Prompt: Everything’s OK. What was the best moment that could serve as proof that everything is going to be all right? And how will you incorporate that discovery into the year ahead? (Prompt by author Kate Inglis for #reverb10.)
It’s Christmas Eve. I saw this prompt in my inbox this morning, and have thought about it all day. We’ve just returned from a lovely and low-key dinner at our favorite neighborhood Italian restaurant, I’m in my new pajamas (a thoughtful gift from my love, who knows that a day spent lounging is a wonderful and rare thing) and waiting until the next showing of “A Christmas Story” on TV. It is moments like this — moments of quiet contentment, that seem to melt into the wallpaper — when, if I could only take a breath and NOTICE — and say, “THERE! HERE! This is it! THIS! THIS! THIS is the essence of everything that makes you happy!” — WOW. Those moments are everywhere.
However — life is like being a fighter pilot. You know the old joke — “Hours of boredom, punctuated by moments of sheer terror.” The moments of terror show up as spikes on the long readout tape of life. They are so loud and distorted, and take up so much bandwidth, that I can easily be persuaded that my life is made up of a series of crises, narrowly averted.
Of course, there’s another way of looking at it. Moshe Feldenkrais describes a series of meetings with a well-known pedagogue, who taught him how to draw. After a series of miserable attempts, the teacher said, in effect: don’t draw the thing. Draw what is around the thing. When Moshe began to focus on the “negative space,” the spaces where there was — nothing — the image appeared with great quality and clarity. I wonder if by shifting my attention to this “blank space,” these plain and everyday moments when there is no crisis, that my perception of contentment would become the norm.
There was a moment, in the last quarter of the year, when a business partner handed me a nice big check. It represented a lot of concentrated work, and value returned for it. As shallow as it seems, that moment of receiving that particular check was a moment when I noticed that I was breathing, and that life was good. Of course, there are many such moments, although they are represented with less drama and splash. I experienced a similar quality on a spring drive on Texas back roads in search of wildflowers in late March. I experienced it listening to an inspiring musical performance. I experienced it in community gathered after the death of a friend. Somehow, those continual confirmations that “Everything is all right” are too polite — too meek, never forcing themselves into awareness, saying “Look at me! Here I am! You’ve got it!” No. The perfect moments are wallflowers, the undramatic and everyday events quietly watching from the perimeter, while the glamorous and dramatic challenges get all the attention. However, polite thought they may be — they are everywhere. They need only to be acknowledged.
How to have more such moments in 2011? Well, it’s nice to get checks! And, I think the way is prepared by simply noticing those moments of contentment, when all is well. Truth be told, all is well the vast majority of the time. I’ve found that by counting my blessings, by expressing gratitude, and by simply noticing those moments when all is well — somehow, suddenly, more appear.