It’s almost Losar (Tibetan New Year), meaning that the Year of the Male Fire Monkey is soon upon us. I can hardly imagine a more dynamic, even frenetic, combination of characteristics than “male”, “fire”, and “monkey”! It will be interesting, as always, to see what the coming year brings.
To my great surprise, it is already February. January disappeared in a flurry of activity, anxiety, and snow. There are a lot of changes underway in our household as our eldest child charts a path towards independence. I’m not sure any of us are actually ready for that transition, but it seems to be happening nonetheless. There is no time dilation quite like parenting. Individual days last forever while entire years fly by. In the beginning, you are completely and utterly responsible for every aspect of their care, required to make every decision that affects them, and then suddenly they become young people deciding on their own what will determine their future course. It’s a powerful series of lessons in impermanence, patience, equanimity, and many other difficult virtues.
I think 2015 can be summed up for us as a year of seizing opportunities, and when opportunities did not clearly present themselves, making ones to seize. I’m proudest of the ways in which we colored outside the lines. Confronted with many challenges involving our eldest child, we went bold and sent him off on a month-long Outward Bound course in the Boundary Waters of Minnesota, followed by another month on a dairy farm in Pennsylvania. At the time, these decisions felt desperate and expensive and to be honest, neither one yielded the precise results we had hoped for. And yet, I think both were precisely the right decisions to make. They watered seeds of growth in him that have led to greater confidence and more personal responsibility. Having made these decisions, we can look back on a very difficult decade knowing that we really did try everything we could think of, which is sometimes the most you can strive for as a parent.
2015 was a year of personal growth for me as well. I seized opportunities that often felt like taking huge risks and in the process I learned a lot about myself. I attended two weekend retreats through the Still Water Mindfulness Practice Center and twice flew to Denver for Dying with Confidence Phowa retreats led by Anyen Rinpoche. In August, my husband and I traveled to Copenhagen, Krakow, and Prague, following in the footsteps of the great astronomers Tycho Brahe and Johannes Kepler and thoroughly enjoying seeing and learning so much that was new. In October I participated in a long weekend Secrets of InterPlay workshop, pushing my comfort zones as I participated in a small, supportive group who together played with forms involving movement, stories, silence, and song. I found a tremendous amount of internal resistance over vocalizing in public – but I persevered and found my voice to sing. In December, I took part in a workshop to learn TRE, tension and trauma releasing exercises designed to help the body release deep muscular patterns of stress. Once again scary, challenging, boundary-pushing – and ultimately very rewarding.
I am grateful for the year past and grateful for the year come. I am determined to move forward making the most of what is present, for there is so much possibility and so little time. As Mary Oliver wrote, “A lifetime isn’t long enough for the beauty of this world and the responsibilities of your life.” And yet as Winnie-the-Pooh also said, “Rivers know this: there is no hurry. We shall get there someday.”
Be well! Losar Tashi Delek.
After My Friend Phyllis Shows Me the New York Times Obituary Headline: “Lou Michaels, All-Purpose Player, Dies at 80, Missed Kicks in ’69 Super Bowl”
When I die, let them write about
all the mistakes I’ve made.
Let them mention in the headlines
how many rejection letters
I’ve received from The Sun.
Let them say, “Missed her calling
for Broadway back in 1987.”
Let them say, “She trained hard, but
never won a Nordic skate race.”
They can note how my children
fought in front of company.
How every chocolate cake
I made sank in the center. How the beets
in my garden were never bigger
than golf balls. How I never even watched
the Super Bowl, much less
knew who played for the Colts
back in 1969 while I was still
forming in my mother’s womb
and Lou Michaels missed two
field goals that helped the Jets win.
What do any of us really accomplish?
My friend Wayne says,
“We do what we can
and have mercy.” Yes, let
them say I did what I could.
Let them say that I loved
the best I knew how and messed
that up, too. It’s what we do,
we who are kicking our way
to the back pages of the paper.
Well-intentioned and foundering,
faithful and confused as we are,
we mess up. Yes, mercy on us,
mercy on all our failing little hearts,
how they beat so sincerely, mercy
on this longing to shine, this
reminder again to kneel.
by Rosemerry Wahtola Trommer
Note: The quote is from Wayne Muller’s A Life of Being, Having, and Doing Enough (Harmony, 2010).