The end and beginning of old year and new have been marked by a series of deep storms, reminding me of the close connection between water and abundance. Here in the woods, there’s a direct link between our well-being and that of the rivers and creeks. When the rains come, the rivers rise, the land thrives, our well is full and fresh, we have fleeting respite from wildfire risk. I’m grateful for liquid abundance at the end of a parched year.
I watch the fir limbs filter the water that falls through their branches, softening and redirecting rain’s fall. I reach my own fingers into the rain, guiding raindrops like moments as they pass. With time and rain, I’m acutely aware that I can only guide what’s given, rather than be its creator. Will abundance or scarcity mark the coming year? What can I guide into growth, with whatever we’re given? My roots here are deep in a human sense, but at best I’m a single transient tree in the living forest, as dependent upon arriving rain as any. And what warning is spoken by that deep voice of thunder?
I don’t make New Year’s Resolutions, which mainly lead to failed goals and feelings of inadequacy. I usually choose a different strategy: New Year’s Appreciations. By appreciating what’s already growing and good—without ignoring the painful and difficult—I’ve found I can make more difference than by focusing on what needs to change. Appreciation and acceptance gently nurture more good into being.
This year change is uniquely urgent, though. We’re on a collective precipice that requires immediate attention, in who we are and what we bring to an age of crisis. Our healing and growth are as essential as rain. Becoming better is vital: better people inside; better with each other; better in our actions in the surrounding world. What becoming our best specifically means for each of us is so individual that it’s beyond me to guide anyone but myself. That alone is hard enough. Healing is humbling.
My ongoing growth pains have taught me that my inner growth is best done by outward service. For all of the positive gains within meditation, personal retreats, and other inward healing forms, I grow more by giving to others than I do by focusing on myself. Being my mother’s primary caregiver until her passing taught me the caregiver’s paradox: No personal reward is more profound than giving without regard for personal reward.
Our strengths are magnified through that caring paradox; sometimes also our issues. Yet with deepened caring, even our most ragged edges can be redirected for good. The effects of our strengths and flaws remain fluid and malleable, even as we age. They’re more raindrops, if sometimes torrents. They contain liquid energy, as alive as the rain.
We may serve best from our strengths and highest qualities, as I did in caring for my mother. But sometimes we serve best from our broken places. Our worst calamities, our most egregious mistakes, our most agonizing suffering: even these contain experience, which reveals knowledge, which can be transformed into insight for easing the suffering of others in parallel pain. And when we dedicate our lives to easing the suffering of others, we find ourselves healing. We’re all primary caregivers, for everyone and everything around us. Our caring will never be perfect. Perfection is fiction. It’s unneeded anyway. Your wound is your gift. In being broken healers is where our wholeness lies.
As I set out to direct this new intentional year, I find that to serve others is the only intention I need. Everything else is contained within that, in every form of love, creativity, and healing existent in my world, in strengths and broken places. Inevitably I’ll only partially accomplish my service and healing. But that is enough to serve others’ wholeness, and thus my own.
I return to watching the storms, knowing that the only way to love and understand them is to be present with them, see them, listen to them. It’s true with storms of society as well as storms of abundant water. It’s true with storms contained purely within.
The hissing voice of the rain ceases in the night. Silence speaks loudly of snow. As the storm deepens, it asks me to be a better listener. It asks me to slow down, discard other plans, be fully present to observe. Only then will I know how the storms ask me to serve.
Moments begin to stick as the snow does. Our forest road is soon buried in pure, deep white. I may not be able to leave for a week. What a gift this challenge is. It’s a gift that gives me time to set a course for an intentional year.