There is a pall over my city today.
The end of any year typically combines a look back over the past 12 months – an accounting of good times and bad – and a glance ahead at what we hope will be an unfolding of easier, breezier days. I catch myself smiling over the all-too-fleeting joyful moments of 2014 even as I ponder the stresses, the mis-steps, the difficult conversations, the attempts at graceful living that I wish I could have back to do over.
Today in Edmonton, anticipation of New Year’s Eve festivities has been overshadowed by grief as we try to comprehend an unspeakable act of domestic violence that has left nine people dead.
Ten days ago the winter solstice marked the beginning of a return to the light; today in Edmonton we are reeling from an act of darkness that defies explanation.
We grieve for the past as we turn to the future. We ask that 2015 bestow health and happiness on us and on our loved ones. I believe that as we stand on the lip of any new year, what we want most out of whatever time we have left is to continue to love and to be loved. Sometimes that means allowing our chests to be cracked wide open when we least expect it, and to simply trust. Trust that the right people and the right paths will find us when we are ready to be found. Trust that we will be protected, guided, nourished and held – fiercely and gently – in caring, loving arms.
2014 was a difficult year for many of my friends. Being touched by death is an inevitable part of life but it seems, this year in particular, far too many people I know lost a parent, a sibling, a child. And what seems like a statistically impossible number of my friends said goodbye to beloved pets this past year.
I don’t want this to turn into a list of personal gains or losses. Or on a broader scale, a gloomy compilation of the soul-crushing atrocities committed by the human race. We know it was a shitty year of continued injustice, corruption, racism, misogyny, poverty, war. And yes, the tragedy of domestic violence. Plus ca change, plus c’est la meme chose.
I want this to be a celebration of spirit and human kindness.
Almost 30 years ago, a pastor who’d never met my mother said he could tell she’d been kind after talking with my brothers and me on the morning of her funeral. We were clearly ‘recipients of kindness,’ he said. Those words have stayed with me all these years. I’m not convinced it wasn’t one of many stock phrases he pulled out of a notebook of helpful hints whenever called upon to eulogize people he didn’t know; but still, the idea of having kindness bestowed upon me, of having been a ‘recipient of kindness,’ warmed me. And it still does.
I think about how many people I’ve been truly kind to, over the years. As one of those who has trouble letting go (of people, things, feelings, hopelessly outdated clothes) I can remember all kinds of occasions when I was truly unkind. (Yes, Virginia, even people who publish books full of love poems have their mean, spiteful, stupid moments.)
Like many people on this planet today, I am clumsily chasing zen and attempting (at least some of the time) to live an authentic life of calm, compassion and kindness. And yes, in the back of my brain I do fully grasp that chasing zen is like chasing butterflies. Stupid human tricks.
It is impossible to say what 2015 holds in store. What I can say is that parts of my 2014 were truly, undeniably remarkable. After a year of medical challenges, I got healthy; I got published; I got some new writing done; I got to meet amazing new people; and I got to travel to places where I breathed salty sea air into my desperately grateful lungs. For all of these things I am thankful beyond words.
2014 reminded me that I have an infinite capacity to give and receive love.
Peace, Edmonton. Our hearts are heavy today but there is lightness ahead. Let us be kind to each other.
May 2015 bring loving, healing, forgiving energy to us all.