At this time of year, there are lots of people taking assessments of the previous year and planning adjustments for the coming one. Initially, I had been resisting that urge, but as I’ve given it some thought, I realize that there are some reflections worth noting now, whether it is the start of a new year or just a new day.
This Christmas was a really good one for me, and also a very hard one, which is just to say that I had to work really hard to make it good. But I did it, and I’m glad. One of the things I did was go to church for the midnight service on Christmas Eve. I haven’t been to church in a very long time, mainly because I’m not exactly the world’s most religious person. Spiritual, yes. Religious… not really. But this year I think I wanted a little push in the right direction, to wake up the spirit in me.
One of the things the pastor talked about was this idea of pure joy, and the fact that it’s one of those things that is only accomplished when we find ways to fill up the God-sized hole left in us when we’re born. His message was that God fills this hole up for us, and that the birth of Jesus was his Christmas gift to us. (By way of disclosure, this is all just my interpretation of his sermon, but honestly, my point is less in what he actually said and more in how it moved me.) I sat there thinking about it, honestly feeling a bit disappointed. Because I’ve done the church thing, and I’ve really believed in Jesus and tried to let him fill that hole for me. And you know what happened? I inspired a lot of people while my hole just got bigger. There were many nights I showed up to church completely drunk, led worship, had people coming up to me saying how inspired they were, and then slipped off to the graveyard behind the church to sob because no one could see how empty (and positively wasted) I was.
So what does that mean? Did I pray wrong? Do I not believe enough? Am I the exception? This was not the Christmas message I was hoping to get.
But I’ve given it some thought, and I think that maybe not everybody finds God in a church. There are other things that fill me up in the way God fills up our pastor. Things like going on a long hike up a mountain and sitting at the top, enjoying the silence in the clouds and an incredible view. Or the thrill of riding a really fast roller coaster or jumping out of an airplane. Or creating something – a short story, a photograph, a knitting project, a drawing. Traveling to places I’ve never seen before, getting to know and understand a new culture, visiting old friends. Helping people. These things are my church, and even though I know they fill me up, I let them go, every day, in the name of Routine.
I read this blog post last week and it really inspired me, especially the last paragraph:
For me this year in 2011 I am going to focus on what it means to live this life. To be alive. I want to reinvent what living means to me.
And I think that’s what I want, too. I don’t want to change who I am, or lose weight, or find my way from point a to point b (though those things would be nice side effects). I want to find ways to augment the things in my life that fill me up.
There are specific things I’ve come up with to accomplish this. I don’t know if I’ll follow through on them all, but the beauty is that I don’t have to do these specific things. It could be anything that accomplishes the same goal. But here goes, because lists are a nice way to look and see what specific accomplishments have been made.
- I joined the Appalachian Mountain Club and plan to attend their backpacking seminar so that Billy and I can go on our first backpacking trip ever this spring, summer, or fall.
- I filled out an application to volunteer for Free Arts NYC, which will allow me to work with underprivileged kids on art as a way of coping with life.
- Billy and I are hoping to go to meet Siggi and Brett in Germany this summer, so I’ve been attempting to learn German on my own. So far I’ve gotten to where I can say to Billy, “Du bist ein affe!”
- I’m thinking about writing a book. This is actually a really huge undertaking, and I’m not positive it’s something I really want to tackle right now, but I’m thinking about it, and I’m saying I’m thinking about it. That’s a good first step for now, I think.
So is this a turning point, as we turn the page from 2010 to 2011? I don’t know. Probably not. I think all of life is about little turning points and big ones, and they don’t always coincide with the numbers on the calendar. But it’s probably as good a reason as any to think about it, and so here we are.