Noticing

So this week is shaping up to be a rough week in a rough year. I will spare you, gentle reader, a rehearsal of all of the things that have made my 2011 difficult. Some of them are well known, and others are simply unbloggable. What makes 2011 so remarkable is how difficult it also seems to have been for my friends. So many people I know are dealing with painful changes: Careers ending. Relationships ending. Moving to new places. Loved ones dying. None of these things are precisely new or unique to this year, but the quantity of these events in the lives of those I love and respect has been striking. Not all of these events are even bad– sometimes things must end to move us on towards better things to come– but all of them entail painful change.

And yet tonight has been a very good night despite a very lousy day. I received a package in the mail from a dear, dear friend that lightened my mood instantaneously. My son fell and hit his head right before preschool ended today, but he was fine and in high spirits tonight. We spent the evening reading books, reenacting the light saber fights from The Empire Strikes Back, and watching Dancing With the Stars. It was a great night, all things considered.

Not long ago I would not have been able to set aside the day’s cares like this. Knowing me, they will probably revisit me at four in the morning unbidden and unwelcome. But I am learning that the sources of worry, concern and fear in my life are not appreciably pacified by my obsessive worrying. The worry will return when it will, and I will have the same traction on what worries me if I worry for five minutes as I would if I worry for five hours. There is room in my life for delight. There must be, otherwise I am barely alive.

I also sense that as 2011 slouches to a close, good things are beginning to grow in the hollows the beginning of the year left behind. Old things are passing on, and what is close seems sometimes trackless waste; but new things form, still vague and shapeless, on the far-off horizon. Some of them have been coming from way off for a very long time, or so it seems. Formerly close people become distant in both physical and spiritual space, and others formerly distant are drawn closer.

It was ever thus, though until recently to my shame I had failed to notice it. The biggest lesson I am learning is that, in my zeal to make life happen before this year began, I simply failed to notice that life was happening all around me and that it continually escaped my attention. I now know that, for me at least, living is often little more than noticing.

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