Out with the old and in with the new, or something like that

I’ve struggled to find words to process the last few years.

We’ve collectively lived through something hard.

Impossibly hard.

I can’t write about the enormity of the experience, so I’ll take it to the personal micro-level.

I lost my grandmother to Covid. I didn’t get to say goodbye and we didn’t have a funeral for her.

My son had two terrible accidents. They were scary. I relive them daily and I hold him too close.

My daughter didn’t react well to social distancing. Her light dimmed so much I felt I might lose her.

Our family was together all the time, but somehow things got messy and convoluted. The undercurrent of fear kept us on edge, too internal, and we became strange to each other.

I want to move forward and say 2022 is the year it all changes, but it feels like rebuilding a puzzle without knowing the picture, and some of the pieces could be missing. It’s an uneasy feeling.

Yet, I’m going to try anyway.

Trying for me looks like refocusing on daily journaling, the short story challenge, and recommitting to posting to this blog. I’m moving my body and cooking dinner. I’m taking vitamins and sticking to a budget. I cleaned my closets. I’m making plans with friends.

These are important steps forward, creating new focus and new habits.

But if I learned anything from watching the Muppet Christmas Carol on repeat all December, we have to live in the past, present, and the future.

Not everything during the last two years was awful.

The dark night sky had some glittery stars, and they were incredibly beautiful.

Can I show you?

There was time to watch the sunrise and the sunset.

We drew this chalk mural for our neighbors to see as they walked by our house. We also hung hearts and paper cranes in our front window. It gave us a purpose and made us feel more connected to the outside world.

There was more time to spend outdoors, and we hiked a lot.

My sweet nephew got in on the hiking, too. Silly faces were a requirement.

We did an online challenge of trying to copy famous paintings. I think we nailed it.

We snuck away to a beach house during the lockdown, and took a walk on the empty beach. It began to rain, and we saw starfish everywhere. We lost count at 100.

I grew my first ever pumpkin, and then…

I became queen of the pumpkins.

I did some of my daughter’s school work with her and drew this beauty.

We did numerous photo shoots with Puff the Magic Hamster, who was a wonderful sport about it.

We had our own May Day, and it’s my favorite picture of us.

My son got his first car,

and my daughter grew wings.

I got to take my nephew to his first rock concert and see him light up.

I got my first tattoo, a matching wave with my best friend.

I captured this moment at the aquarium.

When I could hug my mother again, it was everything.

And when it was safe, this group got together and my heart was full.


My kids tease me because I take a lot of pictures, but I’m grateful. Looking through these memories, and there were a lot more, it helps me remember the last two years have been hard, yes, but also filled with tiny moments of beauty and joy.

Can you tell me some of yours?

 

Time to do it all over again

I sink down into the hot water and close my eyes. It burns my skin slightly and I focus on the sensation spreading through my body.  My heart begins to race and beads of sweat form on my face.

It becomes too much, and I’m forced to pull my hands, feet and head out of the water. The cold air causes the now exposed skin to cool and feel numb. I keep my eyes closed enjoying the extremities of temperature on my body.

Eventually the feelings cease as the water becomes comfortable. I wash my now slightly reddened skin and sink down peacefully until I start to wrinkle. Then I steady myself for the jolt of cold as I plunge out of the warmth into the freezing room.

Life is so tremendously wavering. The polarity of just an hour can sometimes make me feel like my limbs are being torn in opposite directions. The unpredictability can be exciting and pleasant, but often it leaves me feeling battered.

I need little constants to keep it all tied together. The rhythm of my day tethers me to reality and prevents another slip down the rabbit hole of depression. I’m like a child who will forgo sleep and eat nothing but sugar when given complete freedom. I need structure.

This brings me to Project 365. Last year on this exact day, I decided to try this little photo experiment. I charged myself with taking a picture of something I was thankful for every day for the entire year.

Last night I posted my final picture.

newyears

I did it. Every day of 2014, I took at least one picture of my life and posted it to Instagram and Facebook. I didn’t miss a single day, even when sick, stressed, traveling, my phone died or I was drunk. Nothing stopped me from my daily picture.

This might not seem like a huge deal, but it is to me. What started as a way to shift my focus to the blessings around me, morphed into something much bigger than that. It became my end of day routine and a way to chronicle my life. It’s my tether.

All month I have been pondering if I will do it again. Are people sick of seeing my daily photos? Will they roll their eyes and think I’m being self-centered? Bragging?

Yet as I look back on my year in photos today, I am suddenly unconcerned with what others think.

project365

It’s time to do it all over.

Life continues on, and this is one way I make sense of it all.

No, I am not a great photographer. It is true that there are more pictures of alcohol, clouds and books than I would have ever guessed. It’s true that I am a grown woman who actually thinks selfies are fun, and that I find my kids more darling than just about anything else in the world.

It’s also true, that none of that matters. That everyone’s life is worth chronicling in anyway they find meaning and peace. There is nothing wrong with doing what makes you feel happy and will keep you marching along.

If you are interested, my Instagram is bridgettetales. Inspired to join in the fun? Please send me a request to follow you, as I’d love to see what you come up with.

Happy New Year!

Casting stones with third graders

rockAs they filed passed her, she grabbed a smooth stone from the basket and placed it into their waiting hands. In silence they accepted the stone and lined up outside the classroom.

For the next 20 minutes or so they walked in complete silence. Some clutched the stone toward their chest. Others tossed it in the air occasionally letting it fall to the ground. All were silent.

They followed their teacher as she led them off the school campus, across the street, through the neighborhood to a well-worn path that cut down to the river.

Forming a line along the river’s edge, the children watched their teacher and mimicked her movements. She held the stone out in front of her with both hands. She closed her eyes. When she opened them she threw the stone out into the river and watched the ripple cascade out from where it fell. Recognizing their cue, all the children started tossing in their stones. They stood quietly watching where they fell.

Stepping back from the river they formed a circle.

“Would anyone like to share what they were thinking about?”

Hands raised very quickly.

“I was thinking how I need to be nicer to my brother.”

“I want to do more things for my dog.”

“I want to work on my patience.”

“I think I can listen to my mom more.”

After sharing, the class sang several songs they had prepared for the day. The songs were filled with glee and hopefulness.

The walk back was anything but quiet. Lots of silliness, giggling and reflection.

“That was weird not talking, but cool.”

“I think we could have surprised a deer!”

“I’m proud of our class.”

Once in the classroom they had the traditional snack of apples and honey.

The teacher then presented the children with a new stone and said “Shanah Tovah,” which means “Good Year.”

The stones that were thrown in the river represented things to “cast off” from the previous year. The new stone represents the year to come.

This was my sons third grade class celebrating Rosh Hashanah. He attends a charter Waldorf school and it’s part of the third grade curriculum. They have been learning, through story and watercolor painting, the creation story. Rosh Hashanah is the “anniversary” of the creation of Adam and Eve.

These are 8- and 9-year-old children who walked in complete silence for almost 30 minutes AND participated in self-reflection.

Love this.

Next week the children will be building temporary structures called sukkah’s and the week will culminate in an evening feast for all the families.

Love this too.

I feel so lucky to have witnessed this beautiful example of reverence and reflection that is at the heart of Waldorf education.

I was even able to cast my own stone into the water. As I watched it sink to the bottom I tried to let all my pain, anger and sadness sink with it.

I’m doing work, my friends. I am starting to feel hope. Thanks for all the kind words and hugs. They have not gone unnoticed or unappreciated.

Shanah Tovah.