93 million miles from the Sun,
people get ready, get ready,
’cause here it comes it’s a light,
a beautiful light, over the horizon into our eyes…
A hush descends on the earth when it snows. It’s as if the fluffy white stuff that covers the ground and coats the trees and houses and cars also mutes the volume of the world. The rough edges are smoothed. The hard places soften. In the stillness, magic glitters. Untouched, the newly fallen snow collects; fresh, like a blank canvas to be painted, like a story to be written, like a new year to be lived.
2013 sounded like science fiction when I was a child, eons away. But, I’m getting older and the passage of time is accelerating at a spectacular pace. I am stunned to find myself, once again, on the brink of another year. Change beckons and opportunities entice. Anything seems possible.
Lofty New Year’s resolutions often set me up for disappointment, but I can’t help feeling excited to welcome new adventures, to shed old habits and create new ones. Recapping the events of the past year, I analyze what worked and what didn’t; what I want to repeat and what I definitely do not. Using these conclusions, I look forward and set goals. I make ‘plans.’ As the list making, Type-A, get-it-done-now kind of girl I’ve always been, this appeals to my sense of control in the universe. The thing is, the longer I’m a mother, the more I evolve into a spontaneous, go-with-the-flow, get-it-done-whenever kind of girl. The more I learn control is an illusion.
But, I continue to set my goals anyway—not so much written down as voiced in conversation or even just in the back of my mind: exercise and good nutrition, organization at home and work, time management, stress reduction, quality relationships with family and friends.
Fortunately for me, exercise isn’t just a daily habit, it’s my job. I took my first aerobics class in 1987 after my son was born, and I’ve been hooked on the benefits of working out ever since; from Jane Fonda to Billy Blanks’ Tae Bo, from distance running and weightlifting to becoming an instructor and personal trainer myself. Vital to my mental health, it’s made me a better mother and wife. “Mom is always so happy when she comes home from the gym,” Jeremy used to say with sarcasm. But it’s true—all seems right in my world after a great workout. And I get to witness transformation in the lives of others. I am lucky indeed.
A healthy diet, on the other hand, is a work in progress. I wage my own battles with food, succumbing to convenience and surrendering to sweets. But even when I’m eating clean, getting the kids onboard is tough. Sydney will tell you she’s a ‘big fan’ of chicken nuggets. Her idea of vegetables is tater tots, and she thinks ranch dressing is its own food group. Haley would happily live on sugar, buzzing 24 hours a day instead of just 20. Preparing fresh, nutritious meals for my family, served up cheerfully at the end of each day ala Betty Crocker, remains an elusive fantasy and at the top of my wishes.
Undoubtedly the biggest endeavor I pursue every blasted year is to get organized, something akin to the pictures in Real Simple magazine. (Forget about Pinterest. It’s not happening.) Chic yet minimal, and so clean. Commencing anything more than a temporary tidying up is like shoveling the walk while it’s still snowing. Yet, projects stretch out alluringly in front of me: start (or finish) remodeling and redecorating inside the house along with landscaping and overdue maintenance on the outside; print photos and put them all in albums; arrange and back up all the files on my computer(s); weed out the years of accumulation in storage; clean out the closets, drawers, cabinets and pantry (I recently threw away a soup mix with a 2007 expiration date, no joke); catch up on filing/shredding the office paperwork; sort through all the toys and clothes and books. Basically put my whole house in perfect order. Yeah, right.
I’m grateful for all we have—really, we are blessed beyond belief and it’s paramount to me that our kids learn to appreciate their good fortune—but our abundance has become overwhelming. Too much stuff, too much responsibility, too much work, too much on-the-go, too much, too much, too much! I’m caught between the visions in my head of a simplified, balanced life, all gears well oiled and running smoothly as I effortlessly administrate my domestic, professional and social duties and . . . the reality of my cluttered home, frenetic schedule and daily chores that feel at times as if I’m running on a rat’s wheel, going nowhere.
Inevitably, at this point the enormity of my New Year ambition weighs down my momentum and I’m left still wanting that life that seems out of reach. I’ve got less time when I wanted more, more stress where I needed less. The time I want to spend with family and friends in those quality relationships is greedily sucked up meeting endless expectations. When I finally get that I am the one imposing those expectations, I also get that I’m working against myself in my pursuit of accomplishment.
What I really want are dates with my husband and special “Mommy time” with my girls. I want music and theatre and art and creativity and spirituality. I want to experience joy every single day. I want to write. I want to laugh. And cry, too. Frequently. I want to engage in meaningful exchange. I want to embody the essence of love.
I also want a beautiful home that’s a respite and a haven; a worthy desire, but as I sort through the to-do list of my resolutions, it dawns on me I’m doing it backwards. I’ve been going about this whole thing trying to shove a square peg in a round hole; to force change from the outside, manipulating circumstances rather than allowing them to unfold naturally by shifting my focus.
Throughout Sydney’s development, she’s hit many plateaus, not uncommon for kids with Down syndrome. Milestones like crawling and walking and particularly potty-training, and skills like learning to write her name and tie her shoes, would progress to a certain point and then . . . stall out. For a long, long time. We would get discouraged. Compare her to others. Cajole her, push her, do extra therapy, try charts and reward systems. We would give up. But, honestly, it was all for naught. When she was ready she made the leap, every time. She would just . . . change. Patiently, and without judgment, she let go of the past and emerged into the newest version of herself.
What if instead of asking myself “What do I want to do?” when tabulating the multitude of things I intend to undertake this year, I ask, “Who do I want to be? What version of myself?” To posit the question in this way elicits a discernible shift in energy. Already I feel lighter, with anticipation for all the possibilities.
In 1994 Dr. Masaru Emoto from Japan studied water molecules frozen into ice crystals and photographed them under a high-powered microscope, expecting to see structures similar to snow flakes. The images captured revealed that each crystal bore a unique design; no two were the same. Water samples taken from pristine rivers and lakes created beautifully formed geometric crystals while those gathered from polluted sources yielded chaotic asymmetry with no patterns. The research went further, exposing the water to music, prayer, spoken words and even typed words taped to the containers. It appeared that positive thoughts and kind words generated intricate and magnificent shapes while exposure to negativity—harsh words and emotions—propagated results similar to those from the polluted water; misshapen and distorted without aesthetic beauty. What’s more, after prayers were offered on behalf of water from the toxic sample, the crystals branched into crystalline symmetry; just as those from pure water sources and those exposed to music, prayer and words like gratitude, peace and love.
Dr. Emoto’s work has been celebrated by many, but criticized, too, by skeptics who say his methods lack scientific controls and his claims are simply invalid. In answer to his critics, he has said, “The world is filled with wonders and mysteries . . . there are so many incomprehensible things that we cannot understand it all.” The photographing of crystals is neither science nor religion. He calls it art.
To me, their beauty is awe-inspiring and irrefutable, and the concept that human consciousness can have an effect on the molecular structure of water is not implausible. In fact, to me, it’s downright fascinating to consider that every thought, feeling and intention might carry its own signature and have an impact. Albert Einstein, the father of modern physics said, “Concerning matter, we have been all wrong. What we have called matter is energy, whose vibration has been so lowered as to be perceptible to the senses. There is no matter.”
According to Einstein himself, we are living in an energy field, inextricably interwoven with everything around us, our cells taking in and letting off particles constantly. Everything in life is vibration. Change the vibration and change the reality. Based on this principal, if I change my thoughts and change my words, I change myself. By focusing on positive intent, I gravitate towards people and situations and activities that inspire and uplift me. I seek joy and kindness and I radiate the same.
When in doubt, I need only observe to see the truth in this theory. The days I’m rushed and harried, I inexorably get in line behind the slowest customer checking out, and I find the rudest cashier. The days I’m especially exhausted are somehow marathon days full of appointments and impossible deadlines, countless texts, emails and phone calls, with no time for rest. My frustration mounts, tension creeps in and my mood and attitude reflect it. Those are also the days negative energy culminates at home, interactive and exponential. This is when the girls fight and misbehave; when my husband reacts and misunderstandings occur; when unkind words are spoken, tempers are short and we’re all pulled in a downward spiral.
Then there are the days I step outside and feel the early morning air on my face, and see the moon, and feel grateful to be alive and in this body of mine. When I have a bounce in my step after teaching class to an amazing group of people, the energy in the room positively electric. When my daily dealings are pleasant and I have a smile for everyone I meet. And the smiles coming back at me are sweet and genuine. When the nurturing compassion of my best friend far away reaches through the phone line and encircles me, leaving me warm and comforted. When peace washes over me, through me when listening to music. When I’m met at the end of the day with squeals of delight from my girls: “Mommy’s home!” And my husband wraps me in a bear hug. And we share laughter and stories. Those are the days we dance in the kitchen.
I don’t need a microscope to know that something inside me is altered—not just metaphorically, but literally. Externally, things may not appear much different, but internally, I’m living in another universe.
Sydney lives there nearly all the time. Last night she came looking for me, just to give me a hug. Laying her head on my chest, she was still and quiet. Her gentleness permeated every cell of my body as I breathed in her innocence. “I love kisses with you,” she whispered. Placing my cheek next to hers, I closed my eyes. This child, from birth, has slowed me down and opened me up. I can breathe when she’s near me. She resonates the purity I’m chasing.
I think this year I’ll resolve to become a beautiful ice crystal. By exposing myself to magnificence and kindness and grace, I can release negativity and clear my mind of what doesn’t serve me, allowing the almost imperceptible shift in focus to bring about the changes I desire. Then I become the change I want to see in the world. Though unique, I am part of the collective. I am love.
After a snowfall, when the sun breaks through the clouds, billions of snowflakes can be seen, sparkling in the bright light. Together they make up the expanse of vivid white blanketing the ground just as the individual brilliance of every person on the planet comprises the world’s consciousness. We are one. Change myself, change the world.