Excavating insights buried in life’s busyness before the year passes.
You know how guys typically want to solve a problem rather than listen to it? How they prefer to fix it and move on?
I think we might be the same with our bodies, no matter what our gender.
I know I am.
When my body complains, whether with an ache or an illness or a tough emotion, I’d rather move the discomfort along as fast as possible rather than sit down and listen to what is being expressed through it; unless it insists, by refusing to depart.
Being “cool” was REALLY important to me growing up, but I don’t need to be the cool mom. In fact, it’s a red flag when my son tells me that his friend said I’m “cool.” Parenting isn’t a popularity contest. It’s a privilege and a vocation and a sacrifice–of coolness–every day.
I have learned so much, and I have so much to learn; and these two will always go hand in hand.
Just this month, I learned that although I practice conscious living (as a human being, a student and a teacher), I have a lots of anxiety.
I carry a large chunk of that in my stomach.
Instead of noticing that anxiety, and feeling into it, and listening to it, I distract myself.
51 one years and I’m still learning new things about myself. That’s pretty cool.
(But how did I miss it?)
I danced a lot this year.
I helped launch a son into a semester break abroad.
I watched my baby grow taller than me.
I began co-teaching with my husband.
I spent 10 weeks away from home.
I endured an emergency root canal.
I missed Halloween.
I did not not finish “my book.” I took lots of stabs at it, from all different angles. I’ve despaired. There have been many more nightmares straddling the conflicting desires of privacy and expansion. The desire persists.
AND what about you?
What say you in farewell to 2014?
I have always been a woman of faith. Of many faiths. As a child, I lived in Philadelphia, New Port News, Denver, West Point–and in each place I came across faith–from shades of Christianity–Southern Baptist and Mormonism–to Judaism, Hinduism and Buddhism.
I grew up tolerant and curious.
When I had my own children, I wanted to share the rich world of faith with them, but I didn’t know where to turn. We joined a Native American Prayer Circle, a Wiccan celebration, a Unitarian Universalist Church and an Episcopalian congregation. Each had its own gifts, but none felt entirely like home.
Eventually, I resigned myself to home-churching my children like some do with school. I created ritual and tradition from all that had been vital to me on my own spiritual journey: poetry, silence, reflection, candles, music, dance, yoga, community, service, contribution, stewardship, teachings, conversation, questioning, birth, death, rites of passage, devotion, understanding, love.
In this way, I’ve come into a deeper relationship with myself, and the seasons inside and out… as the wheel turns. It’s too soon to tell if I’ve served my children well. This morning we shared a Solstice Brunch before they left for school. There was a quiche from our neighbor’s eggs. There were orange bees wax candles. There was a poem and a teaching about the importance of the darkness. Of balance. Of rhythm. Of rest. And then they hurriedly removed their plates and rushed out the door.
In the silence of my home, my thoughts turn toward the massacre of a week ago this morning. I remember a Pema Chodron quote I read yesterday and make a mental note to ask my boys what they think of it:
To stay with that shakiness—to stay with a broken heart, with a rumbling stomach, with the feeling of hopelessness and wanting to get revenge—that is the path of true awakening. Sticking with that uncertainty, getting the knack of relaxing in the midst of chaos, learning not to panic—this is the spiritual path.
I don’t know what this world will render of my men. I know I will learn from them as they expose and improve upon my weaknesses and strengths. But neither will be central to me, as my job will be to continue my walk with faithfulness–steeping into the seasons, learning from what comes, growing when I can.
This is one of the first years that Solstice has been especially significant to me. Of all the holidays that I love, it’s the only one that is not made up, not assigned a time or meaning, or laden with traditions and expectations. It’s just the Earth, right outside of my door, tilting as far away as it can from the sun, as Winter sets in.
The older I get, the more I appreciate all this tilting and turning, and the more I understand it–in my bones.
That’s where I like my religion.
by Lloyd Meeker
Of my blood, my generation’s now the oldest, the link between the lives before and lives unfolding behind me; carries a slow simplicity, imperfect and complete.
Ancestors circle, surround me tonight, I hear them more plainly every year. This night they ask questions that have no words, and no escape.
Tomorrow when the new year’s sun strikes the keystone of my heart, what light I’ve kept alive, all I have to give, will answer.
“The ice was here, the ice was there, The ice was all around: It cracked and growled, and roared and howled, Like noises in a swound!”
The Rime of the Ancient Mariner
~Samuel Taylor Coleridge
She stepped onto the ice just as the sun dipped behind the mountain. It was a cold night, and for that she was grateful. The lake was certain to be solid. She skated her way into the vast expanse of frozen water, and waited expectantly for the moon to rise, but it hid behind the mountain and then was covered by clouds.
In the South, Venus beckoned high in the sky, and drew her closer, toward what little light remained in the day as the puck was passed from person to person.
She didn’t play. It was enough to be on the water–instead of in it. Up until this moment, falling through the ice had been her worst fear. The truth was that it still terrified her; only now, she was equally enamored by daring to stand upon it.
Tonight’s skate held none of the distractions of her first time–just the week before–when the light was golden and the ice was covered with fresh snow–kindly hiding the cracks and ridges, not to mention those small, circular, dark… holes?
(Were they holes? Had there been several fisherman? Dozens? Her young son made this claim each time they came upon one; but she knew it couldn’t be so. Hardly a soul had been out on the lake this year. Yesterday it had been in the forties.)
On that afternoon a week ago, her blades etched designs in the fresh snow and delighted her with each stroke and curl. First she skated out her name, and then those of others–the children, and the other mother–the one who skated in her skirt and woolens, way out into No Man’s Land, past the beach where they summered, and all the way toward the reeds where the kayakers would paddle.
She continued writing, carefully crafting a “C”, and kept her eye on Carol; and on each of the children, holding them not only in her view, but in the protection of her expanded awareness.
This night was too dark to do the same, and so she endeavored to remain near them, in the middle of their game and around it; not only to keep them safe, but to feel safer herself. Often one or two of them would make proximity impossible–disappearing in the dark, toward the landing, a quarter mile away.
A half-hour later, she made the journey there herself, to share some dinner in the company of her son, but once he was handed a hockey stick, he darted back into the dark night, leaving her… alone.
She rushed to pack up her basket and slip on her mittens, but just as she began to skate into the night toward them, she heard it. A rumbling so loud it shook the sky and echoed on every bank, and in every curve and crevice–west and east and north and south–until they all came racing toward her–just as moon lit up the ice.
“We felt that,” the other mother cried.
“The ice cracked in a circle around me,” her son added.
She smiled and laughed with relief, turning with them toward the landing, and then paused–lingering a moment with the moon.
She was relieved to have missed it–the feeling of it underneath her, the uncertainty, the great vastness of something bigger than herself; but she was equally riveted by being so close to something so consuming.
Nights later, it stirs her still. She does research about ice and discovers that frozen water moans and groans like this with each shift in temperature.
“...In that hazarding, you take a step onto surfaces that
you’re not sure will hold your weight…
keeping the depth of your attention on what calls you…
this is the kind of courage it takes to claim
your happiness in life.”
(Crossing the Unknown Sea: Work as a Pilgrimage of Identity, David Whyte)
The clutter of Christmas creates such a contrast in its absence that our home mirrors the bare bones outside. I spend the day indoors, in silence, beside the woodstove, steeped in the frozen world around me.
The thing I appreciate about the illusion of time is that provokes me to start anew, to reset. I relish in new beginnings… sharpened pencils, crisp calendars, a freshly cleaned room.
Just before New Year’s, my husband and I lost all the work we invested–4 months of financial data–with the tap of the wrong key. This, after we committed to getting our finances clean over the holiday break.
The simple loss of an online checkbook launches me into a darkness that matches the shortest days, and seems small-minded considering the hardships of others–cancer diagnoses, house fires, tragic accidents. Nonetheless, in the span of an afternoon, I hit bottom, leaning my head against the post that holds up our house as if I could no longer stand on my own.
Strikingly, the next morning, I wake free. Free of the whining I did every weekend in the face of figuring out our finances. Free to begin again. With a new attitude. And so we do. On New Year’s Eve.
While others head out to parties, my husband and I devote the entire evening toward reconfiguring what was lost; and we accomplish this, just before midnight; feeling weary, but warrior-like–capable of anything!
We wake the next morning to a flat tire, a leaking sink and a clogged dishwasher. My husband attends to these while I examine our finances in the light of day–determining that we overspent in way too many categories for way too many months to rebound naturally.
The irony of this mismanagement is that this is first chapter in our parental lives that we are both gainfully employed; while at other times, we’ve creatively dealt with months of unemployment without accruing any debt.
Thus, this first day of the New Year seemed a sour omen for 2012–or a quickening of everything harsh we must traverse to reach toward something new. It takes another day to surrender into this latter orientation, but surprisingly we do, with gusto.
Like the wooly bear caterpillar in the Arctic whose darkness enables him to absorb the solar heat, we embrace the light ahead no matter how harsh the cold.