This week, just one year ago, I woke up, still tired from a restless sleep, but excited and focused on the tasks at hand. I had been at my new job for 10 weeks and learned a great deal. Settling in for the winter meant it was time to focus on implementing new policies and procedures, taking my experience and applying it to the knowledge I had gained during many hours of guest service, and staff meetings at a venerable New England resort and conference center.
I was excited for the prospects of working with my fellow managers to reenergize the inn and help usher in a new era of memories for our staff and guests; as you may have guessed by now, those plans never got off the ground.
Instead of my year revolving around banquet event orders, holiday menus, room service issues and mothers of brides, it centered on items such as atherosclerosis (I can finally spell it but still can’t pronounce it), rehabilitation, medication, heart rates and hiking.
I have worked just two months this year; yet I have never been richer.
I had my heart stop and life supported by machines; yet I have never been happier.
I have changed a great deal in one year, but do not fear; I’m still weird, I still drive some people crazy and I most certainly still believe that every answer is somewhere blowing in the wind.
Looking back is helpful at times, which is why this blog exists and why I have decided to try my hand at writing a memoir based on this fateful year of my life. But even more important than reflecting on the past is focusing on the future, which is where signing up for trail races, looking for new types of careers, and experimenting with seitan come into play.
While we take care of the past and future in the pages of our lives and with notes on our calendars, the most important lesson I have learned this year has to do neither with our past lives or our future selves.
The lesson is as elusive as a shooting star, and just as explosive. Be present in the moment. This moment, right now, because there is nothing else as important. For me it is as simple and as challenging as being aware of my breath.
To be fully engaged with yourself and the subjects you seek is not easy. It takes a great deal of patience and practice. I have always had a large amount of the former, only now have I devoted real time to the latter.
By truly living in the moment, I have been able to understand things that had previously been afterthoughts or pipe dreams. Being honest with myself was a rough realization. People use the term, “the truth hurts” often but it has been my experience that they are rarely referring to themselves when they turn that phrase.
Sitting alone in my hospital room during my stay at Vassar one year ago, I had more time to think than is humanly safe or psychologically recommended. Drastic times call for drastic measures was a phrase I said to myself many of those nights lying awake in my bed. But as I look back one year later, was it all really that drastic? What have I done? Have I accomplished anything?
Is living in a way that promotes increased kindness and compassion really that drastic of a lifestyle change? Maybe it is, maybe it’s not. I only know that it feels right, and that I have not regretted anything I have done since waking up after open heart surgery.
That statement is so mind boggling that I have re-read it 11 times since I wrote it. From a life full of false starts and pointless daydreaming to a year void of regrets; it is a progression that I can’t understand, but one that I respect and feel fortunate to have awakened for and experienced.
On this anniversary I won’t preach about making your days matter or living life to the fullest because you all already know those things. You won’t get any witty sayings or Bob Dylan quotes because I have already given you far too many of those.
I just came here today to say thank you. Thank you all for everything you have done for me and to me this year. Your constant kindness is something that I cherish more than you can possibly know.
Now let’s get going, we have another whole year ahead for hair-brained schemes to hatch, smiles to uncover, kind words to share and helping hands to offer.
I’ll be waiting on the other side of the road, see you there.