“The difference between ‘don’t wait’ and ‘non-waiting’ is like the difference between detachment and non-attachment. Detachment implies distancing ourselves from a particular object or experience. It can feel cool . . . Non-attachment simply means not holding on to, not grasping . . .
Non-waiting is a quiet welcoming, more of an invitation than a demand. When we stop leaning into the next experience by hoping for a particular outcome, or leaning into the past by hoping we might somehow change it, only then are we free to know this moment completely.”
My family is so many generations deep in Canada that I don’t really feel Irish. A little Irish-ish, maybe.
Enough that tomorrow I will drink Irish beer and eat Guinness Stew sopped up with Irish Soda Bread.
I do it to honour my ancestors who immigrated and suffered—really suffered—so that I can sit in my warm house and eat plentiful food in good health. They lived in a remote log cabin. No plumbing. No furnace. No Mac’s Milk on the corner or butchery down the street.
It is especially fitting to do so this year, during a pandemic, because in 1866 my ancestors lost three children in one week to a diphtheria epidemic.
Children aged 13, 11 and 9 just . . . gone . . . in the space of a week.
Three children in one week lost to a disease that we never have to think about because WE HAVE VACCINES.
Time has made some people complacent. North Americans born after 1920 don’t know how death used to brush up close in daily life. Our generation has never seen with our own eyes an entire family wiped out in a week, because WE HAVE VACCINES.
Twice in the past week I started very serious, important emails about very serious important matters to colleagues. Both times, instead of writing “Good morning,” my index finger travelled too far to the right on the keyboard, and I typed “Goof morning.”
Astonishing how much that made me smile.
The very serious, important matters felt not so very serious or important after all. The typo brought a flukey flash of happiness that changed the course of my day.
A few weeks ago I posted this photo of a mailbox. I speculated about groundhogs snoozing abed under the snow.
But I really took this picture about a year ago, not thinking about groundhogs at all. I took it while on a drive with my mother on the country roads around my hometown. As we drove, I was struck by something: the mailboxes had no names written on them.
In my youth, every mailbox at the end of every country drive bore the name of the homeowner. The letters might be scrawled crookedly, or the stick-on kind you find at the hardware store, or beautiful script, but they were there. During country drives you would pass by and say, “Oh, there’s the Miller place,” or “The McLaughlins live there.”
The namelessness feels like a dent in community. Something that used to be open now closed.
Protecting our privacy is good, they say. Still, the need for it makes me sad. Nameless, if you will.
When we run a race, do we start at the finish line?
Of course not. We begin at the starting line, run every step (maybe walk a few), and cover all the ground in between.
Why do we want to start at the finish line in other areas of our lives? And why do we expect other people to be standing at the finish line before they have run the race?
Parents do this all the time. Children pass through difficult phase after difficult phase, with parents wishing each phase away:
“When will this baby ever (take a bottle . . . sleep through the night . . . wean from the breast . . .)?”
“When will my toddler ever (potty train . . . stop throwing temper tantrums . . . give up the soother . . .)?”
“When will my child ever (stop crying every day at school . . . learn to read . . . stop sucking her thumb . . .)?”
“When will my teenager ever (do his homework on time . . . clean up that pigsty of a room . . . stop doing drugs . . .)?”
We want our children to be perfect, fully formed people without letting them run the race.
We adults have unrealistic expectations of ourselves too. We want to be in some other better place instead of where we are.
Whether it’s losing ten pounds, playing “Moonlight Sonata” on the piano, finishing a jigsaw puzzle, or writing a book, we can’t start at the finish line. We have to run the race, go through the process.
I’m thinking about this on Groundhog Day.
This is a picture of a groundhog in summer – not in winter in Ottawa, Canada, where I live.
No respectable groundhog is showing his face around here any time soon.
I LOVE the movie (it might be my favourite of all time), but the day? What a ridiculous idea. We can’t skip over winter to get to spring. WE ARE GOING TO HAVE SIX MORE WEEKS OF WINTER NO MATTER WHAT! This is Canada, for goodness sake. Nature has to run the race.
We can’t start at finish line. That’s the theme of the movie. Settle in. Take steps over and over. You’ll get there.