As Before, So Ahead

As Before, So Ahead

Yesterday I went to a trendy hair salon. I had imagined that there would be women and men lined up for refreshed or fancy hairstyles, as this week-end is New Years’ Eve: parties, dinners, nights out on the town. But the place was quiet, with only two stylists in the salon and one other customer getting a decidedly ordinary cut, like myself. I inquired of the owner whether her week-end schedule was packed.

“Not really,” she answered. “A lot of people are going out of town for New Year’s, a long week-end. Maybe they’re getting ready mentally for 2012 and whatever changes are ahead?” In the mirror I saw her palms turn up to emphasize either lack of interest or puzzlement. “But I’m throwing a big party. What about you? Big event? Resolutions?””

I laughed.“We’ll be home New year’s Eve, maybe watching the ball, just as likely reading and listening to music. And I host an annual potluck for my family, maybe fifteen people. But that’s on Sunday, 2012 by then.” I closed my eyes and breathed out slowly as prickly pieces of hair rained down. “No resolutions. Change happens all the time, like it or not. And much does not.”

She smiled blandly and offered no argument. We fell into a companionable silence as she expertly snipped away.

On my way home I mused over the fact that I have not made resolutions for at least thirty years. One reason is that the more time I spend on earth, the less apt I am to believe significant changes can be simply strategized and accomplished on a clear timeline. My life refuses to be run like a business no matter how I have tried.

Another is that if I set external goals that matter less to me than internal ones, like lose five pounds, walk more miles, save more money, I begin to lose interest. Those are often easier to attain and thereby less challenging; if they are unpleasant as well, they might fall off my list altogether. At this curve in the journey, I am more interested in change that occurs not only due to intention but as a result of unexpected phenomena. The surprise element can make a big impact.

But the main cause of my lack of resolutions on the eve of a new year is simple: in order to remain in good working order, I have to keep tuned up all year long. There are matters of errant steps and reactive mishaps to address. And good choices, hard-won triumphs, and serendipitous occurrences to savor.  Waiting until the end of the year to review my strengths and weaknesses, goals met or forgone, doesn’t work for me. When another year has passed, it is just so many days experienced. As I see it, time flows less like the proverbial river than an improvised dance through the solar systems and, ultimately, galaxies. I want to be participating daily in that dance. And I want to pay close attention to the stories we create with each move.

I generally awaken fully conscious, whether or not I am always thrilled with those first moments. I put the kettle on and make a mug of tea to accompany my bagel. Then I proceed with meditation and prayer. That way I don’t forget that, although I am a minute part of the global population, my actions and reactions can count in the scheme of things. I strive for clarity about what I can offer others and what I cannot; what I need to resolve and what I can let go; how I can encourage my internal and external well-being. At the end of the day I rewind the tape and review how I managed. I say a prayer for as many as I can before burrowing into sleep. There is never enough hope and healing sent into the world. We all benefit from helping hold one another up.

But today I revisit what mattered when I was a youth. I kept a diary for years and scribbled a long entry on the cusp of each new year. There were many dreams then. True love. A few solid achievements. Creative freedom allowing me greater output. God’s love becoming more fully manifest. Nature’s beauties experienced more. I wanted to be a sort of gentle warrior in the world. These priorities have remained as potent to me as they were then.  The difference is this: although I was a romantic, idealistic teen (this was a girl who had as a motto: Courage, Strength, Tolerance, Determination, “C.S.T.D.” my impassioned rallying cry!), I had narrower definitions of what mattered. I couldn’t know what I was missing as I kept my gaze on the future. There was little experience to anticipate transformations already underway, much less those yet to come.

So, there have been conundrums and trials that demanded greater problem solving and fortitude. Love took on subtle shadings; it has been more constant in my life than I dared to believe. Creativity has more complexity and variances than I imagined. Success has become equated with work I hadn’t even planned on doing. Money has added far less to the final equation. Nature has sustained me as deeply as ever, but is more appreciated since places and creatures are more at risk.

And about God, well, for a child who calmly informed her mother she was visited by guardian angels in the midst of loss, this living cannot be anything other than numinous to me. Powerful. Mysterious. I tread this earth as though it is a short stop on the journey.

As we move toward a new year on this tilting planet, I reflect on the past, yes, but mostly on the inventorying I will continue. It keeps me honest with myself. It encourages greater freedom to welcome others into my life. All that has happened this year has brought you and me to this point. We are made of found bits and pieces, as well as grand intentions or courageous leaps. The unexpected occurrences, even those which are not wanted (sometimes mostly those), are what make us more adaptable, better informed, richer in heart and soul.

I have been practicing my living skills awhile and making a little progress day by day. I’m confident I can keep on with it. That’s good enough.  Maybe it can be for you as well.

Happy New Year

(This marks one year of blog posts—many thanks for stopping by!)

Credit: NASA. Andromeda Galaxy.