Leading Our Lives

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I confess I’ve crossed the floor to open the door to 2017 with a wariness not experienced during my short span on earth, stepping with more of a reluctant trudge than airy leap, but still standing. Last year’s events did not portend a new year I’ve longed to meet. It has not signaled its desirability as a traveling companion for 2 days, let alone 365.

The knock has come and here is the new year, on my porch, waiting on my greeting. My impulse is to love it, as I always have, expecting the best, demanding nothing in return, pushing through my doubts and embracing it, trusting that this will flood me with tingling, joyful hormones and a happy ending. But this year, I’m hesitant, thinking about the fine line between a wise woman and a fool.

I cannot help but feel we’re circling each other, this new year and I, and I note the sadness welling in my heart’s response. I’ve always embraced my new years so genuinely; this inability to feel or sustain a sense of happy welcome makes me wonder what has been lost and how I might retrieve it. Or if I should. Sometimes, sadness needs remedy, but I think it can also signal a change that’s needed and grieved because we’ve had to release an “easier” way of being for the hard work of behaving more maturely. Wisdom is earned, not given.

So, how to proceed? And then a question occurs: Am I truly leading my life? Have I ever?

I think I’ve given my trust and adjusted the depth of my needs too readily, inviting others, including people and chance, to lead my life, because I feared abandonment, or a loss of friendship and companionship. Or I thought I’d become cynical, or develop a hardened heart and closed worldview. Now, I realize these aren’t necessarily the only options to taking back the leadership of my own life. Intelligent centering, and a kind of gentle seriousness call me to marshal my energy and disperse it more deliberately, and to intentionally ponder my choices.

 I’ve too rarely met the new with pronounced expectation or demands. I’m quite certain previous New Year’s Days have considered me a dim and slobbering puppy. “Hi! Wanna play? Oh, you wanna run over there? Sure! Let’s go!”   

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And so we would travel through the next 12 months, the year leading and I following, wagging my tail and slobbering.

But last year, things happened that changed me, personally, politically, globally, and eternally. Or last year, the lessons of a lifetime finally began to coalesce into practices I choose to acknowledge and follow. I am more centered and balanced. And ready to lead my life.

Now, I am an abbess and this life is my monastery, and I am unwilling to allow the year’s foolishness or misery to dictate the path my life will follow.

So I open the door and gesture the new year to sit at my table. I seat myself across from it and fold my hands upon the tabletop and look directly into its eyes and ask what it will expect of me and tell it exactly what I expect of it. It may slide out of its chair and shapeshift, but I will call it back, over and over, for 365 days, and meet it and demand, as many times as I need to, that it behave decently, that it treat those in need kindly, that it allow my monastery (which is everything I love, which is everything) to feel safe, blessed, joyful, and hopeful. Able to create what is new and necessary. I am older and wiser than this year.

We will be equal partners in the dance, this year and I, for I’ve learned how to organize, and to lead my life, and to control my precious time (and that I must, if it’s to accrue to a day and then a month, and then a year that I value). I have many gifts to offer, but they’re mine to give, if and when and how I choose. I am the gatekeeper now; this has not always been the case. Last year granted me an advanced degree of consciousness. I earned it. I claim it. I will put it to use. I will hold myself accountable.

Perhaps this new year will surprise me in wonderful ways. But it will not fool me. My heart will be open. But so will my eyes. My intuition has never been keener, my gullibility so restrained, my words more direct, or my needs so little.

I will even retain belief in the possibility that the year and I will part as friends, but that won’t be determined for 365 days. I am leading this life.

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A Blessing for the New Year

This blessing comes with the New Year

To remind you of your power

To say yes,

To say no,

To give,

To receive,

To begin,

To conclude,

To resolve,

To surrender to mystery.

May we be present to wonder

And equally to loss.

May we be beacons of hope

And harbors of healing.

May we be open to surprise,

Abundantly delighted,

And measured in judgement.

May we defend the weak,

And speak truth to power.

And when we are weary,

May Love guide us home

And send us forth renewed,

Scattering joy

And sharing gentle peace.

May we be the leaders

Of our lives.

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Naming Blessings

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While I am not sad to see the backside of 2015 (“Too much loss; too many lessons,” as I told a dear friend), I am overfilled with gratitude heading into the new year, due to the way the old year and I parted company…Malarky’s arrival in October changed the energy in our hearts and home, and we’ve continued to be inundated with blessings, simple and surprising, the way we love them.

We spent a quiet, peaceful Christmas, enjoying old movies, good meals, hikes and—hooray!—a snowstorm.

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Friends visited, called, e-mailed, and texted, blessing us with their presence, their conversation, and their good wishes, reminding us that relationship is where our real wealth begins and ends.

We gave and received gifts, small tokens of love and gratitude for these precious connections in our lives. So many lovely surprises and thoughtful presents came our way and decorated our past few weeks with joy: a sister’s chocolate-filled Advent Calendar; a neighbor’s tray of elegant sweets; delicious, authentic Milwaukee-Polish pierogi; a magic wand for cooling wine; cozy quilted pet blankets (love these!); nostalgic, retro Chritsmas light covers (pine cones! my favorite!); unexpected gifts for the 4-leggeds; and surprising gifts from afar. We never knew what the day’s mail, or UPS, would be delighting us with next: books, artwork, flower seeds, many tokens of a generous friend’s dedication to this animal rescue. (I mention this, too, if you are seeking an organization worthy of your own donations, because they would be so welcome and your gift would help so many.)

There must have been quite a star shining over Full Moon Cottage, because so much love gathered here, offering joy and contentment.

 My own true love gave me a fused-glass plate with poppies (another favorite!) that I’d wanted for a long time, and he received paintings I made for him.

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 There are many things I’m looking forward to in the New Year:

*Making art in the new room Phillip is building for us:

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*Continued détente between the cats and Malarky, perhaps even deepening to true companionship. Here, he’s trying to mimic their relaxed poses on the back of the couch, and, despite Mulligan’s withering critique of these efforts, we live in hope:

 *Travels and visits; the changing seasons; new gardens; hiking; biking; paddling; dog-walking and cat-cuddling.

*Reading new and old-favorite books

*Baking and cooking with new recipes. (I’m going to try pierogis, for starters!)

*Full moons and quiet retreats

The list goes on and on, and—of course—remains open to wonder, mystery, and surprise, as always.

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I know the phrase commonly used is “counting our blessings,” and it’s meant to reinforce the notion that we’re far more blessed than we realize, but counting seems tinged with both ownership and a competitive stance that I loathe. (“I’m more blessed than s/he is!”)

I’d rather name my blessings, for the unique gifts they are and the gratitude they engender, and I hope to continue being mindful about sharing these with you in the blog posts ahead.

Our attitudes and the ways we use our gifts and our energy create our lives and contribute to the lives others are creating…I hope this year will be one of joy, for us, and for you. I wrote a friend that I want to look back on 2016 saying, “I laughed more than ever this year!”

May I make it so. And may I live so that others name me as a blessing in their lives. 🙂

Joy to you, and gentle peace.

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