We put on bathing suits and cozy, easy-to-pull-on clothes, and gathered up towels and a few blankets. She wore my old down coat, the one sitting in the Goodwill pile. And off we went to North Amherst. We had it all planned out–I would go first while she took pictures, and then she’d go while I took pictures, and then we’d both run to the car as fast as humanly possible.
Problem was, we got to the “beach” (if you’ve been to Puffer’s you’ll appreciate the quotation marks), and the water was covered with ice. It was thick enough to hold her weight, though I wouldn’t let her walk too far out since some spots looked a little watery. Thwarted! We drove a little ways up, to see if we could find a different spot in the river on the other side of the road, but the one place that looked perfect didn’t have easy enough access to the car and we didn’t want to risk getting too cold afterwards.
And so we went home, a little bummed–Pearl especially, since a good friend of hers and his family jumps into the ocean every winter and she wanted to be able to say she’d done something like that, too. She even suggested we drive to the ocean, but it was already noon and I was not up for a six-hour expedition. She said she’d go another time with her dad. “It’s my new year’s revolution,” she declared.
We got home and I told Mani about the ice. There was nothing we could do about it. I was glad we’d tried. I wanted to start the year by doing something that would make me hoot and holler and burn and tingle with aliveness–but I figured the intention, I told her as I changed back into regular clothes, still counted.
Unlike the ice, the naturally occurring thing that interfered with our awesome plan, I don’t always take the unexpected, seemingly obstructive parts of life in such great stride. And yet, even in the writing of that, I see what’s so plainly obvious: the perception of obstacles in the first place, and how I relate to them. More often than not, the only thing standing between us and what we want is our way of seeing, be it the illusive goal or the phantom goalie.
Squint a little, and the whole picture changes. Spin it, and the story changes, the pointer heading in a whole new direction. Suddenly the ice is a rink with no players, just wide open terrain where all we have to do is try stuff. Step out the front door.
Pearl asked me in the car if maybe she could just tell her friends we did it. “But we didn’t,” I said.
I get where she was coming from–I’d like to tell you that we did it anyway, too. That we hauled some big rocks from the woods and smashed the ice and didn’t let anything stand in our way. But it wouldn’t be true. And the truth is, the story is good enough. The outing was fun, just sharing the willingness to do something crazy with my adventurous eight-year old–what better way to begin a new year?
Maybe the things we think are standing in our way are saving us in some way we can’t see or even imagine. Walls that turn into doorways when we squint, or dream, or allow ourselves to see what isn’t there, or what has been there all along. Maybe what sounds like freezing rain is a soundtrack to the scene in the movie where the person is running through the airport in the nick of time, having almost made a terrible mistake, all slow-motion and soaring.
But who DOES that? More likely, the freezing rain is just that, and it’s keeping me inside tonight, safe off the roads where surely my little all-wheel drive tires would slip and slide and get stuck somewhere.
A friend came over for dinner tonight, a wonderful poet who has been in AA for decades. I told him that I’ve been dwelling on the Serenity Prayer the past few days, and how I can feel it shifting something for me in terms of how I hold or release tension about the things I can’t change.
What I didn’t mention is that I realized, in talking to Mani on New Year’s Day after my outing with Pearlie, that I sometimes go into victim mode. When life isn’t what I expected or imagined, it’s easy to fall asleep focusing on the 99 problems instead of the one amazing fact that I AM ALIVE.
Did you know that something like 70% of our thoughts everyday are negative? Daaaaaamn.
It can be easier to hang out where things aren’t quite right than to take responsibility. To live this way–all woe-is-me–is to see walls where there are doors. Is to see ice where there is a bright-eyed child standing at your side, happy to be sharing your company in the cold. It is to create distance where there could be intimacy, to hold tension where there could be a soft belly and an open throat. It is to wish, and not in the wishing-well, I-wish-you-well sense, but in the missing everything because you’re so busy fretting and regretting sense.
Yesterday, the girls were bickering about something. I could feel my reaction climbing up from my belly to my mouth, where it would’ve shot out like a thorny vine to strangle them both. But instead, I walked out of the room and into the kitchen, where I clasped my thumbs and pointer fingers together in a faux mudra, saying something about the lotus blossom opening in my root chakra. Aaaaaauuuuuuummmmm.
“You know where the lotus blooms, right?” Mani asked.
“In the shit!” I responded, laughing. Of course. It was perfect.
Then Pearl tromped in and asked me if I was done taking my break, and I smiled and said yes, I’m done taking my break.
Right there’s my new year’s revolution, if ever there was one.
Accepting hardships as the pathway to peace. Blooming in the shit. Taking responsibility for what I’m seeing. And laughing about it, definitely laughing about it.