Today is the beginning of 2022. And this is the times of year I get an urge to evaluate, resolve, and improve whatever I feel is lacking in my life. But I don’t really improve, I think. I move forward on a path chosen for me by life, to which I’ve made diversions — some good, some not so good. I grow.
Last New Year’s, I was so looking forward to relief from the pandemic, a relief from the divisiveness that has colored many of our perceptions of everyone else. Instead, I still feel stuck and sick. The world seems divided and conversations still often fraught and disheartening.
I want to say 2021 was a tough year — but every year is tough. And every year has it’s golden moments.
Earlier this year, I got rid of 10 years worth of journals. I felt like they weighed me down and I didn’t want to keep thinking I’d transcribe them, or look to them for stories. I wanted to move forward. I kept my visual journals, which I write and draw in. I show them to others. The other journals are my morning write, where I write first thing in the morning — as a memory aid, to process complex emotions, but also to write my way out of dark and brooding moods.
I figured any stories from those past 10 years I needed to remember were lodged in my head and heart. (They are also here on the blog and in the visual journals.) The act of cutting the past loose, of letting go of it, was quite wonderful. It wasn’t the first time I’ve done that. I’ve moved around a lot in my life, so shedding what seems unnecessary is a regular occurrence. I don’t know if it’s good or bad. I do know I’m not the same person I was when I wrote those journals.
I still write almost every morning, especially when it feels like losses are stacking up, building walls around me, limiting my view.
A few days ago I had problems with my guts (or gutty works, as my son calls them) and very high pain levels. I could see no farther than my own sickness and limits and disability and weakness. I didn’t try to write my way out of that short vision, that tunnel vision. But I read whenever I had a chance and that took me out of myself. Yesterday, I felt better. The day was cloudy but it was warm and when I got outside, I reminded myself on bad days to remember good days. Bad days seem to carry more weight, but that’s only a perception.
I hadn’t gotten a 2022 calendar/planner yet, and I needed some things from the store, so even though it was New Year’s Eve and I knew it would be crowded, I went to Kroger. I saw a friend who works in the flower section, and seeing him always makes me happy.
It was stressful at the store, but I was prepared for that. I was happy to be shopping for myself, to not be sick, to people watch, and to participate in the mundane crazy of life.
I remembered the woman I met there a few years ago, before the pandemic, who was having so much fun looking at all the varieties of cheeses. She was on reprieve from chemotherapy and hadn’t been to a store for a year or more. She told me, with only a hint of sadness, she was in stage 4 of the cancer that was killing her. She introduced me to her mother, who was waiting patiently with their cart some distance away, a small gray haired woman with tired eyes.
The woman talking to me looked to be in her 30s. Everything might end for her, but she shared such delight in all the shapes, colors and potential flavors laid out in front of us, that it only made sense to enjoy those moments with her. She blew all seriousness away, laughed at how hard it was to make a choice, talked about how wonderful her next meal was going to be.
Yesterday, there were no such conversations, but when I got in line, a man whose cart was laden with beer, let me go in front of him in a line that snaked halfway through the store. “I was raised to at least appear to be a gentleman.”
I thanked him, and said at least he had plenty to drink if the line took an eternity. He told me he didn’t like champagne and told me a story about his champagne hangover on his honeymoon. “I think between my wife and I we drank a case in one night.” So it’s beer for celebrations for them from now on.
We celebrate the new year, we organize our lives in units, so we can keep track of how we are progressing, attaining, reaching, struggling, overcoming, aging, surviving.
But every day, every morning, is a new year. Every moment fresh and new, even if time is filled with what seems to be mundane things, every breath is in itself a miracle. How lucky we are to keep moving forward in this colorful, confusing world that’s so dark and so full of light.
In this moment, this beginning, I want, next time everything again seems dark and painful, to feel that pain, yes, but to remember and have faith in love and delight. To remember the other fragile humans who connect with me, share their stories, bring my own life into focus.
This morning, at the window, I watched a strong wind gusting through the front yard, making the limbs of trees and bushes whip around. Suddenly and seamlessly, a hard, slanted rain fell, pounding down on everything. Would we have tornadoes? Will we have deadly winds that rip apart homes — all illusions of permanence and safety blown away? But soon soon, it had stopped. The rain dripped softly from the sky, the wind ceased.
Now, everything gleams on the wet ground. Even though I can’t see the sun in the cloudy sky, I can see the light.
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