Friday, December 24, 2010

Looking back...

I can't write "looking back" without hearing Garth Brooks singing The Dance.  Coincidentally, that was a song E and I slow danced to, my heart a tangled extension cord of nervousness, on our first big date, the Winter Homecoming dance in 1996.  I can barely listen to it, the memories of tingling nerves and sweaty palms are so raw.  That song feels all about my wanting this boy to like me, not knowing how to do "the dance" of teenage dating, and anxiously hoping he felt the same.  It captures a perfect moment in time.

The lyrics (which I so happily ignored as a teen) are sad.  Profound.  They're about how we can't avoid pain because in so doing, we'd lose the experiences we get by risking love.  In a greater sense, they are about how we have to be thankful for what we get to live--that even if it ends in pain there was something redeeming about the dance we had with each other--and that much of life is up to fate.  If you've been hanging around long enough to know our challenging marital struggle, you know that this song parallels things for me in more ways than I could probably put into words.

This Christmas I'm thankful for a different type of dance: the one E and I did over a long and difficult year last year to put our family back together.  He retook the Bar exam.  I said no to things that didn't matter.  We scrimped and planned and made family time a priority.  We shouldered pain for our kids.  We remembered that we like each other.  Last Christmas I wrote of how heartbreaking our financial situation was, how lean and meager it felt, and how the pain doubled because my ironic expectation was that once we came together again in marriage, everything else would work out with ease.  It took another year of struggle, of relearning patterns between us and of realizing that we had to just keep moving forward.  I'm thankful for that dance because it was the final push in a change to my world view.  I started really growing up when E and I separated, but it wasn't until long after we came back together that I put those lessons into action.  One of the hardest things for me to learn has been that happy is not a place at which I will arrive and set up camp.  Happy is, like Carl Sandburg says of poetry, "the opening and closing of a door, leaving those who look through to guess about what is seen during a moment."  I've glimpsed my share of happy, but seeing it as a finish line means that everything else is work.

This year's joy has been in celebrating the small, (not to beat the metaphor to death, but) the dance.  It has been in realizing that awareness of each moment brings so much more gratitude and joy than waiting for a date circled red on the calendar.  In celebrating the ordinary, it doesn't seem like such a failure for me that E and I still fight, that we have months with 30 days of fun and only 20 days of money, that I am sometimes not the friend I aim to be, or that our kids sometimes act like wild, selfish apes.  It helps me get through my day or my school year or my run with thankfulness that I am so able instead of dread and impatience for the distance to the finish.

Looking back on this year I am able to see that I had so much more peace and joy than I've ever had.  I didn't accomplish nearly as much as I did in some other years, but I protected what mattered, and I think I did my best job of pausing to look around, to smell the cold air on a run or burn the image of a family dinner with a five and eight year old into my memory.  I don't know what lies ahead, but I'm thankful for this year's dance.

Merry Christmas Eve.  May your day be filled with small joy as well.

In a few days I'll be posting this year's answers to the same Yearly Reflection Questions I posted last year.  Click the link if you'd like to copy and paste and join in.  Enjoy.

1 comment:

  1. I quite like this line: "I've glimpsed my share of happy, but seeing it as a finish line means that everything else is work."

    Amen sister. And Merry Christmas.