Life moves in circles. We don’t want to think about that. We want our lives to move forward, to rise further and further. We’d prefer not to fall. We’d prefer not to think of decline, at least not as it pertain to us. But any gardener can tell you that what grows will die back into the soil. And each year, the light waxes and wanes as the earth travels in its path around the sun.
For me, 2014 was a year of closing circles. In the space of nine months, I lost both parents, a beloved mentor, two former students, a friend, and my antique dachshund. Just as I would get my feet on the ground from one loss, another would descend like a rockslide to sweep me tumbling and scrambling. If I had any doubt that life is impermanent, I’ve learned that lesson in spades.
I also hurt my back badly enough that it took almost six months to regain any sort of normal movement or sleep patterns. So, 2014 was also the year that I learned, really learned in my muscles, bones, and heart, that we are all mortal, that we all age, that we all get hurt in some way, and that we all will cease to be some day.
The last of my losses for the year was my father who passed away at 93-years-old. My father was my great champion for all my life, supportive even when I was a wretched teenager, faithful in his perception of my intelligence, beauty, and ability. Even now I am grieving him, deeply. I got caught off balance when I realize that there was no one to call on Thanksgiving, no one waiting to speak with me. Grief is leaching much of the color from each day. This last landslide is a tough one to dig out from.
Is it banal to say that I am finally aware that my time, everyone’s time, is finite? We are being consumed at every turn. We are consuming at every turn the one thing that we that we cannot purchase or barter more of. And what of it? Surely most of us have sat at a funeral and listened to the priest natter on about another’s life now ended and thought what will be said at my own end? only to get up the next morning and slouch through the day.
I don’t want my life to pass me by. I don’t want to get to the end and realize that I haven’t partaken of every good thing, that I haven’t reached out to others with an open hand. I think that a person needs to really pay attention to avoid sliding through life, absorbed in the minutia and Facebook.
How does one get back on track? Well, this December, I’m going to join a group of other seekers – with Jeffrey Davis of Tracking Wonder on Quest 2015. I’ll be thinking through some serious questions and enlisting the aid of everyone (yes, everyone) to help me find a gracious path into 2015.
So today’s first invitation is by the lovely Jen Louden, an inspiring author and all around sparky person.
Grit without compassion is just grind. What would be most fun to create this year? How can self-compassionate grit support you in that creating?
Fun? Fun? Wow, I’m not in the headspace to consider fun…. but I see a wee spark out there in the big darkness of my heart right now — it is shining a little light on my almost finished manuscript, the little spark of fun says, hey, why don’t you just use some of those art skills to make these poems accessible… little hand-lettered or even digital broadsides. And while you’re at it, maybe make a few for some other people, just a tiny path to making poetry more accessible. Because I love poetry, and it’s so scary for some people. I want to make it easier for them to love it, to be shaken up by it, or find solace in it… So yes, it would be so fun to finish my manuscript, but it would be fun to do this other thing, this make it beautiful thing. And it would be more than fun, it would be ecstatic to devote myself for a whole year to writing poems and creating these little something mores, whatever they turn out to be.
And what is that self-compassionate grit? Death. Yep, you read that right. Death. Because as long as I remember that we are all going to die, some sooner, some later, but none of us when we exactly plan to or expect to, then I can let go of fear. Who cares if you fail? You’re going to die, and why not do what you want? Why wait to go to Ireland or buy a typewriter or play with watercolors or take a whole week off from work to write poems? You’re going to die. Buy yourself something that tastes good and take a walk outside and make love to your sweetie. Don’t worry about perfect, don’t worry about making a bunch of money, don’t worry about how fat your thighs are. You’re going to die and none of that will matter. But the people who read your poems (or see your film, or your painting, or eat your eclair, or see you smile), they matter. That’s some pretty great grit that could possibly make a pearl.