New Yorkers saw their first snowfall of the season on Wednesday and like true New Yorkers, they put up their black umbrellas and trudged on. It was my lunch break and, desperately in need of soup, I ventured out into the world of wintry wind and overcast skies. The afternoon bustle was no different that the mornings or late weekend nights and people moved along the sidewalk, hurrying on their way.
I found soup at a cafe just a couple blocks from the World Trade Tower and my City Hall subway stop. The hot, spicy broth warmed my stomach and when I left the cafe, the air was filled with fine, white flakes. I put up my bright red polka dotted umbrella and headed back to the office. My office in New York City.
How quickly life can change. For the first time in months, routine has reentered my life. Monday through Friday, I take the subway and read my Kindle through countless R stops from Queens to downtown Manhattan. Like millions of others, I have joined the ranks of employed commuters. In my neighborhood, the Astoria community plays holiday music from large speakers hung from tree branches over the sidewalk and in the evenings, lights gleam in green, red and gold over the busy streets. It’s a working holiday wonderland here in the Big Apple.
I’m still the girl who looks up at the skyscrapers in open-mouthed awe. I have not yet adjusted to starless skies, constellations hidden from view amidst the flashing advertisements and glowing signs. This city, filled with sky high promise of glamour and power, buzzes with an energy I’ve never known before. Despite the warning signs of my body (coughing, stuffy nose), I move on to the next holiday party and early morning shuffle. I’m the first to admit that I’ve been caught up in the constant flurry of movement and activity that is simultaneously intoxicating and nerve-racking.
Where has my mindfulness gone? With this season’s holiday spirit and growing list of un-purchased presents, maybe we all need to remind ourselves of our own “presence of mind”. This week I wish all of you some time to reflect, homemade candy cake brownies and an early bedtime.
In anticipation of the new year, I’ve purchased tiny pink cans of champagne, a blank Moleskin planner and a new purple ballpoint pen. With only two days left to overindulge in Christmas cookies and make plans for an overly anticipated NYE, I’ve set my mind ahead to 2014. Will my gung ho “fresh out the gate” enthusiasm for the next twelve months dissolve under the pressure of routine, procrastination and reliance on destiny? Only time will tell.
Glancing back at my 2013 planner, I witnessed small snapshots of my past year. I remembered meeting friends for the first time, auditioning for plays and dance groups, accepting a job, noting birthdays I remembered (or forgot), and a brief 3-month obsession with hot yoga. The experiences, mistakes, scheduled appointments– all filed away in the pages of months gone by.
How much do we change year to year, moment to moment? Years can pass us by without any noticeable change while a single event may alter the way we view our role in the world forever. My journal entry dated December 26th, 2013 read remarkably like my entry dated exactly one year earlier in 2012. I had the same feelings of nostalgia surrounding Christmas festivities as an adult, insecurity about my future, questions about the definition of home and the absence of romance in my life. Have I changed? How can I tell? Is change tangible, pencil marks on the wall for each inch and every year taller, or a continuous wave ebbing and flowing with the cyclical tide?
If I was to pick a New Year’s Resolution, it would have something to do with mindfulness. Mindnessful, “a state of active, open attention on the present (Psychology Today)” is linked to Buddhism and the practice of meditation. In his book A Gradual Awakening, Stephen Levine compares our thoughts to the cars of a train and encourages the reader to step away from the continuous flow of images and experiences, letting them pass by and disappear around the bend. I’m sick of being overbooked and underwhelmed. I will strength my resolve to live fully within these precious moments with a greater awareness of time and space. We have, after all, only ourselves to suffer with, to love with and to cherish.
Every year is given to us as a gift and it is up to each of us how we use the mystery beneath the wrapping paper.