I write a lot about the various lines of poetry and song that come to mind for me, apparently unbidden, and about the mysterious calculus that surely underlines this process. Why am I thinking of certain words at certain times? Sometimes I can’t get specific lines of poems or songs out of my head. For what felt like months at a time, a few years ago, Let It Be was on the radio whenever I turned it on. I love Let It Be, but it being on the radio felt a little less obvious than, say, Bad Blood. It took me an embarassingly long time to realize that probably somewhere, somewhat, or something was trying to tell me to, you know, let it be.
What I can’t stop hearing in my head these days are TS Eliot’s famous lines from Four Quartets (which I re-read last year, and highly recommend, particularly for some reason in this season):
we must be still and still moving
I’ve always understood these poetic words to mean that life is about stillness in the midst of motion. I don’t know if that’s what TS Eliot means, but it’s what it means to me. That life won’t ever actually stop (God willing, not for a while) so what I need to try to do is find stillness, whatever that means, in the middle of constant motion.
December is a busy month for all of us. Right now, for me, what’s creating that busy-ness is work, not social engagements, though there’s also simultaneous pressure to wrap gifts and address holiday cards and trim the tree. It is also the month when I want most to be still. This paradox is at the heart of the dissonance many of us feel at the holidays, I’m sure of it. There’s something magical about all this light in the darkness, some deep-seated longing we have to touch something ephemeral and essential at this time of year. And yet the frantic do-ing sometimes occludes our ability to do this.
I’ve written a lot about the ways our family has pared back at the holidays and tried to simplify how we celebrate and what we do. While there’s more we could do, I’m grateful that we do usually have an opportunity to sit by the tree and listen to carols and drink hot chocolate. I have one more trip ahead of me and then I can settle into home – hours at the computer notwithstanding – until the new year.
This seems to be a lesson I need to keep learning (like so many of them!). There is no slowing down of life, so the slowing down needs to be internal. It’s on me. Only I can learn to still and still moving, but it might be the most important thing I do in my entire life.
And so, once again, I recommit to that. To sitting still, to breathing deeply, to reading with my children, to admiring the Christmas lights, to being here now. That’s what it all comes down to, isn’t it? To the tattoo-I-would-have, to the three words I return to over and over again: be here now.
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