Oh, it’s so so easy, these days especially, to be caught up in alarm and anger and fear and blame and woe. Another choice is always available.
I wrote in my journal last night about my worries and concerns, expecting to transcribe them into today’s blog post, but I couldn’t get to sleep, so I got up and wrote this instead.
At least one animal has lived with me for more than 40 years now, ever since that first black cat moved in. During that time three special puppies have bonded with me; their names are Poppins and Tucker and Willow, and those who knew me at various times (or know me now) recognize at least one of those names. I can’t imagine caring for a furry friend more than I love Willow, but I do remember having deep feelings for Pops and Tuck.
It’s easy to forget, in the rush of all that happens in daily life, how much we have in our lives to be grateful for. I am forever grateful for the peaceful joy of a quiet moment with Willow. I am so glad to have such a sweet soul under our roof to remind me to choose love first.
Hello, hello, hello, everyone! In less than a minute you will be a mile away and wondering if you really saw a white-haired man in a lawn chair, leg crossed to reveal bare ankles and slippers, otherwise wearing office clothes and writing in a red journal with a pen.
Where are you going, anyway? People come and go so quickly here, off to the Emerald City along a yellow brick road, dump trucks loaded with soil and campers loaded with people, and the tinge of orange in the trees across the highway reminds one and all that tomorrow is the first day of autumn.
We have so much in common, you and I and all of us, as we rush from here to there bearing witness to what we have seen and what we hope to be. I wish we could focus more on our dreams and desires and not so much on our skin-deep differences.
We are each of us alone, no two exactly alike, and we share a desire to be left alone, to be free to live our lives in peace, but something-less-than-peace is thrust upon us constantly. Peace, then, is a fleeting joy, felt in a southerly breeze that rustles the trees on the last day of summer, focused on endings rather than beginnings even though (as the song says) they are one and the same.
What begins here, in this hour when one season is drawing to a close and another approaching? What begins today, as leaves turn to more vivid colors than green and — even though right now it is warm and comfortable — experience tells us the chill is inevitable someday soon? Every day, every moment holds promise if you seek it out. Every day, every moment holds finality if you look for it.
Billions of people interacting with each other, trillions of life forms interacting, lead to infinite combinations, so of course beginnings and endings are always within reach — beginnings and endings as significant as birth and death or as commonplace as beginning a new journal page and the end of an eBay package’s journey from shipping box to mailbox, which is the reason I’m sitting in our driveway waiting for the mail carrier, so I can sop up some sunshine and save the carrier a few steps up the walk.
And the travelers who rushed past when I started writing are now as much as 30 miles away.
I have heard it said that 2020 is a terrible year. I say, “In your dreams.”
It’s not the calendar’s fault if you choose to be downcast and pessimistic and defeated.
Did you ever dance to those songs about getting knocked down and getting up again? Did you nod and stick your thumb up when someone said Rocky wasn’t beaten because he stood back up and kept fighting? Did you applaud when the speaker said you can’t always control what happens but you absolutely can control how you react to it? You remember that, son? Does it ring a bell, daughter?
OK, then. Your assignment for the next (how many days are left in 2020? that many) days is to make 2020 one of those years you look back on with a smile. “Man, we were so … that was when … those were the days … 2020 was one of the best years of my life.”
Don’t look at me like I’m some naive dolt who has finally, after too many years of beer drinking, rotted his brain and taken leave of his senses. Are you the one who takes comfort in “God grant me the serenity to accept the things I can’t change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference?” Are you?
OK, then. I’m telling you right now that you have the power to change your perspective on 2020 and make it one of the best years of your life. Go on, scoff all you want, stay knocked down and defeated. But you’ll feel a lot better if you stand up, look it in the eye, and go make a difference.
Not: OMG, what next, 2020? I can’t take any more.
Yes: OMG, 2020, is that all you got? Come on. Let’s dance.
She could see what he was doing, of course: He was sitting in an easy chair, staring at the spot up across the room where the light green paint of the wall met the white of the ceiling. He had a blank page in his lap and a pen in his hand, but all he was doing was staring.
“I’m writing,” he said.
“Posh,” she retorted. “You’re sitting like a lump of lard wasting the day away.”
He turned to her and grinned.
“Thank you,” he said.
“You’re so welcome,” she sneered, and stalked away.
And he began to write: “‘What are you doing?’ She could see what he was doing, of course …”
“Good morning, world! Thank you for the rest,” he cried. “You know who I am; I know who I am. I’m glad we had this chat; let’s get down to business.”
Harmonies poured from his soul — answers snapped to his fingers — his mind and body answered the call. This would be a good day. The doubt that often nagged him was today a minor nudge, and a little bit of anxiety never crippled anyone. In fact, he could shape a little bit of anxiety into a ball of excitement and hurl it like a knuckleball at a befuddled batter.
“To what do I owe this jubilant feeling?” he said with a satisfied smile.
“To whom,” boomed the voice of God.
“Oh,” he said. “Hello.”
“I have to say I am feeling — shall we say — neglected,” God said. “And, I might remind you, I am a jealous God.”
“Pshaw. You’re a loving God, a forgiving God,” he said.
There was a poignant pause. Then God smiled at him.
I am approaching the end of another journal; this one has taken something more than just two months to fill, and I looked back to the early pages to find something I’ve already shared that bears repeating:
“Add to the beauty or add to the despair — each of us has two choices — more than two, actually, infinite choices — but each of us adds something every day.”
Each day is a series of givings and receivings. We give of ourselves, and we receive what others give. May our mutual goal be to add to the beauty with our giving.
Encourage in the face of despair.
Hold a light in the darkness.
Love in the face of hate.
There’s a rugged road, as Judee Sill sang. Meet it with hope, meet it with a stubborn intention to smooth the path for the next traveler coming along, a stubborn refusal to be ruffled by the potholes and cracks in the pavement.
Each of us adds something every day — may my contributions make it better.