Nourish beginnings

 

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Yesterday was all about looking back, reflecting, processing. On the last day of 2016, I spent the morning at a poetry retreat at Healing Ground in Summerfield, N.C. and immersed myself in poignant and moving poems. This is my second year attending, and it never fails to move me. My friend, Jacinta White, who facilitates the retreat every year, always selects poems that make my heart ache. This year was no different. The poems, the sacred space, the people, the sharing from their hearts, it was such a gift to carry into the new year.

One particular phrase from Muriel Rukeyser’s poem, “Elegy in Joy,” has stuck with me: “Nourish beginnings, let us nourish beginnings.”

Today is all about looking ahead. This new year is a new beginning, a clean slate. When I woke up this morning, I felt different, lighter, hopeful, joyful. A new journey has begun. As I walked my dog through the woods this morning, I noticed how the sun was trying to push its way through the gauzy clouds from an earlier misty rain. Eventually, there was a crack, and the light shined down.

I’m a lover of rituals, but I don’t make new year’s resolutions anymore. Instead, I set intentions for the year and try not to set the bar too high or too low, or create an extremely long list of things that I already feel defeated by because I’m trying to tackle too much. This year my intention is simple: Choose joy. In all things, I’m going to strive to do the thing that creates joy.

After my yoga class today, I stayed after to create a Do the Work Jar. As my yoga teacher described it, a Do the Work Jar “is a support system to help you move toward what you want. When you get stuck-physically, energetically, emotionally, mentally-pull out a slip from the jar for inspiration and motivation.”

On slips of paper, I wrote down simple actions I can take for when I get stuck this year. The idea is to help you stay focused and get positive traction, according to my teacher. As I type this, my mason jar of actions is sitting next to me on top of my desk where it will be in my view daily. (I spend a lot of time here.) All of the actions tie back to my intention: choose joy. It’s my joy in a jar.

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There’s another jar I keep in my bedroom that I call the Good Things Jar. Throughout 2016, I filled the jar with good memories-small and big. I dumped the slips of paper on the living room floor this evening and read through each one. I counted only 17 pieces of paper; 17 good things! There were huge three to five-month gaps in the year where I didn’t write anything. And then there were simple, little memories like warm, homemade blueberry pie on the 4th of July to a hoarse throat from screaming at my first hockey game. In 2017, I intend to fill my Good Things Jar to the brim.

 

This evening, I opened the windows throughout the house and lit a smudge of white sage to cleanse ourselves and our house of negative energy and welcome in new, fresh air and energy into our lives and home. Out with the old, in with the new. I walked throughout our home carrying the smoking sage into every nook and cranny while I repeatedly asked the universe to bless our home and its inhabitants. I already feel a sense of peace and harmony. There is a lot of power behind intention.

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At my poetry retreat, we read some beautiful poems about “letting go” (my familiar theme of 2016) and shared our thoughts and feelings surrounding that phrase. We also contemplated the things we wanted to carry into the new year. We were given a few minutes at the end to write a poem and then share it with our intimate group of 10. This is what I wrote.

Burying the Year

By Carla Kucinski

Bury what was

What could have been

What would have been

What should have been

All of the what ifs.

Unearth what is

Embrace it

Live it

Carry it forward.

Wash the residue of the year from your hands

Every last grain of dirt hiding under your finger nails

It’s time to let go of it all, everything that no longer serves you.

Say goodbye to your grief

Thank it for the gifts it’s given you, the lessons it’s taught.

Your sutured heart soon will mend

You know this because it has healed before.

You are stronger now because of it

A changed person.

You can taste hope in your mouth,

Smooth and sweet like a square of milk chocolate.

Take it in, remember how it feels—like your whole body is smiling

Then hold your head high as you walk into the new year with determination

An open heart

An open mind

Don’t worry, everything will be okay.

***

Thank you for continuing to follow Addison and I on our journeys, and sharing your own insights and journeys with us through your comments and emails. You words mean so much to us. We wish all of you love and light in the new year. Nourish your beginning. Namaste, dear ones.

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Vital signs

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In the bleak midwinter, frosty wind made moan, Earth stood still hard as iron, water like a stone.

The past few days, I feel as if I’m walking around in bulky work boots as I hear something cracking under my feet. I’m stepping on shards – the broken pieces of a brutal year.

I think my post-election rage probably delayed the arrival of my annual holiday blues but now that it is simmering on a slow boil, the thick familiar fog is settling in. The song is cute and catchy but this is not the most wonderful time of the year for me and at least a bazillion other folks.grump-cat-christmas

Perhaps I over-prepared for this year’s attack of melancholy. After the reality of #notmyprecedent sunk in and I pulled myself out of the electoral sludge I’d been drowning in for a month or so, I went on the offensive. I decorated with more vigor than I have in several years – even making – yes, making – a wreath for our mantel. My dear wife and I live in a small condo so a little Christmas goes a long way but we even got a tiny live “tree” this year and I decorated it with some of my favorite Santa ornaments.

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Christmas: Tiny Trees Edition

I was feeling downright festive in spite of the impending apocalypse of January 20th. And then it hit me – the big empty of the holidays. It’s pretty much been this way for me since my parents died in 2002. Until then, I was one of those obnoxious Christmas people who started talking about it in September. I mean, come on, who doesn’t love Christmas?

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This year I made an addition to my Santa collection.

I want to punch myself in my own throat when I think about being that person – completely tone-deaf to the realities of so many others. I’ve been humbled to my knees in the years since then and my heart feels tight when I think about what some friends are going through this holiday season. Cancer – always fucking cancer. And “firsts” for a couple of friends – the first holiday without a dear spouse.

Estrangements loom larger at this time of year, too, and I certainly have a few of those on my list – some related to losing my job at the start of the year. There are a few (former) friends who deeply disappointed me in ways that I’ve had to just let go of ever understanding and other alienations, some election related but most a long time in the making – just too many years of not feeling seen and heard. All of them are painful and add to my bleak midwinter.

I had a little breakdown in my car the other day as I left the UPS store. I had taken my sister’s Christmas package to ship and after going through all the scenarios of how many days it would take, how much it would cost, etc. – it hit me how very far away she is now in California.

She’s my little sister and I am often mother/sister to her but she always rises to the occasion when I need to hear the calm reassurance of a mother’s voice. She listened to me sob while I was still trying to talk. That’s never pretty. And she did the thing no one else can do when I’m in that place – she made me laugh. I can’t even remember what she said but I know that I was smiling as I tasted the tears on my lips. Her presence from even 3,000 miles away can be palpable at times.

I felt so much better after talking to her – still blue but a lighter shade for sure.

We made a pact to never be apart at Christmas again. She has some grand plans about spending next Christmas in London. Note to self: Get BIG job quickly. I think she’s on to something, though. It might be easier to navigate the emotional minefields of the holidays in an exotic locale – further away from the memories that can crush me at this time of year.

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Me and my brother and our dog Taffy, Christmas 1960.

Christmas is quiet, almost somber for me these days – but it hasn’t always been this way. Mine used to be an exuberant holiday spent with parents and siblings and years of traditions. My wife and I have started some of our own traditions now, which is amusing because my wife loathes ever doing the same thing twice. Her idea of hell would be to own a time share where you had to go to the same place at the same time every year.

She teases me now when we do something for a second time and I call it a tradition. I don’t understand her point. Anyway, our tradition is to go to a movie on Christmas Day – usually one just released. Our first Christmas together it was Les Miserables and it was perfect. Okay, maybe not the Russell Crowe singing part, but you know what I mean.

This year’s movie will be La La Land, a musical comedy-drama that’s getting rave reviews. The film is a throwback to the lavish musical spectacles of years gone by where people burst into song at the breakfast table and literally dance on air.

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Yes, please.

Please take me there. Now.

And then it will be the 26th of December and I will no longer feel anxious – at least not until Inauguration Day.

We’ll spend New Year’s Eve with an array of dear friends and then I will stumble out of 2016, stepping on those shards. I think it will sound like walking on a frozen lawn – a muffled crunching that only I will hear – like those rare hushed times when you become aware of your own heart beating.

And what an utterly life affirming feeling that is.

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Cheer to all Whos far and near!

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This one is for Barb and Jen. Two women, like my girl Venus, who shined through their brokenness this year  with style and grace.