A brand new year, fresh and clean and largely blank usually inspires in me a rush of happiness, the excitement of all unbroken things. I am prone to wake on the first day of a brand new year with relief at whatever happened in December being done. I am used to feeling rather like Anne of Green Gables, all awash in possibility and as-yet-unspoiled plans. The newly-sharpened pencil feeling of each September is a kindred sense to New Year’s Day, isn’t it? Our freshly cracked calendars positively crackle with portent and hope. Brand new years are shiny and wrinkle-free and I really like it when they stay that way for at least a few weeks.
This year didn’t begin so easily. January the first was sludgy and off. It was part of a long holiday weekend which should have been extra cause for lightness and celebration, and I did in fact get to leave town and do something fun with my husband, but the underlying feeling wasn’t right. Everything felt heavy and emotional. Saturday the 2nd began equally slow and sticky. Good things happened. We made some plans for the year and we spent some lovely time together. I started to feel grief, though; grief I thought I had dodged. I made some big changes in November and December to realign my schedule with my values and desires, and I was hoping that my confidence in my actions would mean I would dodge any grief and feelings of loss. No, grief showed up at the end of an otherwise lovely weekend, and a weekend which already didn’t have the gloss of NEW I was looking for. Oh well, I thought. Surely the first Monday of the month will bring me that desired feeling of elation and freshness. Surely I can shake this off with a good night’s sleep and some work tasks completed.
Monday arrived and it didn’t. It snowed and there was an extra day of school holidays. And then Tuesday came and so did ice. I and every other parent in the Portland metro area in which I reside attempted to breathe long, slow, belly breaths into our coffee mugs or tea cups while we moved the items from two days’ to-do lists over onto a third. I resolved to begin the year in gladness, still. Undaunted. By Wednesday, though, I was fighting to keep a certain bitter edge of stress from my voice and to face my now overwhelming remainder of a week with any amount of peace. The backlog grew and the accomplishments did not. Now it’s January 15 and end of year tax paperwork is due and I’m still in the muck of last week, that miserable beginning. Every single day this week I have attempted to cheer up, breathe, embrace, be joyful, believe, offer my children my best open-handedness, but last night I had a complete adult breakdown. I fell asleep crying over how hopeless it all feels. All that is undone, all that needs doing, all that I WANT to be doing, and all that sticky, sludgy grief. I don’t’ have time to be grieving again! I mean, how much of my life have I already spent undoing? Can I get to the doing part now?
Do we get do-overs for weeks or years? Apparently not, unless you know the secret to time travel and are holding out on the rest of us. It appears that we can’t outrun our brokenness and persistent humanity, even in glossy and fresh beginnings. They’re always with us—our ever-faithful shadow selves. There are small saviors though, always available within the ick. I write often about the healing power of beauty, and at the risk of becoming a broken record I’m going to say it again: beauty is the most dependable savior of my soul. When I turn my face toward her my sensations don’t necessarily change. I may still feel that my feet are dragging through molasses-like mud and I may still be concerned by my inability to consider the last two weeks as anything other than broken, broken, BROKEN. But beauty allows me a place to breathe and a place to rest. Beauty allows me to see the stars in spite of the surrounding gutter (to misquote Oscar Wilde). And beauty helps me find humor in the fact that I’m currently considering these rather normal occurrences to be on the level of tragedy. I mean, really. It feels that way and it’s also kind of hilarious.
This week’s Sensory Weekend post is a combination of images and music on the theme of Deeply Rooted. In the muck and stuck of this month I’m feeling particularly drawn to trees and roots, the sense of quiet growth happening in secret places and the reminder that I too need restorative seasons of rest. Large, stable trees only become that way after weathering storms, after surviving floods, lightning, and hard freezes. They must survive irritations as well as devastation. Trees are dependent on complicated root systems which live mostly in dark, silent spaces. Dearest trees, with their reminders to slow down, to drink from deeper springs, to plant my feet into rich soil while my arms and hands reach for the light. Yes, I want to become deeply rooted. I want to weather this sticky, sludgy energy with strength and dignity, with hands and face toward the light. I want to find quiet spaces to rest within the clutter of my brain and its obsession with completion and performance.
We’ll continue to explore this phrase the rest of January, but for now, please enjoy this gorgeous visual collection of roots and stemmed things, and this soulful playlist exactly right for dark days and incomplete to-do lists. We can weather this.