“Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?”– Mary Oliver
I was not sad to see 2014 go. Quite the contraire, pretty sure I was yelling some choice explicative’s to 2014 and welcoming 2015 with open arms, cake, and trophy just for showing up.
And it is amazing how many people I have talked to that feel the same. Just last night we were talking with a group of friends, and sure enough, last year was the pits, if not one of the worst years of their lives. We talked about the small things like getting a cold or breaking a toe, then headed to the more weighty ones like losing jobs, losing relationships, depression, social media blow-ups, handing your baby over for surgery, struggling to find your way…just some light evening talk.
This may not be you, 2014 may have been grand, made all your dreams come true, granting you peace and fulfillment and puppies and flowers. But when the clock hit twelve, I wonder just how many people were giving 2014 the middle finger and kicking it out the door.
I am a huge lover of celebrating, give me the smallest reason to celebrate and I’m there, I’ll make hats or glitter wands (because who doesn’t like a glitter wand) or cakes or whatever. I love being with old friends year after year, stalking up the memories of the same people, same faces around the table. Reminiscing happenings of the year, toasting the best of them, singing and yelling and dancing until the wee hours of the morning.
But this year was different for us - with just moving to California in November, this year was all new – celebrating with new friends, new strings of stories, new traditions, a new set of children running wildly. We all chimed in on the countdown for Eastern Standard Time as opposed to waiting for Pacific. We celebrated, we toasted, we played “Simon,” of course. Toward the end of it, Michael and I were supposed to go to yet another party, but instead, we drove home, put our girls to bed, snagged sitter, and headed to a movie.
…yes, I know.
Never would I have imagine I would want to be in an empty movie theater on New Years Eve, but really, it was the only thing I wanted to do. Just Michael and I, ringing in the New Year as we watched “Big Eyes.”
As the clock hit twelve, we kissed each other, smiled, and continued watching our movie.
It was perfect.
2014 did give us our beautiful little squishy, now 8-month-old baby girl – who has, by the way, mastered the art of blowing the most spit-filled raspberries you have ever seen and somehow smiles with her entire body - which has this affect of making a room overflow with happiness and rainbows. Give me the most cold hearted geezer, put Lucie in their arms, and they’ll turn to mush in seconds for sure.
But it’s true for us as well, it was the hardest year of our lives.
And I think I imagined jumping over a metaphorical line on New Years Eve where everything would be fine.
Everything would magically shift and the sorrows of 2014 would morph from tiny mice to beautiful white horses like little “Gusgus” and his gang in Cinderella.
But as I sat in that movie theater, I knew it couldn’t be instant, no flick of the wand. Change would be gradual, measured, something I had to actively choose.
There would be easy days, the ones where happiness would stream through the window, throwing open my eyelids in excitement for another go at life; where I would feel lucky to foster two ragamuffin children, lucky to change diapers, do dishes, write songs, unloading heaps of love onto my husband, family and friends, giving my portion to world peace, feeling full at the end of that day when I kiss the girls goodnight, put my feet up next to this hunk of a husband…then we’d make out, and fall asleep in bliss.
And then there would be the not-so-easy ones, where happiness is replaced by its crude nemesis. Where opening my eyes to get out of bed feels truly impossible. Where I would pray that those two ragamuffin girls would (for the love) stay asleep so I didn’t have to give, because there was nothing to give. And I would be mad about it - that I had to change diapers or do the dishes for the thousandth time or change my shirt for the tenth because baby puke just keeps coming. Mad that I had to scavenge for any love to pour out of myself to that day before hunk-husband whom I just finished fighting with, pinpointing all the ways he is not living up the imaginary perfect person that is poised permanently in left back corner of my mind.
And we wouldn’t make out like teenagers, but instead would fall asleep with a thick angst between us.
The day would be hard and I wouldn’t like myself, because I would think of all of the mothers who triumphed in the face of hardship, slaying that giant because “I am f-ing woman, hear me roar.” When I…well, I was shrinking back, feeling crushed in a weight I didn’t understand.
I thought there would be one day.
Just one where I would break open, letting loose my full rage and sorrow so wildly, then feel my soul infused with light and hope and have the strength to pick myself up and try again.
But it hasn’t been just one.
It has been many. Again and again, over and over and over…and over.
Rhythm and habit, that is what I have been working on - the habit of dwelling on good thoughts, picking one bad habit to let go of at a time, picking one good habit. And part of practicing that habit is finding a rhythm to my days.
When there is no rhythm I spin and have a million projects going at once and find that I am thinking about working when I am playing and playing when working, and it’s just spinning. And depression can have a crazy hold on you when your days are a blur or you have a habit of negative thoughts.
I’m not much for New Year’s resolutions; I didn’t cross some invisible line at the strike of 2015. But since it’s beginning, I was determined to try over and over again, to stick to a rhythm, retraining my brain and body to live a healthy lifestyle. It has definitely been a choice - getting up when I don’t want to, scheduling time for prayer, reading, play, work. Investing in the relationships that push us toward our best selves. But it has been hard. I find my mind going back to old thought patterns, find I fill my time with needless things. A researcher from Duke University published a paper in 2006 stating that more than 40 percent of the actions people perform each day are not actual decisions, but habits.
Does that seem completely crazy to anyone else?
So when I get out of bed in the morning and try to make these decisions for my day, I fall into old habits, old thought patterns, and that makes me feel totally helpless.
But here’s the thing…
That statement (40 percent of the actions people perform are not decisions but habits) helped me realize that my thoughts are not reality. They are just habit. I possess the ability to reshape channels in my brain. So one month in, I’m not sure why I am surprised, but I am actually feeling healthier. It’s like when you decide to work out, it’s tedious, and you think you will never see the results. But one day, you wake up and you notice it - your body is different, and you actually crave working out because it now feels good, now you have experienced all of those wonderful endorphins, and it has suddenly become a habit. I am feeling less and less fragile and something more like bravery. Last year, I don’t know how many times I uttered the words “I don’t think I can do this.” But now, I actually know I can.
I have mentioned in a blog or two, and it is the topic of most conversations with anyone that is close to me - the idea of “the practice of sight,” and really, it’s a habit - to see beauty and love. You have to re-train your eyes…because it is there, sometimes we just forget how to behold the world. And this makes me totally in love with Mary Oliver’s words “what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?” We have this choice, though it be unbearably hard at times, to live up to the best versions of ourselves. And it all stems from our thoughts, from the habits we create to live such a life (many new songs are stemming from this, which I’m getting pretty antsy to share with you all).
So here we go 2015. I’m hoping you are kinder than your younger bully of a brother. I’m sure you’ll be filled with days of celebration as well as hardship…it will be definitely be good, and no doubt it will be wild.