Thanksgiving marks for me the beginning of the end of the year. As I began the planning for our turkey day festivities, I felt an overwhelming sense of relief that, finally, 2017 was coming to a close. This past year claimed both of my grandparents and my father-in-law all within a three-week period. It demanded in a way I didn’t think was possible — the universe shouting commands in rapid fire. During a time when I was to anticipate the emergence of bulbs, birds and the warming of days, instead, the spring delivered an intervention so severe at the foundation of my very being, it called into question my place in my everyday.
I practice yoga several times a week and at one point later this spring, on the precipice of summer, I found myself in a familiar position — belly down, knees splayed out wide beside me, arms outstretched to the front of my mat, my head resting between them and my bottom half reclined over the backs of my feet: child’s pose. My teacher had cued for it and I fell into the pose easily. I had always thought of it as a resting pose, but in that very moment, as I was still nearly completely immersed in loss, I no longer viewed it as a place of reprieve, but rather total submission to the world around me. Bow down. (It wasn’t asking.) In that moment I realized how little control I had been permitted and how presumptuous I had been. The pose must not be named for the position of resting babies (no children nap like that), but perhaps rather to recall the vulnerability of childhood and our willingness in our youth to submit to and weather all that the world places at our feet, at the top of our mats.
It’s been eight months since that yoga revelation and with time, I’ve gone back to feeling like I can take rest in child’s pose on some days. Others, I am bowing down both in awe and dismay at the joy and the devastation of 2017. There are days when my grief takes such shape I can almost see it sitting beside me begging to be tended. Mornings when my five-year-old wanders to my bedside to wake me with one simple kiss carefully placed on my forehead as he scampers up the side of the bed and claims his space beside me. Lazy afternoons with my 9-year-old as he cracks a sharp, wise-ass joke, his delivery timed perfectly, big eyes watching mine, waiting for me to catch it — his head thrown back, mouth wide open in full laughter the moment I do (we have a similar sense of humor). My husband, my constant, perceiving my moments of spontaneous sorrow and telling me simply to be with it. In many ways, he has understood my grief better than I and has made space for it during a time when he has needed me most, in the wake of losing his dad. His faith and generosity have been unwavering and both inspiration and grounding. And finally, hearing the new space that loss occupies in my conversations with my family; we’ve all been there, we were there together, but the place we are in now, afterwards, is new terrain for all of us. So we move forward — carefully, gently, with as much purpose as we can muster. And I’m left to wonder how all of this uncertainty, beauty, stability, humor, love in its simplest most perfect form, disorientation, generosity, sadness, loss, and inspiration, could possibly coexist in just one year.
So, as our home warmed with the lights, smells and sounds of Christmas, I began to feel differently, more ambivalent, about stepping into 2018. Part of me felt like I was leaving people I loved most in the year behind me. The year ahead would, indeed, be new, but would be without them. I also thought about the lessons the year had hand delivered, mainly, the realization that I won’t be here on this earth forever. It seemed like last week I was at my grandparents’ house on New Year’s Eve watching Dick Clark count down, waiting anxiously for midnight to arrive. I would run into the kitchen with my cousins and pick out pots and pans, and when Dick proclaimed the new year and the sparkly ball dropped, we’d all run out the front door, down the long driveway, banging those pots and pans together and screaming “HAPPY NEW YEAR!” with the goal of waking up the neighborhood. Thirty years went by fast and I suspect the next thirty will, too.
I’m still working it all out in my head and heart and I don’t expect it to be all resolved by the end of the countdown, though forward I will move, into 2018. I have been thinking about those New Year’s Eves past, though, in particular, waiting at the front door to run into the night of the new year. It was always super dark and a little bit cold (as cold as December nights in Los Angeles get anyway), but I remember the sense of security I felt with my family in the warm, lit house behind me, as well as the freedom to run, run, run and clang those lids together with all my might. I wasn’t thinking so much about the year ahead, but mostly about what that moment held: family, love, stability, independence, joy. And that’s what I’ll be taking with me into 2018 as I attempt to continue to sort all of this out — this life and all of the beauty, uncertainty, and light that comes with it.