In a quiet place in my kitchen hangs a chalkboard. I walk by it a gazillion times a day, going to the garage, going to get a broom, going to feed the dogs a treat. I don’t read the words on the board everytime I pass it but I do read them several times a day.
Last New Year’s Eve, I wrote the following words:
I never swapped out that admonition, even though I knew most of the time I was failing miserably to do as it suggested. On occasion it would keep me from swearing. On occasion it did make me pause and consider some harsh thing I was about to spout off. I didn’t kill anyone in 2018. I suppose in some ways that means I was kind. I was kind enough not to act upon some of my more base emotions.
Lord, God knows it wasn’t for not wanting to wring a certain someone’s neck. Y’all know.
There are days and moments within most days when I know beyond a shadow of a doubt that I am not a good person.
Perhaps that why I love Mary Oliver, the poet, so much. She reminds me that I don’t have to be good. I only have to love.
You do not have to be good.
You do no not have to walk on your knees
for a hundred miles through the desert repenting.
You only have to let the soft animal of your body
love what it loves…
(Wild Geese/Mary Oliver)
Most of 2018 was a year was a year of celebration for our family. It started off with the Appalachian Heritage Writer Award, a huge surprise for me, thank you Shepherd University! Tim and I celebrated 40 years of marriage, with our kids and lifelong friends. We also celebrated the publication of so many good books by so many dear friends. I finished writing the book I’ve been working on since 2013. I signed with a new literary agency on that book. Thank you, Jane Dystel, for believing in this project. I got to be present for the presentation of Becoming Mrs. Lewis by Patti Callahan Henry at a beautiful church in Mountain Brook, Alabama, which also meant I got to spend time with Mike and Melanie Morris.
I read some great books – Southernmost by Silas House, An American Marriage by Tayari Jones, Becoming Mrs. Lewis, which I already mentioned, House of Broken Angels by Luis Urrea, on and on the list goes. I saw some great movies – Black Panther, Black Klansman, which wrecked me, but in a way that showed me my heart retains a certain tenderness.
I donated to causes I care about. I campaigned for a woman I believed in, and even though she didn’t win, my time was not wasted. I spent that time with people, people trying to make the world a better place. It felt good to get out and talk to neighbors I would not meet otherwise. It felt good to speak up for those unable to be heard. I will never be silent in the face of wrongdoing, even my own wrongdoings. No longer will I be shamed into silence by men in power. Instead I will challenge systems designed to diminish people.
To that end, I came up with a new admonition for 2019:
This 2019 admonition is taken from Mary Oliver’s Morning Poem:
each pond with its blazing lilies
is a prayer heard and answered
whether or not
you have ever dared to be happy,
whether or not
you have ever dared to pray.
In 2019, I hope we all dare to be happy, that we all dare to pray more.
It is my belief that the two things go hand in hand. That the one leads to the other, doesn’t it? When we are prayerful, we are happier, and when we are happy, we are more prayerful.
So bring it 2019. Good things await us, as do the hard things. That’s the nature of life. We only need to love and pray our way through it all.