This essay was originally published on a blog of mine from a few years ago, when I was taking something of a geographical sabbatical and had moved to a place very different from my hometown of Houston.
You may have noticed that it’s standard protocol for helping professionals to avoid sharing much of their personal life in public, and especially to keep under wraps any life events that might be viewed as “other than” a particular version of socially optimal. But I think that such choices — to offer up only those versions of ourselves that are scrubbed of the things that all humans go through — only promotes the division between “expert” and “client.” And that’s not how I practice. I offer the following up in honor of new beginnings, which almost always unroll after struggles.
“Well, here’s to a new, BETTER year ahead!”
“Yeah, no kidding.”
“I hear ya, sister. It’s got to be…”
“Can’t be much worse, right?”
“Yeah. This year has to be better. This last one was really bad.”
Nods and affirmative mumbles all around…
I sat at the wobbly wooden table, peering into the styrofoam cup at my iced tea dregs, wondering what to say, and knowing that I couldn’t echo their sentiments. So I didn’t.
I didn’t say anything, in fact, as I looked around the weekly gathering of friends who all, apparently, had just experienced a really rough year. At least it’s good they were looking forward with some hope, even if it came off the tongue with a sort of dread in the lilt.
I didn’t offer up that my year had been pretty damned grand. It only took me a few decades to wise up and know when it’s just cruel to utter positive thoughts. Besides, explaining to a group of relative strangers how a year such as my own could be labeled “grand” would take a lot of energy. It’s just not so good to get your forehead stamped with “Ignore This Crazy Woman’s Ramblings” during your first year of residence. Better to wait until they’re convinced you’re really an Okay Gal first, then lay the crazy on ’em.
A few days later, I’m prepping to take Burb Dawg on what might just be the Time Of His Life — camping in the cold — or what could possibly be One Big Lesson In Dog Camping for me. And in between the tent rolling and coffee packin’, I’m reading RevEl’s latest. I’m reading her approach to the time-honored New Year’s Resolution tradition (a game I’ve always found utterly ridiculous; probably manufactured by marketing copywriters), and I’m likin’ her educating us on Janus/January and how He was granted the gift of seeing backwards and forwards, and how we can be standing in the
metaphorical doorway that is really just a turn of the page on the Western Art calendar hanging on my pantry door, looking backwards, looking forwards…
And I started to cry.
No, no, not tears of the Auld Lang Syne variety. Not even weeping from the joy of Holy Cow There’s Nothing But Glory Ahead Of Me. It was more like Yet Another A-ha Moment Revealing Another Possible Reason Why I’m Out In The Sticks kinda cryin’.
Those A-ha’s are damned relieving, if nothing else. I mean, I may be staring down a task that looks about as meaningful as avoiding the deer poop in my field, but at least I’m seeing something. And down goes the left shoulder with that breath out. Aaahhhh. Aha.
Last year at this time, I had no idea that I would be leaving The Swamp for the first time. I wasn’t exactly sold on anything happening, in truth, because that’s just the way I think. Pondering possibilities is what keeps me waking up every day. Nobody in their right or wrong mind could’ve convinced me that I’d be takin’ my Burb-raised, middle-class, metaphysics-lovin’, out-of-the-box-thinkin’, Buddhist butt out to live among people who appear quite nearly the opposite of me in a lot of fundamental ways. But here I am, and some folks already know that I felt pulled or pushed, or that maybe I even floated over here, without really knowing why. I keep my eyes and ears open for clues, but mostly I let the silence wrap around me tight enough to hear my heart.
My heart hears people out here who feel forgotten. The world is moving beyond their reach while they hold tightly to what they were always told — by people who love them, mind you — was right and good. The ambience of fear and fortitude was the first thing that hit me. Now I’m feeling their sadness and sense of abandonment.
They’re just like me. Apart from appearin’ quite nearly the opposite…
So, I’ve changed my “permanent” address, even on my driver’s license (thanks, young Mr. Trooper, for that warning). I’ll continue to sit in as just another jester in the weekly happy-hour court at the Grill. I’ll let them get more glimpses of how much like them I am.
Eventually, I’ll let them see how crazy good all of this really is…