December 31, 2018
It’s New Year’s Eve Day as I write this, and I’m nervously aware that I’m starting my first draft for my latest White Hair Grace page later than usual. Will there be enough time for editing? I have a dogged commitment to getting my blogs out on Wednesday. So here goes…
It’s the New Year…I state the obvious. We know the themes: making resolutions; out with the old, in with the new; putting the past behind us and starting again; looking forward instead of looking back. It’s good to have that kind of re-start. Taking a deep breath and releasing that wonderful sigh that resets our inner spirit is life-giving. And it feels great, too – even if feeling great for a bit is its only reward at first.
So I took that deep breath this morning to settle down the rising angst about starting to write this late. And the Creative Muse of White Hair Grace benevolently showed up and led the way to something new. (That is her reason for existence, after all…)
I just love it when that happens!!! Actually, nothing much happens until it does, so there’s that. So here’s what showed up…
New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day form a visual, visceral turning point. Old to new. Past to future. Dark to light. Disappointment to hope. Lost to found. Failures to possibilities. And the turning point is always, always spiritual.
Here’s why I say that.
In the late 1980’s (oh, my gosh, that sounds so far away…!!), I was the chaplain in a therapy group on an inpatient chemical dependency unit at a large hospital in Minneapolis. One of my jobs was to lead a “spirituality” group once a week. The participants changed from week to week, so I began each new hour by asking each new group what the words, “spirit” or “spiritual” meant to them. Some of the answers were predictable. But one was not. And it showed up every single week.
The one response that showed up every week was, “connection.” Spirituality was the force that connected everything and everyone. Even myself to myself. Especially myself to myself, because that is where life begins. Every person in this group knew deeply the hunger of the spirit for connection, and every one was here because somehow the hunger had gone horribly awry.
Drugs and alcohol; relationship addictions; estranged family and friendships; eating disorders; suicide attempts; self-abuse; despair: all were clung to like a lifeline because any connection was better than nothing. Our work was to try to help them find a different way – a way back to what connection is meant to be. It could be heart-breaking work that eventually filled their spirits with goodness and light and hope, but it was work that made it possible to return to the still scary but now hopeful world.
We are created to be in connection. We are made flesh and spirit. Being made whole happens when we feed our hunger for this precious connection so that we find what we need most: love and acceptance; purpose and meaning; belief in something/someone beyond ourselves; belonging, and a secure belief in our own worthiness.
Even as we appear, bawling and stretching and red and messy into this world, we are already primed for connection. That’s why a newborn is so often put on Mommy’s chest right after birth: to begin that most crucial connection…mother and child. We can feel it just seeing it. They can feel it forever.
How many of us find at least some of this to be an outsized challenge? I know. It is. But who ever said life was easy? Or just a bowl of cherries? (Well, yah, Lew Brown did say that in 1931, but…). How often have we sabotaged life-giving connections because we were too afraid of connecting? Too afraid of having our flaws seen? Too concerned with whether we’d be accepted or rejected? Too insecure to show even our best side, lest it be found wanting? Ach! Remember those teenage years? I’m told that even the “popular” kids felt things like this, though I still have just a smidgen of suspicion about that…
We elders can still find it hard to nurture that spiritual part of ourselves. We still are spirit, though, even when the outside is wrinkled and droopy and the inside has irritatingly inconvenient hiccups and system failures. We haven’t lost our hunger. But we live in a whole culture that tells us in a hundred different ways that we are disposable, ugly, worth less, and in the way. Here’s the turning point: Don’t. Believe. It. Any. Of. It.
There are elders who are challenging their own ageism and the ageism of the culture. That’s why I’m here, angsting over having enough time to write. I know that when we stay connected, without apology or excuse, we are attending to the spiritual. Which is how we stay connected to ourselves and to others. That. Is. Life.
The Spirit will always be there – the one we were born with. It will always be calling us to love. The first love will be the gift to ourselves. Every other love will be an extension of that. Loving ourselves is not selfish. Loving ourselves is self-giving. Because when we love ourselves more and more completely, we have to reach out and give it away. That becomes our best hunger. To give it away.
My introverted self still struggles just a mite with loving myself (okay, it’s a lifetime struggle, but I’m getting better…), but I know this to be true. Special people have taken hold and walked the road with me so that I could come to love myself better. And I’m very okay with that.
Love is the turning point and Love is, after all, the point of “it” all. Happy New Year to your delicious and alive Spirit!