New Year

On the Saturday before election day, I agreed to go with my mother for a long walk through the beautiful Newport News Park. Like many feel about their mothers, I love her, but she is sometimes a trial to me – so I try to plan to do things with her that we both love in order to keep the energy as positive as possible. But this is neither here nor there; I have digressed without having begun.

We planned according to our usual arrangement: she told me the time at which she intended to pick me up, and I knew to be ready no earlier than 30 minutes beyond that time. In this case, she told me 11:30, I was ready by noon, and she arrived at 12:15. It all works out perfectly once you have it down. As anyone around here knows, tunnel trouble is always something with which one may contend if crossing between the Peninsula and the South Side. And so it was that Saturday. The traffic slowed, slowed, slowed, and then stopped. My mother was hyperventilating, blaming herself because she had not been on time, angry at the world for throwing this obstacle before her. Eventually, I was able to remind her that we weren’t in a hurry and we didn’t really have an agenda. She relaxed a bit then, and I was even able to get her to listen to some of the music on Out of the Box. Outside it was a gloriously beautiful day, perfect for walking in parks or sitting in cars listening to music and daydreaming. I stared out my window, and time passed.   And passed.       And passed.

Eventually, a car door opened, and then another and another until there was quite a stir of people milling around. My mother is an avid photographer, and has a compulsive desire to document anything and everything. And so, when people started getting out of their cars, she had the idea of documenting the event – since, indeed, it seemed to be turning into an event. I resumed my daydreaming, and when I eventually took notice of the outside world again, I felt a wave of good energy that had I been standing would have lifted me off my feet. Earlier speculation about the logistics of removing disabled cars from tunnels had given way to a vibrant sense of community and festivity. My mother was deep in earnest conversation with a young African American girl, both of them intently focused on their respective cameras. One young man was entertaining a group by standing on one hand and bopping up and down like a human pogo stick. There was an elderly white woman playfully slapping the chest of a Philipino boy wearing a hat that said “Fuck Off” with stars and astericks arranged around the lettering. They were both wholly engaged in their animated conversation. The energy was such that I was compelled to cut the radio and exit the car. People were everywhere laughing, talking, smiling, offering themselves and their things to loved ones and strangers alike. Unlikely groups formed, and unlikelier pairs. Not one person remembered to be impatient or ornery or annoyed or offended. Everyone reveled in blue sky and sunshine, gratitude and appreciation. It’s hard to believe that anybody who was there could ever be cynical again about the human potential for peace, harmony, happiness, love, and understanding.

Then, suddenly, the road ahead was clear and it was as if everyone was startled out of a dream as they ran for their cars and buckled themselves in and oriented themselves again to “reality.” In that awful moment of realization, of liberation some might call it, a chasm opened up that marks the separation between that world and this one. But why the chasm? Why can’t we take that with us wherever we go, and spread it around and pass it on and pay it forward? How could it be that only 20 or so minutes after bonding with the young photographer on the bridge could my mother sneer and remark, “Well, they do stick together, don’t they?” after I mentioned that Colin Powell had endorsed Barack Obama?

The sun set on Saturday, and three days later it rose on Tuesday. Not since Clinton’s first run at the presidency have I anticipated voting as much. I was happy when I walked into Taylor Elementary School, in spite of the rain. I expected to run in, vote, and leave in relatively short order. But what I walked into – again – was an Event. The energy inside the school halls was electric. Nobody was bored or impatient, and very few were using their cell phones or distracting themselves with music or reading material. Instead, there was one large, beautiful, multi-faceted exchange of energy and information. Everyone, it seemed, was happy and in love with everyone else. So true was this that when, after more than 90 minutes of waiting, we were shocked – and disappointed – that we had reached the end of the line. Though I was still thrilled to register my vote, it almost seemed like an anti-climax.

As I was darting through the rain back to my car, I decided that this time I would carry that energy with me through the day. Every move I made was the right move, I focused when I needed to focus, and the taste of food was fabulous, and every single moment of the day until I went to my 4:20 class was stellar. Something that happened in the course of the class, and I don’t know what, brought me back down to “normal.”

Many would say that it is to be expected, that we can’t maintain that all the time. But why not? After all, it is only openness, love, positive expectation. I think we are capable of dwelling in that place much more than we do, at any rate. And why don’t we if it feels so good? And it does feel good. Why is it that we are – the majority of us – compelled instead to dwell in the depths of negative thought? Is it American culture or the Judeo-Christian tradition in which we are steeped? Where did we come up with this, that expecting good things will cause bad things? That if something feels good, we must be doing something immoral or wrong or that we aren’t hard working enough, that there is virtue somehow in suffering?

And that’s not the end of it. Witness our frequent habit of quelling excitement or anticipation in one another so that whoever dares to express these feelings doesn’t “jinx it.” I have one friend who has refused numerous times to expect good results so that she wouldn’t be disappointed. Instead, she dwells in disappointment, wringing her hands in angst, long before the dreaded results come to fruition. And by the time they do, she has spent about four times as long in a state of anxiety and distress than she would have if she had only expected a good outcome, or even not thought about the subject at all. And if good results come instead of the expected bad ones, even more of a waste!

To a certain extent, these attitudes seem to come more out of conditioned habit than individual character or personal history. The good news is that conditioned habits can be unconditioned, and other ones can be cultivated in their stead. I never wait for a particular moment to make resolutions; I make them as I am inspired to do so. I am resolved now to co-create more events like those I experienced in the days around the election, and to expect the best of myself, my friends, co-workers, and everyone with whom I come in contact. It just so happens to come right in time for the New Year.

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