It’s the beginning of a new year again. This past year has brought particular challenges, as we all know. I’m tempted to just put it all blessedly in the rear-view mirror and look ahead to a time of bright, fresh, new possibility.
This year I don’t think it’s that easy. Instead, I’ve decided to take stock of the past year with openness, curiosity, and compassion and see if by looking deeply I can find, even in the midst of challenge, wisdom that might guide me towards the future.
Tenderness for the past
Well, 2020 started out innocently enough…until suddenly, things started closing in. Social distancing became the norm. Even going to the grocery store became a problem. It felt like that COVID wave was right on my heals every minute.
Some days it was all I could do to keep my head above water.
Listening to the news made me want to hide in the bushes.
I saw around me a country in disarray with anger and fear affecting not just our nation but our closest relationships. I found a democracy more fragile than I could ever have imagined. I saw a world of complexity and contradiction.
I felt on edge and reactive. I wanted time to really look and listen, so I took time to go on retreat. It soothed my soul. Being in nature, I noticed small wonders I often miss. I began to treasure how each small part contributes to the whole in very precious, individual ways.
I came face to face with realizing how dependent we are on everyone and everything around us, from the oxygen we breathe to the food we eat This led me to think about the huge chain of human beings who bring my food to supermarket shelves and the nurses and doctors who were at the ready when I found I needed surgery.
Yet even this realization of our deep interconnection that COVID has brought to the fore hasn’t lessened our division into deeply separated tribes. Somehow fear and anger seem so much closer to the surface than compassion.
Where does all this leave me? I don’t want to ignore or paper over the darkness and the challenges, but I also don’t want to lose myself in bitterness. So, I strive to be as gentle with myself and others as I can find the heart to be. I make it a priority to mend rifts when I inevitably stray from that intention. When I get into painful places, I look for wisdom to guide me. Rumi writes:
“I said: what about my eyes?
He said: Keep them on the road.
I said: What about my passion?
He said: Keep it burning.
I said: What about my heart?
He said: Tell me what you hold inside it?
I said: Pain and sorrow.
He said: Stay with it. The wound is the place where the Light enters you.”
I also find hope for the future when I remember that even in the midst of our human trials and tribulations, life goes on around us. In the new year, the cycle of life will continue. There will be new growth to nurture and cherish.
Somehow, I start to see my life as a journey, to realize that I can embrace life, even in the midst of challenge. I’ve begun to cherish the life I have even with all the imperfections. I know that challenges can tear apart the fabric of our being. Yet I also believe we can come thru difficulties with a deeper, richer wholeness.