Five Beautiful Moments: 2022

We can get down on ourselves, slip, feel like there is little hope, and even when someone lends us a hand, we can feel like it is not enough, never enough. It is easy for anyone to feel alone, and more so when there truly are issues to deal with; issues that don’t seem to go away.

That’s why it has become more essential in this world that seems to be failing on all fronts to take a few moments to remind ourselves of the reasons to carry on. I have had insane success; I have failed beyond reason. I have fulfilled more than a few of my dreams, which in itself is amazing; and I have been completely disillusioned by the truths of what I once worshipped.

I have seen tragedy–deep cut, difficult to deal with tragedy, including countless suicides, deaths by horrific means, and disturbing disappearances. But I have seen what can most easily be called miracles. So when my grip on life seems to be slipping, I will once again try something new for the upteenth time: when things feel insurmountable, I’m going to remind myself of five beautiful moments. Yes, I’ve tried this before and it worked, but then I’d drop the ball and let my chaotic emotions and lack of focus take over, and I subsequently nosedived into some self-created abyss, always asking others to help me out.

No more. Now, to get out of that debilitating self-inflicted mess: I will refocus on the beauty of us, the absolutely miraculous hope that we are.

Here are five from this past year:

One: In 2022 I watched more sunrises than perhaps any other year. I am an early riser anyway, so the only challenge is to get dressed and get going. That’s just will. Then addiction takes over: will today’s be more vibrant? Will the clouds blot out the image entirely or will they help to make the eastern horizon even more brilliant, sending forth reds and oranges and yellows to caffeinate the moment. But there was one in particular which remains fresh in my mind. My son had to rise early anyway, so before he headed off to whatever it is he was doing, we headed out to the bay which lay out in dark blue before us, only a whisper of some orange pushing up over the reach. An eagle perched on a tree behind us, and dolphin moved past not far from shore. It was quiet–meaning, of course, quiet including the water sneaking into the rocks, the call of gulls, the low hum of a diesel engine on some workboat at the mouth of the river. Just the memory of that moment eliminates the anxiety of a thousand other moments this year. Give me those sunrises for the rest of my days.

Two: I was in Frostburg, Maryland, at a party at the house of writer Gerry LaFemina, and I left to walk back to my hotel a mile away–less than a mile. I’ll skip the details, but I walked the wrong way. It was raining, and a soft October, midnight chill moved in, a slight fog. At some point when I looked up and realized I might have been two towns to the west facing nothing but woods and a creek, I turned around. I pulled out my phone to ask Siri how far I was from the hotel: “The Gunter Hotel is 5.3 miles away as the crow flies.” An hour and a half had passed. I turned around, got my bearings, and walked. In the rain. In the fog. In the middle of the night. And I slowed down, my pulse slowed, and I was soaked. I could hear some movement in the trees, and in a window I saw some black and white movie on a television. It was a moment of absolute peace, and the unusual sensation that I could be just about anywhere and the scene would be the same. I was completely in that moment, the stresses and anxiety foreign, like something I had read about in some book. Getting lost might have just helped me find my way home. I’d get lost again anytime.

Three: We had already hiked several miles earlier that day near a lake outside Ogden, Utah. It was a beautiful, warm July day, and we talked, laughed, walked in silence, completely comfortable with the lack of conversation, as at ease as ever. Then we decided to hike to a place called the Wind Caves. We drove to the start of the trail and it was just two or three miles tops from the car to the caves. Piece of cake. Okay, so there were switchbacks, but not really. The trail is pretty close to vertical, and I imagined we looked like Batman and Robin with a rope on the side of a building, but we had no rope. I rested often, and a few times wanted to turn around. The nearly 7K elevation didn’t help this beach bum of a body, but we pushed. Well, I pushed, she glided without effort. But then we came around a path, down a slope and stood on top of the caves, looking out across Utah and aspen trees, lakes, distant mountains, and we stood in the caves (really more of vast openings of rocks) contemplating that they had not been formed by wind at all but water. Here before humanity existed. Give me that moment again.

Four: A text. That’s it. My sister had been diagnosed years ago with stage four ovarian cancer. Her numbers were off the charts, and according to WebMd the outlook is disturbingly low for even one year, let alone the seven or eight it has now been. But that text: It said she’s been cleared to not go back for her oncology checkup. The cancer isn’t just gone from her body–it has fled the building. My sister (who has a Notre Dame sticker on her car because of her PhD, but is at heart a Bonaventure grad), kicked the crap out of the OC, and did it while working every day forty-five miles from home. That text seemed to set the world right again, and it showed in not just a small way that nothing–nothing--is impossible.

Five: I’ve written about this moment recently, but I don’t think I emphasized how real the moment felt. I fell asleep one afternoon on my bed in the rays of the afternoon sun not that long ago. I woke completely disoriented and reached for my phone to give my father a call. He has been gone seven years this past October, but for that moment he was very much alive and sitting at his desk at work, and if I had not come to sooner, I’d have started to dial his 800 number I dialed from all over this country for years when I wanted to call him. I came to, went outside and went about my business, but when I recall that moment I am not sad, I am refreshed by the brief evaporation of time, the suspension of linear existence, that I could so easily hear his voice, sense his distant aliveness, know he was there if I needed him. It was a moment that reminded me that those we cherished are never truly gone–not as long as there is love.

So, what’s next? 2023? Wow. That year seemed inconceivable to me not too many years ago, but here we are. The irony is, for a plethora reasons, I need to start again. I need to reinvent myself and “get out of yesterday.” So I will add one more moment. I was down. I knew something had to change but I also know I’m not young anymore. I’m not even close. I went looking for one book when I came across another and flipped through it and found this passage. It fills me with hope for what’s next.

Merry Christmas my friends. Here are some words from Joseph Zinker at the Gestalt Institute to finish the year and move toward the new one:

If a man in the street were to pursue his self, what kind of guiding thoughts would he come up with about changing his existence? He would perhaps discover that his brain is not yet dead, that his body is not dried up, and that no matter where he is right now, he is still the creator of his own destiny. He can change this destiny by taking his one decision to change seriously, by fighting his petty resistance against change and fear, by learning more about his mind, by trying out behavior which fills his real need, by carrying out concrete acts rather than conceptualizing about them, by practicing to see and hear and touch and feel as he has never before used these senses, by creating something with his own hands without demanding perfection, by thinking out ways in which he behaves in a self-defeating manner, by listening to the words that he utters to his wife, his kids, and his friends, by listening to himself, by listening to the words and looking into the eyes of those who speak to him, by learning to respect the process of his own creative encounters and by having faith that they will get him somewhere soon. We must remind ourselves, however, that no change takes place without working hard and without getting your hands dirty. There are no formulae and no books to memorize on becoming. I only know this: I exist, I am, I am here, I am becoming, I am my life and no one else makes it for me. I must face my own shortcomings, mistakes, transgressions. No one can suffer my non-being as I do, but tomorrow is another day, and I must decide to leave my bed and live again. And if I fail, I don’t have the comfort of blaming you or life or God.

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