Preparing for a New Year

I think of the long nights and short days of Northern Hemisphere winters as my "contemplative season." Summer's frenzy of activity has slowed to match the snowy weather and frozen season. I take advantage of the slower rhythm to look back over the year coming to a close, and consider what I want from my life and work in the year ahead.

As the days begin to ever-so-gradually lengthen after Winter Solstice, turning our hemisphere back toward the sun, warmth, and life, I prepare for that quickening by listening within for the "small, still voice" of heart and spirit.

I gave myself the week of Solstice and Christmas to take a break from the frenetic pace of my work this year, so I've actually had time to read and think, to listen and dream. (I've also been sick a couple of days, as if my body was reinforcing the reminder that I really do need to practice slowing down and tending myself.)

It's not that I haven't been writing. I just haven't pressed myself to produce writing of the deadline sort. 

I woke at dawn every day as I usually do, and then sat up in bed with my laptop on my lap, writing in my personal journal. In those "morning pages" as Julia Cameron calls them in her book, The Artist's Way, I simply let thoughts and words flow how and wherever they would. Perhaps because I didn't attempt to corral them, they yielded a few deep insights. 

A frost-garden flourishing on my windowpane before dawn the other morning. 

The most important came in my word for the coming year: Abundance. I didn't think it up. I heard it one morning in the half-light before dawn, as I journalled.

At first I resisted adopting the word, because like many women, I feel as if I have over-done abundance, at least in the sense of giving. As a caregiver, as a spouse, a friend, a community member, as a teacher of writing and restoring earth, I am good at saying "yes" to requests. It's my instinctive response, which is how I overextend and make myself sick. I am not good at saying "no."

And I desperately need to learn "No." Or at least, as my dear friend and writing comadre, Dawn Wink suggested, learn to say, "I'll think about it and get back to you." 

In that context, abundance sounded unhealthy as my word for coming year. But I kept hearing it. So I looked up the dictionary definition, which includes:

  • the state or condition of having a copious quantity of something; plentifulness
  • plentifulness of the good things in life; prosperity

Oh, I thought, duh. Abundance as in "plenty": plenty of joy, plenty of time, plenty of ideas and words and readers, plenty of money, plenty of fruitful opportunities, plenty of energy and vigor, plenty of love… 

Juncos behaving with abundance during our Christmas storm, and taking turns eating the peanut-butter and chopped cranberries on their star-shaped feeder.

That kind of abundance felt right. Especially for me, now.

When I think back, I'm not sure I have completely felt that abundance since Richard died, leaving me–physically small, not strong, living with a chronic illness, not brilliant, not all of the things I thought of him as embodying–on my own. I think some part of me has been living a worried, pinched, fearful, impoverished existence ever since. And that's just not me. Certainly not the me I want to be. 

So as we head into 2016, whatever the year brings, I am going to practice living with abundance. I'll behave as generously toward myself as I do toward others. I'll work at cultivating grace and compassion toward all (even me), and let the worries go. I'll live with love, not fear. I'll be a person who believes in and acts with abundance, with an understanding that what I have is plenty to take care of me. And plenty to allow me to continue with my mission: Restoring nature, and healing we humans and our heart-whole connection to this living Earth, home to us all. 

Abundance. Most of all an abundance of love and grace. Qualities this world surely can use in–well–abundance. 

May this coming year be one of abundance for us all.