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My husband was laid off from his job at the beginning of the year, we launched our eldest off to college, and I continued to slog and plod my way through graduate school. My mother-in-law uttered her last emphatic words, “I’m ready to go – now!” and I attended a party to honor the first 365 days of a young girl’s life.
The breadth and depth of human experience packed into the year was astounding, yet I didn’t pause and acknowledge that until the end of the year, when a friend asked me about gratitude. Becoming more grateful was her New Year’s resolution, and she wondered how to access gratitude; how it could unfold for her.
My friend didn’t believe me when I told her I sometimes find gratitude under a rock, until I explained that my rock sits on my nightstand. “It’s a touchstone,” I explained, “to keep me grounded,” and she wanted to know if I’d ever thrown against the wall in anger or despair. Not yet. But I did trade one in for a better model.
The current rock is heart-shaped. My son found one half of it on a beach, and I found the other side.
I suggested my friend find a rock that feels comfortable or soothing. Try one on for size, I said, and if the rock doesn’t speak to you, or you to it, to keep searching.
She thinks I have rocks in my head. This same son who found the rock is beginning his college search. And I found myself fretting the other night, concerned because I needed to cancel a business commitment to attend his debate banquet. I had already canceled an appointment with this person, and felt terrible about repeating the offense.
The note I got back from her is now under my bedside rock, to remind me of the many hidden blessings this world provides:
Julia, I miss my daughter more than life itself, and I am so glad she is gone I can hardly stand it. She is the most wonderful thing that ever happened to me, and I did everything with her: taught her to read and swim, took her to music and volleyball, did girl scouts, went to every violin recital, taught her to drive and did all those hours of behind the wheel, made the treat at the very last minute (or past the last minute :>), taught her how to balance her checkbook, and how to keep out of trouble with a credit card, nursed her through cancer treatments, cheered her on every 5 miles and the finish line of every half marathon she ran, waved her off to graduate school, and in May I will go to DC and see her get her masters in English. Nothing more I can do but watch her live her life. Worth every minute.
You should go to every debate, every life event and every excuse you can make the time for. Sometime you will write that same list I did, to a friend who is worried about empty nest, and be able to say you loved every minute, and now you have earned and love your empty nest.
This issue of The Phoenix focuses on the many gifts inherent in healthy living, a few tips on what healthy living entails, and how to get there. We are deeply grateful for each and every reader, writer, and advertiser that supports our mission. Peace.
by Suzanne Nielsen
The fourth grader sat behind the radiator of the old school listening to the wind whistle through the windows, sketching frosted cakes in his mind while mesmerized by the glistening crystals resting ever so quietly in the corners of the panes.
He asked, “What does it feel like to be sad?” His teacher sat at the Leopold desk and looked up over her glasses. She saw the crystals differently; rather than hearing the faint whistle of the wind through the windows she focused on the hesitation of the radiator, pushing on in spite of the cold.
“Sadness comes,” she said, “when you’re least expecting it.” The boy asked, “Are you sad, Mrs. Penn?” She said, “I’ve known sadness and I’ve known joy. At times they nestle up against one another and create a different feeling all together.”
“What is that feeling?” he asked. “That feeling is melancholy, a bittersweet delay that waits for the wind to blow away the cold. When you are sad, you feel cold,” she said.
“Let me feel your hands,” he said.