Tuesday, January 06, 2015

At the ready: How 2014 prepared me for 2015

Just needs the key. Photo by Sean McGrath, Flickr

I am always ready for guests to come over. The rooms, though never immaculate, are presentable. I have food and drink around to share. The kitchen shades are up, so anyone wandering by can peek inside and think, “That looks homey.” My house, in its imperfect and ordinary way, is in a constant state of readiness -- a state that transforms an address into a home.

As I learned in 2014, the state of my heart can be closer to the state of my home than I knew possible. In the year's first half, I rode a wild pendulum of experiences and emotions, from my grandmother’s death to disappointing romances to three beautiful weddings. I cried on a regular basis -- tears of frustration, sorrow, joy -- and wondered with each nose blow where the pendulum was headed next.

The second half of 2015 turned out to be calmer. I stayed in town more, caught up with friends, settled into schoolwork. As I finally found the time to process and evaluate the first six months of the year, I recognized them as the emotional and mental equivalent of spring cleaning: a scouring purge of closets and baseboards so I could see just how space I really had.

For that’s what opened up in my life -- space to reflect, to contemplate, to appreciate, to acknowledge how much was right in my life. And as I pointed to each good thing and named it as such -- the job where I was learning and growing, the coursework where I was pushing and stretching, the relationships where I was loving and investing -- the space expanded. I was leading a full and joyful life, one with movement in all directions, one where the harder moments were tempered by hope and the shinier ones were polished by gratitude.

I was stable. Receptive. Ready.

Ready 4 ... anything, really. Photo by Kevin Dooley, Flickr


Readiness, it turns out (after my usual OED consultation), covers a spectrum of states. It can be “having a desire or need for something, esp. a source of relief or pleasure.” It can mean you’re “inclined, disposed, or apt to do something.” Or it can mean you’re “willing and eager to act when required -- prompt to oblige.”

That said, I did not truly know I was ready until a thing I was ready for happened. Two months before the end of the year, I fell in love. Fulfillment of a long-held desire? Check. Inclination to act on the opportunity? Check. Immediate promptness in obliging? Check, check, check.

I used to think readiness was strictly overt -- that I could direct preparation only toward particular purposes. But as the life-bound arc of 2014 showed me, readiness can be stealthy too. I can leave my heart close at hand, carry on knowing that it’s beating warmly within arm’s reach, and make myself vulnerable in the best way -- by being more open to whatever comes.

The person I have fallen in love with, by the way, was once a Boy Scout. The Scouts’ motto?

"Be prepared.”


Prayer #281: The Ready Path

Set the table. Pick your outfit. Try not to watch the clock. Guests will be arriving soon, except you don’t know who and you don’t know when, and you think you have enough food, but if it turns out you don’t you can always run to the store for more chips. Chips! You forgot the chips. So now guests will come and you’ll give them everything except chips, but that’s ok because you don’t know what they’re expecting of you anyway, so maybe they won’t even want chips, and what they’ll want instead is to say hello and pawn off unwanted and slightly stale holiday cookies. Cookies are better than chips, anyway. The evening (or morning, or week-long extended stay) will turn out fine if cookies are involved. And if your guests come. Which they will. You think. Pull out more silverware. Pick an alternate outfit. Busy yourself with other items on your list. And ask the God who’s sitting in the dustpan you forgot in the hallway to keep you occupied with good thoughts and brave musings until the doorbell rings.

Amen.