I've always been a nerdy fan of the Janus word. Also known as a contronym, this lexical oddity manages to mean one thing and its opposite. Like dust—as in adding fine particles or removing them. Or oversight—as in monitoring or missing something. These words are two-faced, just like the Roman god for whom they're named.
Of all the Janus words out there (truth be told, there aren't actually that many), my favorite one is cleave. Here's a word that means to be very strongly involved with or attached to—that is, to cling. And yet it also means to sever by way of cutting—to split.
It's the perfect word, with its perfectly contradictory definitions, for this moment in my life. This week is the start of a 16-week leave (cleave?) of absence from a company I love in order to try to remember, or perhaps simply discover, who I am outside its walls. It's a chance to refresh and reboot, to think and write, to meet with old friends and discover new ones. Along the way, I'll be rejecting some old habits and rituals in favor of new ones. I'm just not sure what those new ones are yet.
Today, the first official day (after a weekend and Labor Day), I bounced back and forth between clinging to the familiar and splitting from it. I woke up at my usual time, walked the dog, and got my daughter off to school—familiar. Then my partner and I sat in our backyard and did some meditation together—definitely new (and let's not underestimate the power of finding new things to do together after 21 years of being in a relationship). I had breakfast with a wonderful friend and former colleague and talked shop—familiar. Then I accompanied another wonderful friend on her Tuesday morning routine, as she picked up day-old goods from local bakeries and delivered them to an organization serving those in need—definitely new but soon to become familiar, as I fell in love with the organization she works with, Foodrunners. I've stopped the flow of company email—new. But all day, I've sneaked peeks at colleagues via my Facebook feed—familiar. I'm writing—familiar—but for myself—new.
And so it goes. Today, I'm winding up. We'll see where I wind up.
Janus, it turns out, was the Roman god of beginnings, transitions, and endings. Sounds like my kind of guy.