It’s 9:42 pm on the winter solstice. The kids left this morning for a few days away before they come home to me again on Christmas Eve. I washed clothes and prepped holiday food and cleared shelves of things I don’t need any longer. At 5:30, as the sun was beginning to set, I lit a candle in a quiet house and got back to my yoga mat after far too long of an interruption. As I write this, it is dark and cold, and the dog is snoring at my side.
I have been thinking and journaling and reflecting and planning these past few days. There is something about writing things down that makes them real. I want so many things for the new year. This past year has been full of challenge after challenge, and they served me in ways I’d never expect – always growing and always changing and always opening. But I have been on autopilot for this past three months, it seems. Life can do that to you sometimes. One foot in front of the other: pay the bills, do the laundry, tend to kids, clean the toilets, answer the emails. I’m ready to snap out of it and get back on the road of intention.
I am reading that many people are choosing one word resolutions instead of specific goals, like a theme word for your year. I have thought a bit about what mine would be for 2017 – purposeful, pursue, intention, attentive, persist. They all speak to the same thing, I guess. Pay attention. Do things on purpose. Shed what doesn’t serve me any longer.
I’m reading One Thousand Gifts again as someone passed it on as a present for me this week. I hadn’t looked through that book at all in something like 7 years, but I stumbled on her description today of exactly what has been ailing me lately. “It’s the in between that drives us mad. It’s the life in between, the days of walking lifeless… simply going through the hollow motions, the self-protecting by self-distracting, the body never waking…” It is a constant struggle in the world we live in to not self-protect by self-distracting, to find meaning in the motions. Writing helps me do exactly that, but even that takes time, focus, and discipline. I am ready to get back at it again.
I have also been delving into The Atlantic’s list of this year’s 50 Best Podcasts. I thought I listened to a lot of podcasts, but there are so many on here that are new to me. Number 26 is the Modern Love series spun from the influence of the New York Times’ Modern Love column – which if you haven’t read it before is worth your time, such incredible non-fiction. I was listening to an episode earlier this week about how you should always marry a man who fiercely loves his mother (wholeheartedly agree on that sentiment) and there was a line about sorrow that was mentioned in the interview with the writer, and it is an image I will never forget. She said something along the lines of “if we could see our sorrows hanging like fruit from a tree alongside everyone else’s – all the sorrows in the world hanging together… If we could pick any of them, we’d still pick our own.” As the weeks roll by here at the end of 2016 and I reflect on the year behind me, I am feeling that more and more. Even as I look at others who might hurt less in the face of their own challenges, who feel less and have less skin in the game, so to speak. I would pick my sorrows, my year, above anyone else’s. I wouldn’t trade places, even if it meant less challenge or less pain. These fruits are hard-earned, but there’s sweetness in the center.
You have to pay attention to find the sweetness though, don’t you? You pause and observe and feel it as it stings or warms or glows or washes away the things you never needed to begin with. Now more than ever, I am seeing that my soul has been washed clean this year in that very specific way that hardship and grief can bring, and I think it’s ready for the newness that lies on the other side.
In One Thousand Gifts, Voskamp also reminds us that “Life is so urgent, it necessitates living slow.” I read this, and I think of the most memorable moments that filled my year, the most meaningful ones. They were all so slow and yet urgent with their passing tide that disappears.
Flashes of memory from a year well-spent: kids splashing on the beach at sunset, my Grandmother’s hands on my face in those days when we were counting the hours, Norah lifting chubby preschool fingers to tip a soup bowl to her mouth at the dinner table, driving winding mountain roads alone with the cloudy rumble of an incoming July storm, shelling boiled peanuts in the fall sunshine on a wooden bench, wrapping lights around our little tree. The very best seconds only come when you are going slowly enough to notice them.
8 thoughts on “attention”
This was wonderful. I’m so glad you are writing, and sharing. It may be time for me to dust off the voskamp again (the computer tried to autocorrect voskamp to vodka please.). Now, that is funny…. enjoy the darkness and the light this season!
I love this, Katie. Thank you for sharing your gift of words. These words in particular resonate in me. Have a merry Christmas, My Dear!
Katie, I’ve been a silent reader of your blog for a while now. Yours is the only blog I subscribe to and I’m not even sure how I stumbled upon it. Needless to say, I never ever leave comments either but feel compelled to do so now. So please take my words as sincere encourgament. It’s always a joy to read your words and they usually stay with me long after they are read. I think we could be friends in real life:) Merry Christmas!
Thank you so much for leaving a comment! I have friends that only ever came about through blogging, and I’m sure you could be one of them. 😉 I’m glad my words struck a chord for you, and I hope you have a Merry Christmas!
Merry Christmas Katie! As always your writing enthralls me. I always struggle with that one word idea, but you really nailed it.
Thanks for sharing your talent. I often reread your entries and I sometimes (ok often) tear up.
I hope you have a terrific Christmas and a fabulous New Year.
Jesus must have led me to your web site this morning. My ex-husband left me five months ago for a woman his age (I am fifteen years older than him). The pain of my life being disrupted is slowly dissipating, as I realize that it’s not about me as much as it is about him. My ex-husband is an alcoholic in recovery and his issues are complicated.
Thank you Katie for sharing your life with me. I am now a follower 🤓.
Thank you so much for reading and commenting, Patti! I’m glad you stumbled here somehow. I’m sorry to hear what this year has been for you, but the lightness on the other side is pretty incredible. And for that, I’m excited for you. 🙂 Happiest of new years to you. I know 2017 will bring brighter days, no doubt. Thinking of you.
Thank you for your encouraging words of hope. Wishing a Happy and prosperous 2017 New Year to you and your family.