Once upon a time, a long time ago, I lived in Kings County. Brooklyn, that is. It was so long ago that Brooklyn was still affordable and a peasant like me could live in a very large loft-style apartment that overlooked the East River. Because of its size and my lack of furniture, it was the perfect place to throw a really big party. A New Year’s Eve party in particular.
My legendary New Year’s Eve parties were so big and out of control that my status as an upstanding resident of 28 Old Fulton Street with my neighbors and the building manager was tainted for much of January and sometimes solidly into February. Wood floors and lots of loud music will do that. And, well, there was the dancing.
To my credit, I did invite all my neighbors above, below and to the left and right of me so that the complaints would be more forgiving but no one ever came. Whatever. I don’t let other people’s lack of participation get in my way.
Back then, the New Year came in like a lion and the fireworks over the East River at midnight were the roar that were just getting the night and New Year started. It was loud and crazy and we were young and inconsiderate and… it was beautiful.
Forward 20 years and my motto for New Year’s Eve is more along the lines of “Solitude sometimes is best society.” (Paradise Lost) I’ve always appreciated solitude as a gift but then I have always liked my own company. I never understood people who don’t like being alone. I mean, if you don’t like spending time with yourself, how do you expect others to?
I can’t think of a place I’d rather be on the eve of this New Year then here, at the beach, staring out at forever. I suspect that the short, choppy swells are being generated from a deep memory of some weather pattern far away since the air here is bone still. I look out straight ahead beyond the shoreline for the chance of a whale or a dolphin or even a seal. Anything out of the ordinary really. Something to mark the moment. Some sign of magnificence to come. Instead all I see looking East, is an almost perfect sand dollar. Towards the West, a flock of seagulls skimming the ocean’s surface in search of lunch.
I take it all in because this past year, I’ve learned it’s important to turn my head. I’ve learned that when you are so focused on your goals, on what you have planned, on what is in front of you, that you can miss all the peripheral miracles that happened all around you. Especially when your dream doesn’t happen the way you planned.
Once in awhile I dream that my late husband, Scott, is still alive. Sometimes, it feels so real to me that I’m convinced that he comes to me in my dreams to remind me that he is still really right in the midst of our home, our family, our chaos. He is still sitting right there on the couch, remote in hand. We just can’t see him.
Rumi said, “Where there is ruin, there is hope for treasure.” Grief is a terrible thing. Its depth is shocking, its endurance thoroughly inconvenient to all involved. I am no longer surprised when it rises up to the surface anymore. When big pieces of Scott make their absence known. At times, I can hardly stand to see children with their fathers. It makes my heart hurt. At times I can hardly stand to wake up from my dreams in which he makes an appearance.
Buried within grief are gifts if you search for them. Grief has ended up giving me some of my most valued treasures: softness and openness and probably most importantly, a sense of living each moment illumined. I no longer ever so slightly separate myself from my emotions and life. Each moment is holy. Whether it be boredom, or joy or sorrow or excitement. Each moment is allowed to breathe. Be what it is until it changes to something else. It’s like grief uncovers the layer of film you unconsciously put over each emotion to protect yourself from life. Grief pulls off the plastic wrap.
Grief earlier in life for me and my children wasn’t our dream of course. Of course. It was, however, our destiny. But what I’ve learned is that contained in our destiny were some peripheral miracles. And there is as much beauty in your destiny as there is in your dream if you look for it. So I have gotten into the habit of turning my head around, owl-like, to look for buried treasures.
But sometimes I take an Aleve because of the stiffness in my neck.
The sky is unbroken in its blueness. It is crisp but not really cold for December. It could be bitter and windy and not nearly as accommodating for my plans to write about this later. To analogize. Metaphor the hell out of this. Don’t hate me because I metaphor too much, ok?
I’ve rolled up my jeans – no easy feat, why do I still wear skinny jeans? – up to my calves. The water is so cold it shuts you up. Literally shuts down your brain but I force myself to let the waves roll over my feet. My version of a polar bear plunge. One after the other they kiss my toes and then retreat and then kiss them again like a persistent lover who never becomes unhinged no matter how many times he is sent away.
I have been daring to daydream about that a lot this last year. The feeling of wanting to love again feels both hopeful and threatening. But mostly, threatening. One after the other, each emotion takes turns like the waves kissing my feet. Maybe…maybe not.
Dating has changed since the last time I did it 20 plus years ago and it looks really spooky. That’s right, spooky is the word I’m choosing. Those are some spooky woods to enter because here is the thing, I love my life right now. I cherish the freedom that I have living by my own rules, needs and fancies. (well, unless you count those 2 other humans I live with who I believe somedays, get together and think of ways to take me down.)
I was married for 15 years so I know that a lot of that will get compromised when I am in a new relationship. (That’s what we call arguing tooth and nail for our way in relationships – compromising) I know there will grizzly-like snoring because it is a known fact that 91% of all men snore like a bear cub. I know there will be dirty underwear on the floor because things on the floor are invisible to men. I know there will be weekly or even daily requests for sex way past the 1st trimester of our life together which I will not always be delighted to partake in. And I’m sure there will be a whole host of other needs that will put a strain on my time and energy. I know this.
I miss someone to wake up with, someone to chat with during the day on and off, someone to have dinner with and talk to about grown up things and sit next to and watch tv with at night and read in bed together side by side and be loved by and to love.
To have that again sounds really lovely, actually. And worth the risks of entering the spooky forest. “And the day came when the risk to remain tight in a bud was more painful than the risk it took to blossom.” (Anais Nin) I think that day has come. I’ll have to be really brave.
Or maybe I’ll just get a dog.
The noon time Sun is shining brightly, its rays lingering on the ocean’s waves. I know the Sun is closer to the Earth in winter yet I struggle to find its warmth as I turn my un-spf’d face towards it. I briefly look through my bag in vain hoping the hand moisturizer I carry for cracked, dry winter hands contains an spf. My fair Fitzpatrick skin must be considered even in the dead of winter. No luck but as Viktor Frankl said, “What is to give light is endure burning.”
And this might be the most important thing I’ve learned this past year – I am the sun.
If I am the sun, then you are the sun too.
Because we are all the same. We were all given a piece of the sun to warm us when we arrived here. Even in the dead of winter, our suns can warm us when the real Sun cannot. We were all given rays to shine out onto the world. Those rays are part of me, they are part of you. They are our very essence, they are our love. Our love is the deepest, truest part of us and it is indestructible. It is as untouchable as touching the Sun. It is as brilliant.
Nothing I or you have ever done can dull the brilliance of our suns. Nothing. Nothing anyone has ever done to us can either. Nothing. This is very important to remember. This can take a long time to learn. My hope it doesn’t take anyone nearly as long as it took me.
And once we have discovered the sun within us, we are meant to help others discover it within themselves. To help them remember that they are the sun too. “As far as we can discern, the sole purpose of human existence is to kindle a light in the darkness of mere being.” (Jung)
Some people, who haven’t discovered that they are the sun yet, will speak to us from their darkness. Their fear. Our job is to speak right past their darkness directly into their light. Their fear wants to talk to our fear, don’t let it. Let love’s voice be louder. Let love’s voice drown out the voice of fear.
And maybe one day, if we are brave enough to only let our love speak, the love within them will recognize the language. And it might occur to them that maybe fear is wrong. That maybe fear isn’t their truth. That maybe fear has been lying and that they have another voice. And that voice is love. They just couldn’t hear it because fear is so loud. We know. We’ve been there. Before we discovered we were the sun. But love waits until they are ready to tune out fear because love waits until it can be heard.
And this is how we heal the world, one sun discovery at a time.
Sometimes I am asked why I write about the things I write about. Grief and emotions and feelings and all that stuff. Usually I say you mean life, why do I write about life? The real answer is this – because I need to write about these things. I know there are people who are better at it than me. I read them. I know that they are brilliant. I know there is no need to read another thing about love if you read Marianne Williamson’s work or Khalil Gibran. I don’t do it for anyone else. I do it for me. Because I need to.
I need to remember that there is beauty and miracles all around even when life doesn’t go as planned. I need to remember that my fear of a new love or of new challenges in the coming year are not my truth. I need to remember that love will wait until I am ready to drown out the fear that is screaming at me from that spooky forest. I need to remember that I am the sun. I write about these things as a reminder to myself and in doing so, maybe, just maybe they remind something within you too. Maybe they help you remember you are the sun too.
Metaphor’s aside, those rays of love sure aren’t warming my feet because they are now numb.
Back at the house, my feet are burning trying to recover from near frost bite. The wood floor is stark cold. I forgot my slippers so I do the next logical thing – I start a fire, turn on some music and open the bottle of champagne I was going to save for later. There are no neighbors to worry about this time of year out here but I have no plans for noise makers, crowds or loud music tonight even if there were.
Taking a sip of champagne, I give thanks for the past year and all my good fortune. I write the list down. The list is so long, I feel ashamed for ever being in a bad mood. Another sip. I promise never to be again.
A glass later, I tear off the plastic wrapping on my brand new, just-came-back-into-stock, Kate Spade 2015 agenda calendar refill which was maddeningly sold out until just now! Was I to make no plans for 2015, Kate? I eagerly turn the crisp new pages to January 1st. There she is….
hello new year. we meet again. what will I make of you? you scare me a little but that’s ok because you are a gift. a lot can happen in a year but whatever does, I know one thing,
it will be beautiful.