This morning I took my coffee out on the porch. It was an especially good cup, poured from my own dedicated French press, the strength I prefer. I gave this cup a boost in the microwave, so however long I would take drinking my one and only cup, each sip would be consistently hot, just like I like it. Everyone was still sleeping in our full house with both boys home, so it was just me and Bo, the oversized part-human, medium-hair, full-love bug tabby cat. With a thick cloud of sleep still draped over me, I took the coffee in, and after a swallow or two, my mind shifted into its usual shuffle. More fall leaves have blown into this screened porch, so there are those to clean up. My two Boston ferns, still thriving and full, need a little TLC, too, with dead fronds inside to pull and plants to rotate for optimal sun exposure. I overwatered them the other day, compensating for a week or two of neglect, so the saucers below, now full of brown water, need emptying. The glass-topped wicker trunks they sit on normally cast a reflection, but now are caked with opaque grime from these few months since summer. It seems every surface on this porch could use a wipe down in hopes that something sparkly can emerge from the lifeless matte palette.
I had to take off my flannel shirt and just go with the tank top underneath because, while breezy, it’s an unseasonably warm 71 degrees. With this, my brain went to worry: our planet is too warm, what is to become of it and all of us? And then, out of nowhere, my thinking flipped to, “This is one damn good cup of coffee. I like mild temps, and this breeze is delightful tickling my shoulders. The dog hammock on the floor, my beloved Lucie’s, might one day be a resting spot for a future dog I’ll get to love. A broom will get up these last few leaves and how amazing it is to have ferns still so green and lush in December!”
This insistence I have on first focusing on the negative or the never ending piles of shoulds before seeing the birds at the feeder I just filled, the changing skies and beautiful cloud formations I’ll get to witness all day long if I can just look, our elderly cat upstairs, Louie, who, after a few days of not eating, is beginning to nibble on his kibble, is not serving me. The fixation on things, such as the boss I worked with last year who just yesterday announced she is leaving the company, which begs the question, will her colleagues continue working with me? Or, how ’bout this terrible two-year-old doozy: if I get Covid, how will my body fare? This hyperawareness of problems which could be, but not yet are, after all these years and after all the lessons I’m supposed to have learned, is still with me burning brightly as ever.
As I sit here typing this, I am wondering if maybe this worry, which is unquestionably my default factory setting, could come in second instead of the first place it’s most often awarded? In Kindergarten, isn’t it those children sitting still raising their hand the ones who get called on? Those acting up, bothering those around them and generally causing a nuisance, are not the ones who will get a special sticker, or a jelly bean, or kind words from the teacher, or most importantly, a chance to speak. Instead, they’ll get negative attention, which I think is the same food worry consumes. Sometimes, with the right teacher and a little luck, those misbehaving kids watching the others will self-correct and find that, in fact, stickers and jelly beans are worth the mild shift in behavior, and maybe that temporary shift might just become the new default. Is there hope for worry yet?
I’m not in AA, but for anyone who needs a buoy to grab onto, one of the lines from its Serenity Prayer is a balm: Accept the things you cannot change. There is always something good out there to grab hold of and of course no shortage of worry you can summon or that will just drop in without calling first. There are also those things which, even after your best efforts, you just can’t change. The outcomes will come and instead of forecasting them or powerlessly waiting them out, you can get busy and deliberately create your days. The fear, the sadness, the loss, and the dust caked on surfaces isn’t permanent. Whenever you choose, you can go find a fresh soft cloth and wipe it clean. It’ll come back, of course, but it’s not the enemy, and you don’t have to ferociously beat it back.
For me, today and every New Year’s Day feels like the first day of the rest of our lives, and I’ve decided this year, 2022, at least aesthetically, is especially attractive because it is full of my favorite number, 2. It is elegant and curvy and graceful like a swan, but also has a solid horizontal base, which supports it. It is open, and inviting, and slender, and inclusive, as in “too,” and its neck creates a nook for company, as in “two,” and it can go places, as in “to.”
The mess and the calm are a constant inside and outside me, but in lieu of braiding them separately into pigtails to hang on opposite sides of my head, like squabbling children you must separate, maybe they can combine into one braid trailing down my back, and I can lead the way? If nothing else, some thoughts to chew on.
Happy New Year. Let’s do this year and not let it do us. Big love to you.