A New Year - a clean slate - a time traditionally filled with hope and possibility. The days, weeks, and months stretch out in front of me and I can't help but focus on the year ahead.
Will it be happy, healthy, and peaceful as I want it to be? Will there be challenge that I can't even yet imagine? In the midst of this is the awareness that it's another year without my son.
I remember the July that David died. Because his last days on earth were in the summer, the approach of autumn felt wrong, like a betrayal and abandonment of my sweet son. The season was changing too soon and I wasn't ready. I longed to stay in the last summer of David's life for just a while longer to cling to even a shred of fading connection.
But time didn't ask if I was ready; it just continued its relentless march and pushed me along with it. Soon it was David's birthday and Halloween, then Thanksgiving and the holiday season. Each special day brought a new wave of grief that I couldn't wait to get past.
Then New Year's arrived. Leaving the last year of David's life was the most difficult of all. There was no turning back; no wait one more minute. The ball dropped, the page turned, and I was in a different year.
Since then I've become used to the feeling of being pushed along by time. Mostly it seems to rush forward like a surging current, carrying me with it on its journey. But sometimes it feels excruciatingly slow, like when I can't wait for springtime or to achieve some long-range goal. Why am I either wishing I could stay in the past or longing for the future?
I know I'm not alone in experiencing time as sometimes too fast and sometimes too slow. And it's not only a function of grief; most of us tend to live either too much in the past or the future and we end up not really noticing the present. Unchecked, we are wishing our lives away.
I've decided to make 2014 my year of practicing mindfulness. It's not a resolution really, because I don't think resolutions usually hold. It's more of an intention. I intend to practice mindfulness this year and I'll see how that feels.
Being mindful means paying attention to what is, without judgment. Anything in life can be done mindfully: eating, working, playing, resting. Tuning into one's present experience and returning to that awareness when the mind wanders (as it definitely will) keeps us anchored in the moment. It fosters appreciation, gratitude, and patience, all of which I want more of this year.
Right now I'm sitting at my desk writing on my laptop. I'm sipping a cup of tea as I write and occasionally gaze out the window. It's snowing again. A million thoughts try to compete for my attention: cleaning off my car later, my to-do list, memories, worries. I take another sip of tea and gently bring myself back to this article. I am writing. Writing and sipping. They're two simple acts that ground me in the present where memories don't haunt and worries don't matter. I feel peaceful and grateful.
Mindfulness is thought to be helpful for coping with many of life's difficulties. Try it yourself and let me know what you think. And don't hesitate to contact me for more tips on living mindfully.
Essays on Grief Resilience