Saturday, January 12, 2013

A New Year's Cup of Kindness

Until I moved to Puget Sound the Christmas before this one, I’d spent fifty years as a Californian ringing in the new year with images from someone else’s past.

When I was a child, we gathered at a neighbor’s home, tuned their color TV to watch Dick Clark and the ball drop in Times Square, then at midnight banged cooking pots with wooden spoons on the front porch, screaming, “Happy New Year!” and were allowed one sip of pink fizzy Cold Duck.

And every December 31 since, it was a broadcast, delayed three hours that marked our midnight welcome of a new year. We stood in family rooms around TV sets, pulled the string on plastic champagne-bottle poppers, toasted with Andre and Cooks, kissed and wished each other Happy New Year, all the while watching old news.

I was surprised and delighted when my new neighbors turned on their TV at midnight to usher in 2012 and I saw the Seattle Space Needle, not New York City on the screen. I’d lived in Washington for less than two weeks, but it was one small thing that made me feel as though I belonged in my new home.

 And the first moments of 2013 were magical. My husband, youngest daughter, and I boarded the 11:35 pm ferry from Bainbridge Island to Seattle along with our dear friends who just moved to this area, and scores of other revelers.

On a clear night, buffeted by wind and red-faced from the cold, we stood at the front of the ferry watching the skyline grow larger and brighter and then at midnight hundreds of passengers shouted “Happy New Year” while the ferry blasted long blast on its horn and fireworks shot from the Space Needle.

We literally sailed into our future, mesmerized by sparks in the sky that no one had yet seen. We, friends and strangers alike, welcomed the unknown and new into our lives together. Someone began singing Auld Lang Syne and most everyone joined in, but we fizzled after the first verse, like Christmas carolers without song-sheets, not even making it through the chorus.

I wiped my eyes, watery from the wind, and posed with my loved ones, the waterfront’s new Ferris Wheel alight in the background. Then we all disembarked only to reboard and ride the ferry back home.

Californians turned Washingtonians on New Year's Eve

A new year is here, nearly two weeks old, and I’m not sure what it holds. My husband has advanced to the next round of interviews for an executive position in San Francisco and I find that I’m not doing too well at living in the moment.

I’m still recovering from surgery, so instead of pouring my energy into our remodel, I find myself getting a little anxious and projecting ahead. The job would be a blessing in so many ways: a socially responsible corporation, a good salary, and we could use a salary after 16 months without one.
But what about this house we’ve devoted our time and vision to? It needs to be finished. And then, do we try and hold on to it, or is there more that I (we) am supposed to learn about letting go?

I imagine letting go by searching, looking for places I could possibly feel at home within reasonable commuting distance of San Francisco.

The view from the fixer upper we tried to buy in Pacifica

It’s disheartening from where I sit now to see the housing stock drop and prices soar in Pacifica where we’d looked before. I always knew housing prices in the Bay Area were astronomical, but I was never trying to come back into that housing market from somewhere where I owned a house in a size and location that would be well over a million dollars in California.

What we paid here for our fixer-upper prices us in Oakland in a home less than half this size, and aside from the media images of gun violence and my reticence to live in a big city, when I think about packing up again and needing to get rid of so much more than I did before, my spirits sag.

I tell myself I’m doing research, or that I’m writing a story in my head, putting characters (my husband and me) in a setting (pick a house from a Redfin listing) and imagining their lives there. But really, what I’m doing is worrying. Unable to sleep, I slip out of bed to check BART routes and passenger ferries in the San Francisco Bay.

My husband photographing San Francisco from the Marin Headlands

Confined to my recliner, I have too much time to imagine/worry/plan/dwell in the future. It’s only a small comfort that I’m not busy picking apart my past (been there, done that). But still, how do I bring myself back to the now?

Being gentle with myself seems the only answer. I’m suffering the consequences of not being gentle with my surgery recovery. My over-activity has prolonged my discomfort, and I can see how continually looking into a murky crystal ball can have the same effect.

I looked up Auld Lang Syne which means “days gone by,” and a line we couldn’t recall on the ferry translates to: “We take a cup of kindness yet for days gone by.”

It definitely has been helpful and healing in my life to look on the past with kindness, to imbue it neither with worship for the wonderful, nor blame for the difficult.

May I extend that kindness to this day as well as each day to come in this year and the next: Welcome what will be.


  1. Jo Anna Gaona AlbiarJanuary 12, 2013 at 7:35 PM

    Such a beautiful exploration of "yet to come", Cathy. I wish you and your husband well in what will later become "auld lang syne".

  2. Wonderful story, Cathy! Life is full of life!
    I will hold you and Kevin in prayer ....and know I am thinking of you. What surgery did you have? This is going to be a very good year....this I feel in my heart and spirit on my 56th birthday 01-13-13! Love you, Laura

  3. PB...your gift with words is a comfort to me dear one. I, too, sit in a similar seat with so much potential change unfurling before me. I breathe in, I breath out. I keep you and Kevin close to my heart as the Universe beckons, rocks & rolls, heaves & sighs. Living in the now is hard to do when our hearts and minds are pulled to what ifs and planning. I , too, experience this and then I pick up a book of poetry that speaks to me of letting go and entering the flow or I read's daily word or I re-connect with what I'm really here for on this precious earth. Blessings of unrest and peace and possibility to you...know you are held in the arms of God.