November first is a special holiday for Bob and me. For us, it represents our first day of happily ever after. It was the day Bob was unexpectedly fired from his job.
We were shocked. Embarrassed. Scared shitless. We had only closed on our house two weeks’ prior, and our first mortgage bill arrived in the mail the same day he was canned.
But the first morning we woke up without gainful employment, we made a discovery. November sunrises over our mountain ridge are beyond compare. And without jobs, we didn’t have to go anywhere. All we had to do was sit quietly and enjoy it. This gift from the earth burst forth in the moment when we needed it most. Fear fell away. We drank in the scene and understood that we could never accept a life that required us to forsake November sunrises in favor of any job.
So we quit worrying about employment. And when we had kids, we didn’t make them go to school. We kept them home with us. No matter how much we grow our family farm and business, the glory of being home together is the central thrill of our lives, and November is our time to remember that.
And so every November first, no matter how much revelry we enjoy on Halloween, we rise from bed while it is still dark. And we sit beside our window and watch as the stars fade and the black of night recedes, and we give thanks for our happily ever after.
This November first was like all the others, except for the fact that I forgot to turn my phone off. And just as the sky was lightening, Martina, our summer foreign exchange student from Spain, texted me. She had just learned of the latest attack in New York City the afternoon before.
I had thought it was just a crazy car accident. I was celebrating Halloween with friends and family and didn’t stop to pay attention that night.
But Martina wasn’t going to let me continue ignoring it. I tore my gaze from the window and opened the New York Times and read the story. My heart sank. I thought about the glories of Halloween replaced by true fear and horror. I thought about the families of the victims.
And I thought about the victims of the recent Las Vegas shooting. And the daily bombings and attacks all over the world. And the most recent hurricane victims.
So much violence and despair, and here I sit with my husband, honoring the first day of our happily ever after.
Help them, help them, help them, I whisper to the world, while at the same time wondering at the folly of this selfish moment of personal celebration.
The light changes in the room as I stare at my phone. I toss it down and look up. The sky is glittering like a pink sapphire. Look at me, look at me, look at me, it screams.
And I can’t help myself. I look. I drink in every ripple in every cloud, every subtly changing hue. And I don’t forget this world-wide suffering, but I can’t ignore this heaven that unfolds before me.. I only realize just how vulnerable we all are, how life can be so glorious one moment, so devastating the next. Our world is ferocious and beautiful. We’ve no option but to face the ferocity when it emerges. But when we do, its easy to forget the beauty.
We all bear witness to both in one way or another. But can we allow ourselves to see both? What happens if we only see the fear and the loss and the anger, but we forget the gratitude for all that is amazing, even if it is just momentary? If this happens, we lose sight of the ultimate goal, which is peace. And just because it isn’t here right now doesn’t mean it won’t come. We have to keep bringing it into being. And that begins with gratitude, the best antidote I’ve ever known for fear and anger. It’s also one of the surest routes I can find to forgiveness. Both are essential if we ever want a worldwide outbreak of acceptance and compassion..
Maybe this isn’t the day for celebrating the happily ever after. Maybe it’s a day for honoring happily ever right now. And giving thanks for it.
Our family’s thoughts are with all those NYC victims and their families.
….and now, sadly, for the folks in Sutherland Springs, Texas.