Ring In The New And Ring Out The Old
Hello to everyone! Welcome to 2021 and all the possibilities it holds!! Many of us begin our New Year by enthusiastically writing our resolutions. Resolutions can provide energy and motivation as we stand on the precipice of a new year. Each year many believe that this time will be different, this will be the year that they actually stick to their resolutions.
It is difficult to create new patterns and behaviors. Most people will grow weary from maintaining their resolutions and end up losing motivation after a few months. Often, resolutions are about losing weight, eating better, exercising more or not watching as much TV. These resolutions, however, are about behaviors and do not address our inner core, our deeper needs or the feeling of emptiness.
Perhaps our New Year could be about creating a more purposeful life, a life that is dynamic and full of energy. A purposeful life is about engaging in the things that we are passionate about and feed our soul. A purposeful life is not about selfishness, but rather, it is about exploring how to bring joy to ourselves and others. Priya Parker, author of “The Art of Gathering,” talks about having purpose in any of our gatherings; a birthday party, wedding, family get-together or meeting up with friends. Parker suggests that we should identify the purpose and be creative in our gatherings instead of falling into old dusty traditions that prescribe how our gathering “needs” to be. Parker talks about being mindful of the moment, staying engaged and bringing our full energy to the day or to any gathering
“The purpose of life is to live it, to taste experience to the utmost, to reach out eagerly and without fear for newer and richer experience.”
— Eleanor Roosevelt.
A purposeful life is about saying “no” to things that don’t align with who you are in life or your higher purpose. It is about being ready to say “yes” to things that bring you closer to the integrity of who you are. It is about bringing full attention and intention to your life choices.
This New Year could be about finding what truly matters to you at your core. What helps you to be the best person you are able to be. Instead of creating a list of behaviors that you want to change, maybe re-focus your thoughts to the things that you intentionally want to champion into your new year and consider the things that you choose not to bring into this new year. You can start by identifying what brings you passion and joy and how you can spread it to others.
I came across a poem written in 1858 by Alfred Lord Tennyson and as I read it, I realized how much it correlated to our current times. I began to think that perhaps we, as a country, have not explored who we are at our core. That we as a country have not consciously created a purposeful life and that we continue to repeat many of the items (elements) written about in this poem. I invite you to read Tennyson’s poem and consider how it may relate to your individual life. Consider those things that you feel need to be shed in order for you to create this new space.
Ring Out, Wild Bells
Ring out, wild bells, to the wild sky,
The flying cloud, the frosty light:
The year is dying in the night;
Ring out, wild bells, and let him die.
Ring out the old, ring in the new,
Ring, happy bells, across the snow:
The year is going, let him go;
Ring out the false, ring in the true.
Ring out the grief that saps the mind
For those that here we see no more;
Ring out the feud of rich and poor,
Ring in redress to all mankind.
Ring out a slowly dying cause,
And ancient forms of party strife;
Ring in the nobler modes of life,
With sweeter manners, purer laws.
Ring out the want, the care, the sin,
The faithless coldness of the times;
Ring out, ring out my mournful rhymes
But ring the fuller minstrel in.
Ring out false pride in place and blood,
The civic slander and the spite;
Ring in the love of truth and right,
Ring in the common love of good.
Ring out old shapes of foul disease;
Ring out the narrowing lust of gold;
Ring out the thousand wars of old,
Ring in the thousand years of peace.
Ring in the valiant man and free,
The larger heart, the kindlier hand;
Ring out the darkness of the land,
Ring in the Christ that is to be.
- Make a list of things, people, belief systems, etc., that you want to “ring out” of your life
- Make a list of things, people, beliefs systems, etc., that you want to “ring into” your life.
- Choose one of the items on your “ring out” list and write about how that became a part of you and your life. What is the understanding about having that in your life? How has it impacted your life? And what has it prevented you from saying “yes” to?
- Choose one of the items on your “ring in” list and write about why you want to welcome that into your life. How does this item fit with who you are as a person? How does ringing it in add cadence to your life?
- After writing your list of people, places and things you want to ring out and ring in, follow the pattern of the poem and replace Tennyson’s words with your own.
- As always have fun and feel free to totally ignore my prompts and follow your passion!!
Pearls are what happen when an oyster or some other mollusk is irritated by the invasion of some disturbing intruder into its closed shell. A grain of sand may be slight but not too slight to cause a pearl to form. Pearls are layers and layers of soothing nacre intended to insulate the delicate mollusk from the irritant that has abraded it. At the very core, a pearl is a disturbance, a beauty caused by something that isn’t supposed to be there. It is the interruption of equilibrium that creates beauty. Beauty is a response to provocation, to intrusion.
Artists have the ability to invite intrusions into their lives and then use its fire as creativity. They turn the environmental irritants into words, images and sounds that renew the onerous attacks in the lives of others. Our world is an oyster and it is filled with irritants and disturbances. Many of us may try to keep our shell tightly closed to avoid any disturbance within. Others may be inviting this discord in closer, allowing a metamorphosis to occur. This change – even the most infinitesimal change – presents an opportunity to create a precious pearl in our lives.
I sit in my home office, pen-to-page, contemplating the irritants that have found their way into my life shell. A ladder of memories, both distant and recent, form on the blue lines of the page. Some bring pause like the larger events, divorce, births and deaths. Others slip along one after the other with only a glimpse out of the corner of my memory’s eye. All of them, meniscal or grand, torpid or alive, they all shimmer together forming the many pearls in my life. In writing this blog I have realized that each and every one of the pearls, black, white, cream or green, make up a life lived and experienced. How do I view the jewels of my painful moments in life? Do I honor them or merely place them in a crevice in my mind that goes unnoticed like a tarnished penny on the street?
- Make a list of all the disruptions in your life.
- Make a list of all the irritants – no matter how small – that have caused you to react in a way that set you on another direction in life.
- Make a list of irritants you may have invited or allowed into your life.
- Make a list of all the pearls that have been created because of the irritants you experienced.
- Explore turns that have been sharp or maybe more of a slight deviation in your direction due to an interruption in your life.
- Make a list of people that may have entered into your life whether they were welcomed or unwelcomed, and how they may have subverted your life or merely shifted your firm stance.
- Once you have your list, I welcome you to do a free-write about the experience of the irritant entering your shell. Creating the layers of nacre over and around the irritant and then describe the pearl that was created in your life. Slow down while remembering and allow each layer to the story to be full and enriched with details. When your story is complete, spend time with it so that you can take in all the beauty of your transformation and resilience, wear your pearl with pride!
When my spouse walked out on me, he opened and closed the door behind him and never looked back. I thought I was going to implode. I knew it was the best thing for me but inside I felt like my lungs became stone, no air could pass, no breath could flow. I wanted to cry a monsoon but inside was only a drought, a basin filled with memoires, debris. They were washed there by the flooding waters and left as the monsoon softened bringing the torrid desert sun. My lips quivered and my body trembled as my mind struggled to comprehend what had just happened. Was I standing or sitting? was I inside or outside? I don’t remember how long I was there in this torpid state, alienated from anything around me and bound to nothing. I don’t remember how I was able to welcome my kids’ home from school that day or to parent them at all, but I know I did. I moved through task after task disconnected from family or friends and myself.
I began to feel this force inside of me, this propulsion, but I did not know what that was or how to release it in this turbulence. I reached out to my old writing group and found myself swaddled among all the other wonderful women whose voices and stories I had missed. I started writing again from a deeper space, from the basement and attic of my soul. I found myself going deep into the earth, below the roots of my life, and being able to look at them, touch them and feel the vibration of each and every one of them. It was writing that helped me to understand them. I wrote my way to some clarity and found my way back to me. I began to remember all my qualities and strengths, but more importantly, I remembered my passions. It felt as though I had been swept up in the eye of a tornado and I was sent spinning and twirling, a mere particle that had no control or say in what was happening. When I relaxed, I suddenly just dropped from the tornado’s hold and landed back in my life.
My new relationship with writing was the pearl that was created out of what felt like an unbearable pain. This pearl remains a critical part of me and one that continues to enrich my life. It illuminates every grain of sand that enters my shell, guiding me toward creating something better from life’s irritants, something worthier of a life lived.
COMPOSTING…What’s On Your Rubbish Pile?
I’m sure many of you have planted gardens. You may have been so dedicated to the gardening process that you had a compost pile to enrich your garden’s soil. What we reap from gardening or farming (as in our lives) depends on what we put into it. In farming/gardening it means feeding the soil the right nutrients and one excellent way to do this is composting.
Lately, I’ve been purchasing farm fresh produce from local country farms. It’s harvest time for many local fruits and vegetables. Foods such as tomatoes, peppers, green beans and it’s corn season. There are also a number of fruits available locally like berries, cherries, peaches, and melons. It is so exciting to see these colorful foods displayed in cardboard cartons or loose or in bundles on a farmer’s wooden display table. After so many years of not being able to access this farm to table experience so readily… well it feels wonderful and makes my heart smile.
As I’ve marveled at all these bountiful delights with my refrigerator full of colorful produce, composting brought to mind an old writing metaphor. I came upon the concept of ‘composting’ in regard to writing in a Natalie Goldberg book. She’s a writer who has written many books on writing and bringing oneself to the page, basically putting pen to paper and just writing, freely and openly, with no editor, no hesitation.
What I recall about her mention of composting is its relation to the many experiences good, bad, indifferent and even insignificant that we have tossed on to our compost pile of life. We all have them, experiences, positive or negative, that have helped to shape and deepen our lives in many ways. And according to Goldberg it can be enriching to pay attention to our compost pile, there are nuggets there to explore.
So, it made me think of all the rubbish from my life I’ve thrown on to my compost pile. Things old and forlorn tossed aside. Things not worthy of our time. Or are they?
According to Goldberg, sifting through our compost heap of rubbish may prove more heartening than we at first sight can imagine. You’ve heard the old cliché when one window closes, another one opens. That’s what this exploration of our garbage pile is about, it may be tedious, difficult and unnerving even, but if you can take the time to sift you may just uncover how your compost pile has yielded unexpected fruit in your life.
I would invite you to sift through your garbage, place the words “compost heap” in a circle on the middle of a page. Now sift and as you recall experiences you’ve tossed away put them down in a web/cluster around it. You may find a piece of rubbish that merits its own cluster. Follow it through, relax into it, don’t judge what’s good garbage or bad garbage just put it down.
When you’ve exhausted this exercise, take a look at your webbing or clustering and be open to the ones that have energy or call out to you, even the ones you shy away from. Think about how this event influenced your life. Something that was dismissed as a mistake, a wrong choice or mediocre led you somewhere else, somewhere unexpected … this is what you want to explore and write about. This is where you want to begin.
Here are some ideas to prompt you in your exploration may show up in your clustering/webbing:
- fun time/sad times
- memories with loved ones
- past loves
- childhood memories
- trips we’ve taken
- jobs we’ve had
- a lousy job endured to just to pay the bills
- an overbearing boss
- an unpleasant encounter at the store
- a bad grade that was undeserved
- a fight with a friend
- the loss of a loved one
- an illness that has past but is not forgotten
- a disintegrated marriage
- lost opportunities or paths not chosen
- living through an oppressive situation
My writing from compost webbing —
As I look at my webbing I see many pathways I dreamt of on my life’s road. I tackled many pursuits, some started were not completed and others completed with no road to fruition. Like my Elementary Education certification. I thought that was the answer for a newly divorced, single mom with young school age kids. Seemed the perfect parallel career to accommodate their school hours and vacations. If only it had worked that way.
I taught for two years, making so little money I could barely pay bills. When I didn’t receive child support I’d be stressed to the hilt. The school paid my health insurance, but I found I had to pay my children’s insurance on my credit card. Needless to say, that career path didn’t last long and I returned to the restaurant where I had met my ex-husband as the operations manager.
I never wanted to be in the restaurant business and I can’t tell you how many times I swore it off only to find myself back on the floor running around serving and catering to customers. This is not how I saw my working life at all.
It was a reasonably good place to work and I did truly like the people I worked with and the customers, but I knew I could do so much more. I tried leaving twice more, once in product sales and the next in real estate. Both times I returned to the same restaurant garnering a bit more money and few more perks. Yet keep in mind, there was never 401k or retirement plan of any kind.
This is how I spent the best working days of my life, always dreaming what if, and knowing I had so much more to offer. The years past and my focus had to be on raising my son and daughter. My goal was to make sure they both went to college, followed their dreams and did not end up working in a place because they had to, like their mother.
As one went off to college and the younger was in high school, I again decided to try for my Masters’ degree with a plan to finish my working life not in hospitality. The big goal was to go for a Ph.D. and work at a mid-west college teaching, living in a peaceful, pastoral setting. Ahhh! This was a career you could work at until you were old and gray. I knew I had to work forever at this rate.
I graduated with my Masters the same year my daughter graduated high school. As she moved on to college I thought I would soon follow once I earned my doctorate. With two children in college and no more child support my finances became a tricky operation. Bottom line I had to keep working. So, I readjusted my plan – find a job at a college and earn my doctorate for free while I worked. I started applying to colleges in Arizona and in the mid-west (where I really wanted to live).
Best laid plans as they say, after at least 100 applications to all types of college positions, nothing came my way. I was forlorn, a few years had passed and this dream was withering on the vine. Eventually, I moved to the big desert city of Phoenix (ugh!) where there was a much better pool of jobs in general. With a professorship dead and buried, I found work with what turned out to be a wonderful nonprofit focused on early childhood development.
I became the agency’s first community development manager which meant I represented the agency to the community. It was my job to inform people about the incredible services this agency had to offer young children and their families in mental health and child development, disabilities services, literacy/language development and family support services. Ironically, managing a business and my few years of teaching garnered me the position.
I made relationships across Arizona because of our statewide services. I got to know the movers and shakers in the early childhood development world locally and nationally. All of whom were doing marvelous things to give young children the foundation they need to succeed and live a fruitful, positive life.
Funny as I write that last sentence, giving young children a fruitful life…. See that’s what this unexpected, un-looked for job gave me… a fruitful career. For the last nine years of my working life I contributed to an essential, important cause. It was not teaching as traditionally thought, it was not the sciences that I had once dreamed of, it was not the art I hoped I would make, but it was mindful, thoughtful, heartfelt work that I enjoyed providing.
As I look at my webbing I see the many things I desired, the many things I pursued and what I see is that these in the end contributed to an unforeseen opportunity that gave me value and enriched my life as I traveled to retirement.
Now I sit far from the Arizona desert, back in the mid-west – yes in that peaceful, pastoral setting I dreamed of – realizing that we cannot always see where our path is going and we cannot always control where it takes us, but all those discarded pursuits may actually provide the fruit you hoped for in a very unexpected and surprising way.