For All That Works, Gratitude
I decimated my back badly last summer, after power-sanding an eight-foot-long antique – which means old and beat up, much like me – church pew, and here’s what I finally did with that injury, once I whined incessantly for a week: I promised the universe I would be grateful when it healed. I swore that I would remember that most of the time, my back works quite nicely. And I vowed that I would thank that back, once it re-nestled into its sacred space, for all the work it does.
I have made this pledge in the past, when I broke both feet playing basketball on a court puddled with snow, when I suffered a concussion after being tackled in what was allegedly a flag football game, when I crushed the fifth digit of my right hand, aka my pinkie finger, playing a pickup game of basketball in my driveway with an overly aggressive opponent who happened to be my husband. All of this is meant to say that I want to avoid taking my muscles and bones for granted. I want to avoid assuming all will work until it doesn’t. I want to avoid, in fact, taking any good thing in my life for granted.
I want to be grateful.
I know that enormous pressure builds up before the new year to clean up our acts, exercise every day, eat better, sleep more, read “Atomic Habits” and institute changes to better ourselves. But what about all the work we’ve already done?
I applaud each of you for surviving a pandemic. I applaud you for finally cooking that lentil stew or that chicken piccata you’ve been swearing you’ll make. I applaud you for calling loved ones to say hello, even if you haven’t seen them for a while or you have seen them and they still drive you nuts. I applaud you, most sincerely, for getting out of bed in the morning.
The new year offers us a glance back, a glimpse forward. If new demands stack my pack, I’ll struggle to take off. I hereby release myself from the insistence of the new year, and instead, burst forth with exuberance at all that life – and my ever-healing bones – offer.
The sun’s frosty light illuminates the day. The air is crisp. The hush of winter settles and calms. The heart is in the right place.
Begin again, with joy and gratitude. The year will welcome you with open arms.
What are you thinking as you begin this new year? Write down your thoughts, and share them. And may a sense of serenity follow you wherever you go.
To the New Year –
By W.S. Merwin
With what stillness at last
you appear in the valley
your first sunlight reaching down
to touch the tips of a few
high leaves that do not stir
as though they had not noticed
and did not know you at all
then the voice of a dove calls
from far away in itself
to the hush of the morning
so this is the sound of you
here and now whether or not
anyone hears it this is
where we have come with our age
our knowledge such as it is
and our hopes such as they are
invisible before us
untouched and still possible