What’s in a Year?

being 53We just had a big dinner and birthday party, for my beloved’s oldest daughter and myself. Our birthdays happen to be on the same day, with a slight age gap of 30 years. Lots of food and beverages, friends from various walks and circles of life, and several dogs. By the time evening turned into night, most people left and there were only 7 or 8 of us around the patio table. The darkness descended, and with it, the conversation deepened and became more juicy and intimate. At some point, a friend asked us about what we have each learned during this last year.

“In life our surprises often coincide with our lapses of attention. All learning begins not with what we know but by focusing our attention on what we don’t know. That’s what learning is, after all: not whether we lose the game, but how we lose and how we have changed because of it and what we take away from it that we never had before, to apply to other games. Losing, in a curious way, is winning.” – Richard Bach

What, indeed, have I learned this past year? Or, perhaps, have been learning; I am slowly getting better at accepting the fact that my learning journey is indeed lifelong. Some lessons are new, others – a repeat, a reminder.

I am learning to receive. It is much easier to write about it, than to actually embrace my own teachings and open up to noticing and accepting what people want to give. Our non-wedding ceremony was such example, where I saw people come and spend time with us because they wanted to give – of their presence, of making food, of expressing their love, of doing dishes, and of honouring and celebrating us. It opened me up to feeling a deep sense of gratitude and love. Not giving someone a chance to give back, freely and purely from the heart, is a seriously bad karma.

“A deep, rich, evoking, and transformative learning journey brings out our vulnerabilities into the spotlight of the naked eye.”

Embracing the warrior. Like many, I grew up without any healthy, mature, strong, and emotionally open and vulnerable role models. My understanding of a “warrior” came from martial arts and from the Israeli military. While both have valuable aspects, it is only a partial perspective on what being a warrior is, with correct and healthy masculine energy and presence. I am blessed for having met some amazing role models to what it really means, primarily through the Mankind Project. These men demonstrate a strong, authentic, clear, vulnerable, open, and loving presence, and I am feeling a beautiful sense of home, of “I have arrived” when I sit in a circle with them.

Becoming a part of a greater whole. I love doing life my own way, and have been doing it for a very long time. It often happens when one’s upbringing is restricted, constrained, and caged, as it was in my case, and I was looking for a way out. And yet, while living with this orientation, I had a sense – at times clear, at other, vague – of a different way of doing life. I called it the journey from “I” to “We.” This is the year I have deepened, owned, and stepped into it. I think it had to do both with the years leading to this one, and also our non-wedding commitment ceremony that shifted something within me. Old ways are melting away, and the “We” is a beautiful orientation and attitude that embraced me.

And then, there is the opening to love, which keeps growing through various aspects of my life. Like family. Married life is beautiful here. We are deeply connected, and it is growing all the time, deepening beyond what I thought was possible. The mutual support, awareness, and knowing each other are a beautiful and precious blessing, and like no other for me. I am growing into it, and opening up, to a sense of family like never before, because of a fairly complete lack of any emotional openness in my own family of origin. Here, through Alison, her daughters, Tobi, and also her parents, I am really experiencing a very different way of “being a family” and it is a rich, loving, and welcoming experience. Finally. At 53 years of age.

“Over the past years, nudged by science, I have come to know personally that the journey to newness is filled with the black potholes of chaos. But even though I know the role of chaos, I still don’t like it. It’s terrifying when the world I so carefully held together dissolves. I don’t like feeling lost and emptied of meaning. I would prefer an easier path to transformation. But even as I experience their demands as unreasonable, I know I am in partnership with great creative forces. I know the chaos is a necessary place for me to dwell occasionally. So I have learned to sit with these dark moments – confused, overwhelmed, only faintly trusting that new insight will appear. I know that this is my only route to new ways of being.” – Margaret Wheatley

There might be more lessons this past year brought, and I simply don’t remember them now. Still, as I review what I wrote, I think this is plenty. It was a good year. 53.

Simon Goland