A year that begins with all ones. You cannot miss that this is the beginning of something. I cannot help but write a bit about this new year starting today. I started the day, not with a recognition of this new year– but by going to the small Torah study Shabbat service at my synagogue. I was feeling all loose ends with my own inner compass gone awry. The service was short and it was fine. It wasn’t the answer to life or even to the day, but it was very good to be there. It turned out that today is my Rabbi’s 50th birthday and I could tell he was glad to see me. He reached for my hand in greeting when I came and took a seat next to him, after the service had started–which meant a lot. I needed a hand.
Katie Granju, a wonderful mama writer (or is that writer mama?) whose 19- year-old son Henry died this year posted yesterday on her blog Mamapundit— about the sadness and fear she felt at the year-end– a feeling that the change of the calendar is pulling her further and further from her now lost son. Her loss is specific, heartbreaking, pointed and tragic.
I am fortunately not facing any terrible loss, but I relate to an inner kind of fear/sadness that bubbles up with the markers of passing time. I think sometimes that the markers of time passing bring forth the feelings I carry about my own family’s not-so-long-ago immigrant heritage– the feeling of knowledge and ways of life fading in the distance and the feelings about people lost. I have never, ever liked goodbye. Neither to people, nor to a year gone by.
The reality is that many things in my own particular life keep getting better; my life gets bigger and I am still working through the big questions about what kind of work I want to do– or the even bigger question of what kind of life I want to have. But this fear of the passage of time leaves me — as I said in an earlier post– sad.
Sad or hopeful, it seems that a blogger should have some significant reflection on a year gone by, or words to live by in the coming year. And this year, for the first time in my life– it is New Year’s Day and I am a blogger on this day– so I am going to follow this real or imagined convention. I offer a few of my ideas about going forward in the coming year rather than reflection on the past. So here they are, my wisdom for the coming year. All but the first will be challenging for me to follow– so I do not speak as someone who has addressed each challenge.
1. Read poems. Read them out loud and to yourself and share them with other people. Email them to your loved ones, to me, to your mother or sister or brother or grown children. Read them at dinner or when you wake up. I don’t mean all of the above, but some of the above. Read most of them at least twice and some of them over and over and over. There is a reason that people reach for poems at birth celebrations, funerals, rites of passage, war memorials, protests; important beginnings and endings.
2. Talk more deeply and openly with some people you have never talked with before, deeply and openly. Tell your story, your real story to someone and listen to theirs. Reach for people you haven’t yet reached for–our lives are only as big as the breadth and depth of our relationships–which means showing ourselves openly and listening deeply.
3. Take good care of yourself–read on to understand what I mean. By this I don’t mean what a profit-oriented society means when that phrase is uttered. I don’t mean reach for greater comfort. I don’t mean you should go to a spa or buy fuzzy slippers or take a long bubble bath or stock up on your favorite chocolate. I don’t mean buy something and I don’t mean what magazines seem to mean when they say, “pamper yourself”.
What I mean is that you are precious and it is important to the world that you live a long time and live well and in good health. Take an honest look at your own struggles to take good care of yourself and take a stand on your own behalf. Take a stand for a long, healthy life for yourself. Exercise if you don’t. Slow down enough to eat healthy food but maybe less of it. Get outdoors every day and go slow enough to enjoy the sun and the rain and the change of seasons. Sleep. Take another stab at tackling addictions– for me this year it is going to be an effort to deal with a particular sugary candy that I reach for quite literally, when I feel I need a little sweetness– when things feel too harsh or too rushed. Do not give up on the well-being of your own body; it’s where you live. Oh, and do not try any of this alone. Find a buddy, a gang. I heard recently about a group of mothers of very young children who lived nearby each other and had a deal that if their porch light was on at 6:00 a.m. they wanted to join the others for an early morning trip to the gym. They knew they would never make it alone. Of my own advice, this piece about my physical health will be hardest for me to follow.
4. Play. Play with young people and play with friends your age. Try things. If your repertoire doesn’t involve being with people in a wide range of ways, laughing, moving around physically, getting silly and paying attention to things that interest someone way younger (or older) than you, get going. There is a reason that 5, 6, 7, 8 and 9- year- olds make real, fast friendships after one afternoon of running and bumping into each other, laughing, playing tag and trying many things together. Play. Our own comfort zone is way too small a way to live. This is also advice that does not come easily to me– but I have seen it pay off when I try.
This is my short list. I have other advice that relates to other serious issues. I may add to this list, but for now I am sending out love and hope that we can make things different for ourselves, our world, our children– in small and in deeply meaningful ways in 2011. I have loved knowing you were out there reading this past year. I’d love to hear from you in 2011.