Sometimes I feel embraced by solitude; it can happen when there is activity in my life, or when not much is going on. Whatever the situation, it is the feeling that matters, be it silence, solitude, and simplicity, or, anger, fear, and stress. Taking a walk (and seeing a dear) helps me feel peace; listening to the news does the opposite. It is the weekend; the TV stays off. It's the feeling, not the circumstance.
I want to recommend Lucy by the Sea, by Elizabeth Strout, the fourth book in a series about Lucy (and William). That being noted, you don’t have to read the first three in order to immerse yourself in this one. Lucy by the Sea is a stand-alone, par excellence. Everyone, and I mean everyone, will relate to the context—lockdown during Covid.
There are many approaches to this book, many themes. I was most touched by a universal message at the core of each of Lucy’s encounters with others. People want to be heard: Lucy keeps it simple, responding with some form of, ’I know.’ People don’t want advice unless they ask for it: Lucy doesn’t offer any.
This book, however, is not filled with silence. We hear Lucy’s thoughts; her conversation with Self, unfiltered and honest.
It may take a couple of weeks into January to get into the spirit of New Year’s resolutions. But it will happen. Even if we say we aren’t making any, they will begin to creep into our consciousness. We will make social plans; we will tell ourselves we must contact friends; we will send family news of the past year; we will clean the kitchen cupboards and organize our bureau drawers. We don’t call them resolutions, but we will get the work done.
Today my work was clearing out my files—the papers in folders in plastic file boxes. Yes, even in this era of paperless lives, I am old enough to actually print out what I write and receive.
On another day I will clear out my computer files. Today it is all about paper.
The pandemic changed things.” That’s what people are saying…or something similar. We all know that something has changed.
“For me it has been______.” You fill in the blank. In fact you could probably fill in many blanks. And yet, I am beginning to notice fewer and fewer blanks being filled. Instead I’m hearing a clique, often as a summary to a conversation: ‘Well, let’s face it, the pandemic changed everything….’ This followed by hands being thrown up—“What are we going to do!”—not ending with a question mark but with an exclamation mark of futility.
I’m need to watch out for this in my own conversation and thinking. I’m not going to let myself get away with blaming my lethargy, discontentment, misunderstanding, and fear on the pandemic and leave it as an excuse to throw up my hands and do nothing.
Surrender—my word for the year. My usual understanding of surrender is through the language of war, where the losing side surrenders to the winning side. I can picture paintings of General Cornwallis surrendering to General George Washington, or of General Robert E. Lee surrendering to General Ulysses S. Grant.
But my word of year has nothing to do with war. It is about surrendering to dwelling on situations and ideas that unwittingly, repetitively, and without merit take too much of my time, things that I don’t need to go over and over, again and again, things I don’t need to keep thinking about. For example, surrendering to something I said and wished I hadn’t, something I did and wished I hadn’t done, something that is completed, or something that is none of my business.
Let me say this another way. I have chosen surrender as my word of the years to help me let go of the chatter in my head that has no positive purpose to my well-being—a way to help welcome silence, solitude, and simplicity into my life.
I’m thinking about choices; what I’m going to chose for my 2023 ‘word’. Last year’s word was ‘patience’ and I’m definitely not finished working on that one. Maybe I’ve made a tad of progress, but if I wait for perfection—well, it will never come. I’m not giving up on it, however, but each year needs a new word. This year’s is surrender, which I write about tomorrow.
Today I want to say a little something about choices. We talk about making choices as though it was a given for everyone. “If only everyone would make good choices,” we say. We tell children, “Good choice,” which can be an appropriate response, but as a former parent and teacher of young children, I think it is definitely over-done.
What about the people who aren’t given choices, forget about good ones, or who have limited choices—the people in Ukraine, the homeless in NYC, those in jail because of a minor drug demeanor, the capitol policemen on January 6th…?
Let me end by saying there are ‘white privilege’ choices, bleak choices, and a whole bunch of choices that aren’t really choices at all. Surrender , which I’ll write about tomorrow, can be all of those.
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