In the Japanese New Year custom, I'm spending today cleaning and scouring the house, with the intention of relaxing and doing nothing but fun things tomorrow. In Japan, this would also mean cleaning and ironing all of the curtains in the house, washing all bed sheets, and airing out all duvets/futons before the first of the year. Being 8 months pregnant, I'm not feeling that ambitious, so I'll settle for a tidy house, laundry that is clean, folded and put away, and a kitchen with clean counters and stove tops and NO dishes in the sink. I believe, as the Japanese do, that the first of the year should be reserved for rest, reflection, and recreation. I'm not a fan of loud, drunken beginnings to new years. I think that's why the Japanese tradition speaks to me. While living in Japan we would celebrate the new year with our dear friends Megumi and Miwako. We ate a richly symbolic "osechi" meal (which I do not have the skill to prepare) and quietly watched the news coverage of people visiting shrines, writing their prayers on little pieces of paper, attaching them to balloons, and reverently releasing those prayers into the night. There were no shouts announcing the new year, no miserable hangovers the morning after, and best of all, no reports of car crashes from drunk drivers in the night. It was refreshing and rejuvenating, and exactly what we needed.
Dinner at the Iguchi household
Traditional Osechi meal
Teaching us how to eat Shabu Shabu
I've also been reflecting on what the past year has meant for us. New jobs, new house, a new baby on the way . . . and yet most of those things happened within the second half of the year. The first half was full of questions - Where did the last year go? Where do we go from here? How do we move on? When will all be right in the world? When will we feel whole? It is easy, when times are hard, to see only what is lacking in our lives and the world around us. It takes far more courage and far more work to see what what we have, and find peace and contentment in that. To those who are suffering right now, whether it be from some hurt done to you, depression that you cannot explain or wish away, or a situation you feel is beyond management or repair, I want you to know that I have been where you are. I have felt your pain, anger and frustration. I have felt beyond repair myself. There came a moment in my life in this past year, however, where I made the choice to see beyond my wounds and imperfect situation, and heal. There came a point when, like the Japanese prayer balloons, I let my expectations and prayers float out of me and into the universe, leaving me only the will to do and be, not wish and want. And once I made the choice to heal, I did. As I have been cleaning house today, I've thought of the "house cleaning" we've managed in our souls this past year, and I am in awe of the steps we have taken, and the healing we have accomplished.
I can't imagine being in a better, happier place than we are right now. I love my family, I love my home, I love my life. Never have I felt more spiritually in harmony with the universe and all of its diverse paths. Never have I been more acutely aware of my connection to the lives around me, and the significance that connection holds in my life. I am full to bursting with wonderment and love of the human experience, however ugly it may seem at times. I am grateful for the gift of a new year, and all the exciting turns and events it holds for us. It is hard to imagine a year topping the one we've just had, but I'm just crazy and optimistic enough to think that it will.
I wish all of you the very Happiest of New Years. May you find the peace you seek, and the courage to grab hold of it and never let it go.