Every year it happens. The ‘New Year Crazies.’ The frenzy of The Best of and Worst of lists. The resolutions. The breathless waiting for the marking of the first second of the new year, as if nothing can be done to improve our lives until that precise moment.
Because, after all, it is a new year.
But when we are always looking ahead, we miss the important part, the living part.
Are we living or just marking time?
On the night before Christmas Eve, Bob started feeling a tightness in his chest and a slight dizziness. Because the last ferry to the mainland would be leaving in fifteen minutes, we took no chances and got him to the hospital.
When we arrived at the ER, I slowed down. Time slowed down. I was present in every moment, every second. I was not thinking about how I would get the Christmas Eve dinner on the table. Or how I would find time to clean the house.
Bob’s blood pressure had inexplicably spiked and the doctor was running tests to try to figure out why. I sat at his bedside, focused totally on him, watching the spiky lines on the monitor track each heartbeat, aware of every little thing that was transpiring.
How often in our lives do we this? Tune out the world and connect deeply with our spouse or partner, with no distractions?
Our culture has taught us to mark time, to pay attention to its passing, but not so much to savor each moment we are on this earth. The New Yorker cartoon says it all. The man, stopwatch in hand, is intent on changing the calendar to January 1, 2014 at precisely the moment the new year begins. His wife waits, hoping that they will share the moment together, with a sparkling glass of champagne. She is living in the present; he in the future:
I have never been a New Year’s resolutions kind of person. Resolutions, by their very nature, imply something we will do in the future, not the things we are doing now. Why wait until New Year’s to improve myself? If there is something of value to be done, I can start right away. I can take the time to be fully present in the moment.
If I could choose one word for 2014, it would be hope. Hope that we can all learn to respect each other’s differences. Hope that our children will lead us into a new world where compassion, love and empathy rule.
And my greatest wish for the new year? That no children—anywhere in the world—will ever again have to sing a song that intersperses a clapping game with a story about growing up and going to war:
My dad’s a soldier blue
I’ll be a soldier, too
When I grow older you
Will see me rescue you
I’ll teach you this old song
So you can sing along
When I am dead and gone
The day won’t be so long.
I leave you with a full song from the Pavarotti & Friends Together for the Children of Bosnia concert: Clap Clap! by the children’s ensemble Gam Gam:
Thanks for being a part of this community.
Update on Bob: Bob is home and doing fine. At the hospital, his blood pressure returned to normal almost as fast as it had shot up. The tests, thank God, found nothing out of the ordinary. He (we) will continue on the low-fat, low-sodium diet and exercise regimen we started in October. We are working on budgeting for a treadmill, which will allow him to slowly increase the intensity of his exercise and get real-time stats on his progress. And you know what? We are living in the moment. It’s really the only way to go.