"But I'll spend my days in endless roaming; soft is the grass, my bed is free."
I left the window next to my bed open last night, because it is unseasonably warm, and because I relish fresh air at all times, but there is something singularly pure about nighttime air. I woke this morning to the sound of rain, and just listened. It felt as though I imagine peace tastes. I love these unexpected moments of pause, and the feeling that for one brief breath, the world is doing a happy sigh. The holidays begin in earnest tomorrow, and I have a lot to do. So much to do that I shouldn't be taking this time to write, but I went to bed last night writing this and woke up writing it, and figured that I should take the hint, and WRITE. Write about what?
Well, fortunately there are people in my life who have more focus than I, and whose focus both aids my vision (spiritually speaking) and sharpens my intentions. I was asked to reflect on my year - well, before the year ends - and since I have a week and change to do so, it makes more sense to reflect while I'm still IN it. As opposed to standing on the brink of new and old, and looking back over my shoulder to 2013 while anticipating the tabula rasa of 2014.
The thing about New Year's (as in the holiday) is that I really don't like it so much. Part of it has to do with the fact that for me, staying up through midnight fills me with mild dread. I do not like staying up late and I love/need my sleep. Also: I dislike those little horn things that people blow when the clock strikes midnight.To my ears, that is not a joyous sound. But these are small, external protests that I recognize don't carry too much weight in the scheme of things. New Year's Eve challenges the introvert in me to move into another year with others, when in fact, I like the quiet contemplation of home and hearth much more.
Additionally, we don't wake up the next day all that different, and I am a firm believer that renewal and resolutions can and should happen at any moment. The concept of time and how to mark its passage is a mystifying one to me, and I suppose the lot of us NEED a moment to mark change, to look for fresh hope in the flipping of a calendar. I get that. And some years are better than others - I think maybe what I am trying to do is look beyond the "better" and "worse" categories to the place of simple and happy acceptance. Acceptance is one of the many cornerstones of love. It is so much easier to accept and adjust the sails, reciting personal mantras of love than it is to fight gale winds thinking that we have any power over Nature - or others, for that matter. We don't. Nor should we.
If I could summarize my year, it would be through the words of a friend of a dear friend: "It's up to each of us to practice love. Don't waste any of your breaths."
Don't waste any of your breaths. In a year when death and illness have been waiting at every monthly flipping of the calendar, this message grabbed hold of my heart in the profoundest of ways. Watching a dear family friend struggling to breathe as we talked over his bowl of soup and I sat next to him holding his hand not wanting him to leave us, I thought about his labored breathing and wished for him that his last breaths would be sweet. Losing a student who chose to take her last breath, and watching our school community have our collective breath knocked out of us, without warning, without the armor to protect our hearts from the heaves and sighs that attend such loss. And so on, with others who left us too early, too suddenly, too painfully...learning through this that when we BREATHE, we have choice. Choice in how we love, how we forgive, how we greet and conclude each day. Choice in how our own breath speaks.
2013 has held a whole lot of questioning in its palm, and with every question, a flurry fog of few answers. CHOICE felt burdensome to me at times, which is really not all that helpful to those around me, and in the end, robs me of the whole breathing in the moment thing that I so deeply cherish. It was in autumn that my own resolutions emerged like a gale force wind: BREATHE, Paige. Breathe and practice love simultaneously. It's not that I didn't do this before, but rather that I wanted to be more intentional and mindful of the love that I was putting out.
John Green noted that "We tilt our lives to catch the wind." In May, I shared these words in a speech I gave about the gift of teaching. In June, our sweet magical son turned two and his relentless wonder at this magical world opened up like a Jack-in-the-Box, with so many words - his first "I love you"; his first "NO!"; his first "Why?" All of this LOVE shared so openly in a singsong voice, and with laughter in his beautiful eyes. 2013 has been a year of wonder.
So this is what life is, year in and year out. For every loss, there is more to gain - whether it is in the way of a shifted perspective, a slowing of the breath, or new souls who join us in the breathing. It is how we adjust our sails to catch the breeze in ways that ensure that everyone around us knows the power of the love we proffer. It is in the practice of love, which YES, requires practice. And it is in choosing how we spend each breath, guarding them, not wasting them, and breathing out love as we go, remembering that seas will be wide, and endless roaming need not be lonely.