with action.