Before the sun began to set on New Year’s Eve, my kindergarten-age grandson came to talk to me about the celebration. His normal bedtime had been extended to 9:30 p.m. so he could watch the ball drop in Times Square, New York. His excitement nearly overwhelmed him. He got to celebrate with the adults! His older brother would be there, too, of course. The grandpa who grew up in NYC, along with other family members, would join in via video chat, everyone watching the same celebration and everyone welcoming the new year on Eastern Standard Time.
We had hats, snacks, masks, and noise makers at 4 sites with groups varying in size at each location. In previous years, we would have confirmed the plans for a family dinner the following day and the exuberant uncle would have unveiled some not-quite-legal fireworks, but both the family meal and the explosives got tabled. Instead, we all sat together virtually for several minutes before tuning in to the hubbub from Times Square. We wore our silly headgear and paper new year “glasses,” distributed virtual hugs and whoops when the ball fell.
Although the grand-kids asked, predictably, if they could stay up a bit longer, they didn’t put up much of a fight before they crawled into bed and drifted quickly off to sleep. My older grandson commented about the “magic” of the night – good snacks, connecting with family miles away, wearing silly hats, batting around balloons, blowing little noise-makers, and celebrating with strangers who stood on a cold street a couple thousand miles away.
It did have that air of special times that quickly dissolve into day-to-day struggles.
And so many people I know struggle right now. Several friends find themselves – or their households – challenged with illness. The current virus is a big threat, but all the other typical cold-weather illnesses, plus a few surprise visitors, have moved into friends’ homes. What I hadn’t realized, even in my care to follow health guidelines, is that when one or more household members becomes ill, regardless of the cause, others become more vulnerable AND they must pick up more responsibilities. In those overwhelmed homes where nobody has the spare cash for housekeepers or part-time caregivers, people struggle. Moments remain guarded, in some cases contact must be avoided, sharing of bathrooms and kitchen facilities discouraged. That makes life even more challenging for everyone.
Where, I wondered, do any of us find magic moments, particularly in disarray and when we’re beyond tired?
Two things have helped me through a recent period when everybody in the house contracted an illness. One is the simple reminder that, though we look for happy-happy days, struggling is part of life. A deep breath. I am suffering. Just acknowledging that helps. I do not suffer alone; many others are suffering. Knowing it’s not just-me helps. May I be kind to myself. (For more details on this easy exercise, visit https://self-compassion.org/exercise-2-self-compassion-break/.)
Another thing that has helped me, I’ll call serendipity. It could also fall under mindfulness, but seems equally accidental and precious.
As I sat writing, a small hummingbird bypassed the feeder I tend to and instead hovered about 6 inches from my window. Having logged many hours on cool days writing at the window, my portal to the micro-universe of the back patio and yard, that was the first time any bird did more than pass quickly by. This little hummer lingered for a few moments on the other side of the glass and seemed to watch me as I watched it in complete surprise. In the time it took me to remember my aunties telling me as a child that hummingbirds are signs of coming happiness and great joy, the tiny creature darted away. Perhaps it came to its senses or satisfied its curiosity or recognized its own reflection.
For me, though, on a tiring day, that flashy little creature reminded me of the recent celebration of a new year, glittery masks, goofy hats, happy kids, and all.
A lot has already happened since we celebrated that new year. From Hawaii, I carry the tradition of celebrating Chinese New Year. I may check the calendar for more. Not that we need an excuse to celebrate or seek magic and joy around us. It’s good to have a reminder, though, on days when harbingers of joy don’t stop by.
May you be greeted with joyful surprises. May you remember to appreciate the world around you. May others remember to appreciate you. You deserve to feel appreciated.
May you be healthy, happy, strong, and safe.
Copyright 2021 D. R. deLuis