I will not have my life narrowed down…
Joy is what happens to us when we allow ourselves to recognize how good things really are.
Recently, a friend shared an experience in which she was racing against time to mail gifts to the UK in time for Christmas. At the post office, while she prepared her package for mailing, a postal worker hauled parcels onto a truck parked outside. He was busy, but he came back inside and waited patiently while my friend finished sealing up her parcel. As he took it, he reassured her, “It’s OK. Your package will arrive before Christmas.” And with that he was gone.
It was a moment of grace and a reminder that kindness abounds everywhere. In the chaotic busyness of the season and anxiety about COVID and what’s ahead, it would be so easy to sink into a pool of discontent. And yet, even as we deal with whatever Omicron is unleashing, kindness and compassion thread their way through everyday encounters. It’s remarkable and gives me hope for 2022.
This liminal time of year marks an ending and a beginning, as we reflect and wonder what’s ahead. The times don’t feel as dark as they did at the end of 2021, but many of us are wearing a heavy mantle of weariness, frustration, and resignation as we navigate the days.
I have come to think of 2021 as the year of not taking anything for granted because so little seemed certain. Just when I thought things were settling down, they upended- and quickly.
Early in the year, the prospect of a booster vaccine seemed like a far away possibility- and then suddenly it wasn’t. We were lured into thinking plans were a safe bet, only to abandon them before they could gel. We lived our lives (many of us) alternating between venturing out and remaining close to home. And while all this went on, a sense of reason and the comfortable middle continued to lose ground as extremes became the norm: floods, fires, violent protests, and whacky distortions of truth. It was the best of times and worst of times – amplified. I found much of it exhausting.
The negative stuff can so easily take centre stage, but it is in a dark time we begin to see. * And there was much to see that was very good. Bright moments of light- profound gratitude, joy, relief, and delight- pierced the darkness and dispelled the gloom of deep disappointment, sorrow apprehension and misery.
It has always been this way.
COVID helped removed the veil, to make manifest the illusions, delusions, and present reality of day-to-day life. And while we can’t ignore the difficult news and problems, holding “what’s working well” together with “what’s not working so well”, can prevent a skewed focus that leads us down a tunnel of woe.
The list of “working well” was often seen in ordinary moments that we think of as small things. Among my favourites: gathering for a meal with my family- the first in two years- and the birth of our three grandchildren. The “working well” list is not evenly distributed among everyone but most of us have likely experienced precious moments. A few of mine include:
- Connections with family, friends, and neighbours
- Being outdoors
- Home, including neighbourhoods, as a place of safety and sanctuary
- A listening ear from a friend
- Ways of doing things which transformed what we thought was not possible into possible
- Access to vaccines and health care; our own health
- A good book with a cup of tea
- Trees, the sky, birdsong, and chocolate
The so-called small things in life are not to be taken for granted. My friend’s encounter with the postal worker seems small but it put a brake on harried busyness and changed the course of the day.
For me, the advantage of not taking anything for granted is that I’m less inclined to get fixated on expectations that fall flat and more apt to experience delightful surprises when they come my way. As one thing ends, something else will begin, which it always does. And it may be very good.
I do forget this sometimes, tired as I am with the endurance test of the last two years, but new beginnings can change priorities and inspire different ways of doing things. I sometimes resist the new ways because it’s easier to tread the familiar path. And yet I know a shift in perspective can help me see things with greater clarity and invite me to savour joyful moments when they come my way. A deep appreciation for the here and now.
In a year that called for caution, restraint, and limitations, I have decided to herald in the New Year by moving forward boldly with hope and joy. Refusing to believe my options are narrowed. Refusing to be constrained. To decide- and it’s a decision- to see expanding possibilities and not take anything for granted. It may seem an audacious declaration given we are still dealing with a pandemic (sigh…), but I am ready for a new beginning. What about you?
I don’t know what’s ahead but something will present itself. Whatever the new beginning, may it be accompanied by singing, dancing, and laughing out loud. And of course, lots of chocolate.
Let us welcome 2022!
*This phrase is in reference to Theodore Roethke’s poem, In a Dark Time from the Collected Poems of Theodore Roethke.
Photo credits of nature scenes: Linda M.