January 24, 2024
It’s gray, rainy, and 51F in Cincinnati, the perfect winter day. It feels like a treat after last week’s single digits. Jeb and I are basking in the heat of the American Sign Museum on Monmouth St in Camp Washington, courtesy of the CHPL Discovery Pass.
This time of year is hard. Our place on the planet tells our bodies to slow, to rest. It’s cold and dark. We will never see fresh food again. We crave a cuddle in a warm dark place where we dream of sun.
The world tells us we have no time to waste, that we must get on with our resolutions to be new and better, to pay our taxes, to start our new deductibles, to reserve our vacations now, and to strive and work harder with our clean slate.
What do we want? How do we (I) deal with demands on my time, on my body, on my attention? I lament, and ask, and wish until I’m miserable.
Show us a sign
Show me a sign
Provide me a way.
There are literal signs around me right this second, and I have no idea which one to follow. In the bible, there are many stories of divination to learn The Way. To my surprise, casting lots is sanctioned. I’m not the first to long for a clear and easy path. The way to find the path these days is discernment. Discernment is an art and a science.
Science is straightforward.
· Define the question.
· What are options that answer the question.
· Try each one on until one seems to feel right.
· Act as if I have chosen it and regard the world.
· Make the choice and commit for a year.
The Art is harder.
· The art is to avoid false signs, those coincidences and serendipities when a song comes on or a meme pops up that bend to a particular view that seems perfect.
· The art is to keep your mind on your intentional path and be consistent and brave.
· The art is to find a community of people to hold space. People who will encourage and cheer and feedback. Humble, grateful, curious people who can hear and ask questions. Discernment needs a community.
When I’ve made the mistake of asking someone who can’t hear me for help during discernment, my pride snaps to attention. I know I can win them over and persuade them. It’s been hard to see how strong my pride is, to know that I’m probably on the right path and that person is not the one to help me on it. I’ve been working to let that pride go. It’s hard to let go! Pride is the essence of competition. Winning is easy to divert from being a beloved child of God, walking along The Way to be The Best One living My Best Life.
January reminds me to listen to my body, to reach out to my loves, to gather and reserve strength, to find comfort and solace, and check if what I chose last year still works now. I remind myself that I’m not alone, regardless of how much I try to retreat to the comfort of my cliff side hiding place and nestle down in bubble wrap.
I can’t trust the signs around me. They urge me to claim to be better than other people, revel in my accomplishments, and buy something I don’t need.
I can trust myself.
I can listen to the still small voice speaking to me, urging me on.
I can love myself, friends, family, and strangers, just as we are.
I can reframe to see the signs around me saying that the power of the present is here.
I can look around at the fullness of my life and be joyful.
I can learn and grow and listen and be present and lean in to using my gifts.
I appreciate this beautiful terrible world that none of us will survive.
Provide us a sign? Let’s stop to cast lots and look at the map…
You are here.
It’s too much, not enough, and just right.
Cheers to this day!
Essay and photos by Anne Brack
Illustration by Jeb Brack