This new year of 2017: the phrase has a certain heft to it, a vaguely momentous ring. Is it that I like the number seven? It is soon to be the Year of the Fire Rooster according to the Chinese, and that image is fantastic and lively, rife with speculations, bordering on gaudy in my mind’s view. Everyone is taking note of a series of troublesome, even devastating events, wondering what on earth is to come next. How does one prepare for a purely speculative future?
The more usual response in January is to gird yourself with knowledge as well as embark on a serious personal makeover. But to what lasting effect? Transformation is a process that requires patience–but first, willingness. And the process can be an altogether different thing than expected.
I, for one, am resisting the tiresome spectacle of earnest change-making , of planning a noble siege upon my own life. Yes, I am being the odd woman out. Scads of folks scramble to conjure new or bigger goals; the ole inner critic nags anxiously until it’s done. Or perhaps you are not-so-subtly being encouraged to get on it and shine things up– for the betterment of those around you, too, one might gather. Either way, nothing like a team effort when it comes to change. Get out the megaphone and pom poms!
Hold on. What if you want to opt out of the New Year ritual? Say, coast along until a truly superior thought alerts you to a finer scheme? Or you feel the biting burn of discomfort and it finally behooves you to seek an alternative to the usual, even deleterious habits? Or just the annoying daily grind? Isn’t this the way we tend to address changes and if so, what’s wrong with that? Just a “take it as it comes” sort of program.
I’m honestly of two minds: take charge or let go. They both sound good. On one hand, I’m not keen on this year being a repeat of last year. There were tough enough times I’d rather not have to revisit–it seems many I’ve heard from feel that way. So, like the others, I do imagine what might be done differently, consider how to begin a quiet repair here and there. A few inklings and options intrigue me, but I’m not overly impressed with my plans. I tend to gather odds and ends, borrow ideas, encourage inspiration any way I can and then dump it all in a grab bag to sort out as I go. I try to find likely places for a host of ideas, then test their usefulness. If they are intrinsically good ones, things click into place– more or less. Of course some get trashed. I plan but can release those plans to a whirlpool of the fates. This is coming from a woman who used to schedule each moment hour by hour while raising five kids and tending to an often absentee husband/father. Who wasted not on second at work, driven by the need to do something more. Even occasional coffee breaks got penciled in. I admit I yet keep a daily planner but it’s primarily shaped by a few probabilities, more maybes with flexible timing. That is, other than walks and writing hours, which are firmly set and almost never altered.
I am at last old enough to grasp that life often morphs, takes switchbacks, carves new avenues without my barest judgment–or interference. Random events can have a remarkable and at times fearsome power. I would note much of what happens daily, anyway, is a result of much that’s out of my hands. I am rarely not surprised by one thing or another. Overall, despite shenanigans and hardships that may arrive, I wouldn’t edit out such randomness. I much prefer to call it life’s spontaneity. My willingness to embrace it makes a vast difference. Either I am digging my heels in, yelling “My way! My way or none!” as life tugs or yanks me along, making myself miserable–or I am hopping into a proverbial life boat or even raft, perusing the views and engaging with the experience. For the most part, the last intends to be the better choice and I am not one to dicker with good outcomes.
Much more fruitful to make peace and not war with human doing and being, if at all possible.
I sought out a lauded poet for more wisdom today. A famous poem written by the esteemed Alfred Lord Tennyson is entitled “In Memoriam.” I’ve noticed people like to offer up a few of its stanzas when bidding the previous year farewell. More popular parts of the lengthy offering go like this:
Ring out, wild bells, to the wild sky,
The flying cloud, the frosty light:
The year is dying in the night;
Ring out, wild bells, and let him die.
Ring out the old, ring in the new,
Ring, happy bells, across the snow:
The year is going, let him go;
Ring out the false, ring in the true.
I well appreciate this masterly poem; its entirety spans a great deal more than you may take time to finish reading. Tennyson addresses all manner of human ills and yearnings but also an abiding faith in God. It speaks to me, to a deep longing for a global plan of improvement that is built around concepts of enlivening harmony and a stable Golden Rule and basic dignity for all–those lofty principles that vast numbers of people fervently hope and work for, anguish over.
Ring out the grief that saps the mind
For those that here we see no more;
Ring out the feud of rich and poor,
Ring in redress to all mankind.
Ring out a slowly dying cause,
And ancient forms of party strife;
Ring in the nobler modes of life,
With sweeter manners, purer laws.
Ring out the want, the care, the sin,
The faithless coldness of the times;
Ring out, ring out my mournful rhymes
But ring the fuller minstrel in.
Ring out false pride in place and blood,
The civic slander and the spite;
Ring in the love of truth and right,
Ring in the common love of good.
There is yet more, every bit worth admiring as entreaty or prayer as well as poem. It’s heartrending as I carefully read each line from start to finish; I blink back tears. Alfred Lord Tennyson lived 1809-1892. It would seem we have quite a way to go.
When will the love of truth and right be fully rung out to the world and answered in kind? It gets sticky considering this question though such a worthy goal. We each have our versions of what may be right and therein lies the rub. And yet more far-reaching conversations need to be regularly undertaken, and resolutions made that benefit more than the loudest or biggest or privileged.
These lines, “Ring out the false, ring in the true”, lent a good weight as I read it over a few times. That is what I honestly intend. I might add, intend once again; I am willing to keep at something I believe in. And I’m not averse to change. Whereas, as a youth and then right into middle-age I sought it out, took pleasure in its woolly wiles, the mild to mad delights and a stubborn recklessness too often, I have come to regard it as more a major constant despite my naive attempts to provoke or direct it. Change abides, period. So I surrender to life and discover it provides me with more than enough personal power. Sometimes a letting go of the so-called mighty controls of our lives can render hands free to actually do more. I find immutable control is a tacky illusion best set out to the curb.
If you read my post often, it comes as no surprise that my faith in God is an overarching theme. I don’t expect to have the ultimate say on much of anything. If I thought life to be a finite thing, I might be frantic about finishing every good intention and making a mighty mark for posterity. If I believed that humankind is in its best and final renderings on a perhaps isolated and superior planet, I might not ruminate on the “beyond-ness” of all that’s possible, nor consider how alluring a spiritual journey the majestic cosmos offers. If I believed that hope was mere rhetoric, a vehicle for stultifying the masses rather than a potent state that sets us on a course toward good even amid rampant evil–then maybe I’d just throw in the towel. Soon to be uncoupled from my small clamoring life. But I think and believe no such things. God is my trail guide and eternal witness. And so I claim and try to follow Divine Love’s tender and powerful renderings. To act as if charged with fully caring about life.
(But wait, did someone out there murmur that he or she doesn’t even see God? Look truly at one another; prepare to be moved. Locate a corner of simple earth, a spot of sky; attune to energy or vibration, a presence, even a song scored for each and every intricate thing. You will find what you look for.)
Each year we are asked to appraise our pasts and survey the future. All I can do is consider the preceding times as interesting, bumbling and often worthwhile experiences. Invisible mini-missions of faith. Aspirations of intellect and heart. A series of habits both helpful and useless. It all illuminates struggles with my own deficits and others’. Which, by the way, brings up the question of why I imagine I can change another person? I cannot easily alter who I intrinsically am without an occasional strike or two of lightning. Such events have made major inroads; one can’t just sidestep big reckonings. And always there was a cost to pay for awakening to crucial insights a bit late.
The rest of the time I can follow my personal compass toward what makes good sense. The rest is hard work, little to no crying allowed. I can practice the best of what I know, looking forward to a better result. And also knowing it may not come to pass as expected, at all. Being open to clues or portents or wisdom or interventions all help. But in the end, it is all just faith. I have faith I will awaken in the morning, continue a journey that seeks to render authentic, true and good these days and nights–this life. Until I do not. The calendar I have hung on my wall is just a loose sketch of brief possibilities.
So make my resolution a double one. First: to accept that even unsolicited change is a force to respect and heed. Second: to get done the best I can whatever needs to be done.
I’ll be writing, anyway–on stained napkin, saved concert program, torn envelope; in a notebook or on computer or as a voice memo on my phone while walking. That’s the one thing I know for certain. So far.