This is my all-time favorite poem, by John O’Donohue:
For a New Beginning
In out of the way places of the heart
Where your thoughts never think to wander
This beginning has been quietly forming
Waiting until you were ready to emerge.
For a long time it has watched your desire
Feeling the emptiness grow inside you
Noticing how you willed yourself on
Still unable to leave what you had outgrown.
It watched you play with the seduction of safety
And the grey promises that sameness whispered
Heard the waves of turmoil rise and relent
Wondered would you always live like this.
Then the delight, when your courage kindled,
And out you stepped onto new ground,
Your eyes young again with energy and dream
A path of plenitude opening before you.
Though your destination is not clear
You can trust the promise of this opening;
Unfurl yourself into the grace of beginning
That is one with your life’s desire.
Awaken your spirit to adventure
Hold nothing back, learn to find ease in risk
Soon you will be home in a new rhythm
For your soul senses the world that awaits you.
It’s a recurring theme in my life, beginning. Starting something new, or starting something old over again, I’m often in search of new.
I wonder sometimes if the pull for a blank page, a fresh start, comes from my childhood. We moved 18 times before I turned 18, never to the same house or friends or school. I didn’t know any other way, and I loved it.
For years, I would rearrange the furniture in the bedroom, begin training for a half-marathon, volunteer to foster puppies – anything that sounded different and interesting and new was fair game.
During those years, O’Donohue’s poem rang of adventure, calling out over the gray promises of sameness. Step out on to new ground, change, do something different!
This year, the poem holds different meaning.
Gabe and I spent an evening last week reflecting on the last year of our lives. We discovered, in quiet conversation in front of our fireplace, that the year had been much harder on each of us than we’d been able to admit in the messy middle of it.
On paper, last year looked like a banner year.
Gabe’s work allowed him terrific opportunity and great balance, something he’s never experienced. I built this little corner of my world into an award-winning space for divorced parents and blended families. My work away from here blossomed into something I’d never imagined, work that sustains and fulfills me. The kids are strong and growing and our families are healthy.
We were exhausted, stretched too thin and running on empty.
Six kids, busy jobs and a rapscallion of a dog will do that to you, of course. This year, we added graduate studies, and writing, and managing the ever-changing dynamics of our coparenting and blended family relationships, and nearly toppled over.
There were signs of things amiss: I took one tenth of the pictures I normally take of our family adventures. The garage and the attic were overrun with half-completed projects and the hastily tossed and soon forgotten stuff six kids generate. Gabe and I missed weekends away together, and friends started wondering where we’d been.
The year felt like one long reaction. We spent our days reacting to schedule changes and travel needs and the million unexpected mini-dramas that make up real life (I’m looking at you, lunches on the counter and library books under the bed).
We forgot, it seems, to start with intention; to begin with an idea of where we wanted to be at the end of it. And so, snuggled on the couch, we discovered that our year was a grab-bag of experiences, some adding up to terrific fun, and some leaving us a bit empty.
This year, O’Donohue’s poem doesn’t speak to me about adventure. It speaks to me purely as the call to a new beginning.
We’re starting fresh.
This year, we’ve got a list, written and stored in our nightstand drawer, of what dreams we’re working toward in 2018. We know what each of us wants to accomplish, and what it will take to get there.
We also know what we’re letting go of in the next twelve months. What expectations we’re dropping of ourselves and of each other, what hurt we’re putting out to pasture, and what control we’re relinquishing.
There’s nothing wildly new or exciting on my dream list.
I’m planting a garden again, and continuing to move my body in a way that means I don’t ache when I wake up in the morning. We’re traveling, of course, to places we love and to new discoveries. I will continue to grow this community, offering classes and coaching and support to families who feel forgotten.
This year’s new beginning is about deliberately shifting from reaction to choice.
If you’re a regular reader, you’ve seen some of that choice already in action.
I’ve decided to write only when I have something meaningful to say, something I haven’t shared with you before. Rather than heeding the advice of the various agents who’ve spoken with me over the last year, I will NOT be posting on social media 10-30 times per day in an effort to “grow my following.” I’ve considered my intention in my class library, and lowered the price of the classes I offer by more than half; I started this space to provide help, not to make a buck.
This year is about thinking of that list of dreams in my nightstand first, and thinking about how my choices bring those dreams closer (or delay them). It’s about commitment to myself and to Gabe and to our vision for this family we are building.
I trust the promise of this opening. The next 12 months make up a year of intention, restoration, and joy.
What does your new beginning hold?