On this morning after Christmas, I am contemplating this quote from Joseph Goldstein:
‘It’s impossible to count on things staying the same, staying the way we want them to stay—because everything is always becoming otherwise.‘
On the precipice of a new calendar year, this seems especially appropriate.
And he’s right – it’s impossible. And it’s also painful.
So much of my own suffering stems from my wanting things/moments/experiences to stay the same, to grasp at the pleasant, to push away the unpleasant, to capture beauty in a jar and hold onto it for dear life. And all of this is a guaranteed strategy for unhappiness and dissatisfaction.
Here are just a few things that came and went in my awareness this past week that some part of me hoped could last forever:
- this year’s Charlie Brown Christmas tour
- a flock of evening grosbeaks
- that gorgeous sunset on the solstice
- that bag of curry-flavored popcorn
- singing in three part harmony with few dear old friends
Of course, the flip side of all of that is a list of things that came and went that I was eager to put in the rear view mirror:
- an argument with a loved one
- a headache
- my worry about the winter storm
- my annoyance with an aggressive tailgater
Every day, every moment, I am reminded that everything that arises will pass away, including my reactions and responses to those phenomena. It is the nature of all things. It’s painful and it’s beautiful.
As the day to swap out our calendars draws near, I’m reminded also of that U2 lyric: ‘Nothing changes on New Year’s Day.’ In one sense, this is correct: a new calendar year is an invitation to reflect on the past year, to plan for the new one, to resolve to change habits. In another sense, it’s not correct – everything is changing all the time, and each day or hour or moment can be framed as the start of a new year, a new slate onto which I can write my life. I can write words of dissatisfaction and unhappiness. I can write words of gratitude and joy. I can write words that are simply observations of what is happening: I feel dissatisfied/unhappy/grateful/joyful.
However you’re feeling in this moment, I wish you a clear slate, colorful chalk, and a long and beautiful life in and about which to write.