Friday, February 10, 2012

Bring on the Wonder

January is a reflective month.  It’s the antidote to the joy-and-light-and-food-and-drink-induced mania of the holidays.  After December, many of us set about making our lives right again, reclaiming health or goodness – or in my case, closets – in the form or resolutions.  Resolutions are, however, quick.  I’m not sure we give them a great deal of thought and more often than not we’re picking up that cookie a scant eight days after we’ve sworn them off for all eternity.   I don’t know if they provide some humility or have a shelf life that induces amnesia to our initial enthusiasm.  Regardless, they can be an annual challenge with which so many of us wrestle– and more often than not – by which are pinned.  Organization is the bane of my existence and a foe that chases me eternally.  More accurately, I chase it and am forever one or two steps behind the chaos and clutter. 

I do somehow manage to pull myself out of bed at the crack of dark most mornings to go for a run with friends.  Some days we have a crowd, and other days it’s just two of us.  On the sparsely attended mornings, the run is more a communion of quiet minds.  While I’m more often known for excessive story-telling (particularly on hills – it’s the supreme distraction from the incline), today the morning was cold – in the teens – and my friend and I were quieter than normal for the first half mile.  The effort of warming sleepy muscles in the frigid air becomes harder as the years pass.  The sky was velvet black, the stars in abundance and Venus hanging low and bright in the pre-dawn sky.  I mentioned to her a particular habit I was wrestling with, one of those resolutions that I haplessly thought would be as easy to keep as it was to make.  My friend agreed, and then made a statement that struck me for its elegant and simple decisiveness:

My resolution is to live every day as if it’s my last.

There can be many interpretations to this but I know for fact that she wasn’t suggesting to throw caution to the wind and live life loud and large, to spin in an external existence free from consequence.   Like so many of us, I can get caught up in the daily routine and rigor of my days.  I’ve been missing the opportunity to experience the wonder and beauty of the details of these routines that provide root and foundation; these seemingly inconsequential happenings are threads in the bigger fabric of life.  When some of those are suddenly gone and the fabric unravels, the hole left behind lays bare their importance and meaning.

This past year has been difficult in so many ways.   I’m getting to that age where my body starts reminding me more of my age.  I’d changed jobs – twice – and worried more about everything in this difficult economy.  I found myself worrying more about the future and living less in the present and this year I was reminded of this folly:  on the last day of summer, my friend lost her husband suddenly and without warning.  When we who were his friends and neighbors emerged from the thickness of our grief, we set about trying to resume our lives in a place seemingly tipped off its axis, the orbit of the neighborhood altered with the addition of unwelcome space.

In the months that followed, I’ve personally felt his loss not in large ways – he was a dear and cherished friend - but in little ones.  Sitting in my home office, I’d often glance up and see him coming back from work pulling up short of the driveway and stepping out in his work uniform of suit and tie to grab the mail out of the box.  Other days I’d see him taking the dog out for a walk, cutting the grass, walking down the driveway in his slippers to retrieve the paper.  I never thought much about these at the time.  It was only after he was gone and I’d look up from my desk and be met with a void that I realized the impact of these small moments, these specks of memory in a day in continual overdrive.  I’d come to unconsciously depend on them; they were an integral part of my day, and I’d sorely neglected to recognize their value.  Isn’t that how it so often is?

Too often I’m closing the barn door after the horse has gone for yet another unauthorized romp.   I’d grabbed that morning coffee and drank it quickly without taking time to savor its aroma, how the cup feels so warm in my cold hands, how perfect the first sip tastes.  I’ve neglected to hear to the music of the rain as it hits my car in traffic that has slowed from the weather, the wipers beating out syncopation.   I’ve sat at the table with my husband or children, reading the paper, no one talking and hadn’t the slightest inkling how different it feels doing the same activity in an empty room. Even this morning I cursed the cold air as I stepped out of my house.  But oh how that cold air assaults my lungs with its frigid perfection, how alive and vital it makes me feel.    Tiny shifts and movement fight for attention; it’s easy to overlook their importance when we come to unknowingly count on them to give us balance.

My resolution is to live every day as if it’s my last.

I know what my friend means: to live generously, free of the petty ambivalence to which we can often be prey.  To remove the blinders of our harried existence and drink in and savor what we see.  And to have gratitude and appreciation for the simple and fragile wonder so abundant in our lives.