Prioritize Joy 2017
It’s 4:30am on this Saturday morning and my body refuses to sleep. I’m jet lagged from the 11-hour time difference we grew accustomed to in Utah and waking up all hours of the night. As disturbing as it is to be up before dawn, I relished the time to organize my thoughts—me and the ocean waves crashing outside my window. Life could be worse.
It’s a new year and I’ve yet to make any goals beyond, get through today. It’s difficult to think ahead when our shipment just arrived, household stuff we packed up six months ago in St. George. Boxes are everywhere, clothes strewn across beds, floors, and tables. Decorations, books, bedding, towels, boxes of yarn, undone, sitting, waiting for me like belligerent children, to call them to order. I’ll begin in one room—stacking, folding, arranging—then find myself in another. Nothing is getting accomplished as fast as I want it to. Of course, it’s one thing to organize stuff and another entirely to sift through memories—pieces of a former life that recall people and places you loved. Love takes time.
With my feet propped up on a paper cutter resting atop of a box of acrylic paints, I sit in what will be my office at some point. Right now it looks more like the garage sale of a crafting addict. I’ve got plastic tubs of yarn (dreams in the making), containers of ribbon and colored paper, paints and brushes. They will all have to wait.
Yesterday, I sighed over a box of winter clothing that was supposed to go into storage. Mountains of thick down coats, hats and gloves, winter boots. We needed them in Sweden but Oman is still a balmy 85 in the depths of January; no reason to have those things here. I intended for our winter gear, and the greater portion of our books, to go into storage, as well as most of the decorations we now have, but somewhere in the shuffle of Washington D.C. storage, air shipment and boat shipment, our things did a swap o’ roo. The tools in the garage made it here but the piano didn’t!! Oh the piano! That one hurt. All these months I’d been waiting, reserving space along the living room wall…SIGH…
As a general rule, moves never go as planned. Disappointment, frustration, resignation, Hello…my old friends, nice to see you again. It’s one thing to get the lemons and make lemonade, but what if you don’t even get lemons…then what?
Then you have to conjure magic, I suppose, make something out of nothing. Like those nights you didn’t make it to the grocery store but need to make dinner anyway. You take the lonely can of tomatoes from the pantry, crack some eggs, whip it together with the last remaining onion in the bin, and pretty soon you’ve got yourself a scrambled dish that’s worthy of eating.
Life is a lot of scramble and conjuring. We devise and reinvent and make do. And at the end of it, with a little luck, we’ve really got ourselves something. In my case, I’m hoping to have a “home.” I’m working to make sense out of chaos, hoping to again find identity and purpose.
We all do this, to one degree or another. While I recreate my identity on a large scale every couple of years, in smaller, less noticeable ways, we do this daily. Each choice, each decision, each step in one direction means another not taken, as Robert Frost said, “that makes all the difference.” I read once our body’s cells change completely every seven years, meaning we’re a whole new self. Cell by cell. Day by day. Change, it seems, is built into who we are, it’s part of our DNA. It’s what we do to survive.
The New Year’s begun in America and the Christian world, but here in Oman, the New Year comes in September, with the first day in the Islamic lunar calendar. Days are counted differently too. In Oman a day begins at sunset with the cycle of the moon. I can attest Arabs loooove their nighttime hours. The beach is the most crowded from 6pm till 2am. I sometimes wear ear plugs to bed and turn on a fan to block out the noise from the laughter of adults and children playing outside at midnight.
Right now my days and nights are so mixed up, I’m not sure when one starts and the other begins. I’d be happy to go with either way. But the point is this, I think, anytime you want to begin…begin. There is no better time than today. I’ve heard that said, but now that I’m older, I’m inclined to believe it.
Rather than make goals, I’m going to set an “intention” for 2017. Intention sounds fancier, but really I’m trying to be practical. The truth is I can’t control much from day to day. I can’t even control what stuff I have in my life, I mean Maggie was going to take piano lessons, but now that we don’t have a piano, we’re going with violin. Three of those showed up, (the violins the boys used back in Vienna, when in 2nd grade they had a strings program). So for now, the idea is to have an intention, a mantra for the year at hand. It goes like this: Prioritize Joy.
Joy! I’ve been singing about “Joy to the World,” this past month and that felt good. I don’t think joy has to be as elusive as I make it. I’m the type that likes to focus and get things done, be productive, but here’s the thing…if you don’t stop the momentum of busyness, then joy has trouble fully seeping into consciousness.
Take the last four days my life, for example…I’ve been in my house, digging through my personal avalanche, working to make sense of life—quite literally—and with another week of doing the same it still won’t be as perfect as I want it to be. But with “Prioritize Joy,” as my intention, I’ll take a break from all of this, walk to the ocean’s edge, stick in my toe and maybe even pick up a seashell or two, take a few deep breaths. Life only happens once, but every moment is a chance to reinvent, to choose differently, to keep surprising ourselves.
I’m surprising myself right now, eating pretzels from an open bag I found next to a stapler, a statue of Michelangelo’s The David and an antique globe of the world. I tell you anything is possible this year, whether you started counting down in January or will begin in September, the year is raging and we cannot call it back. We can only join in the beautiful, resounding chaos and prioritize joy!