In the hot tub on New Years Eve, when it was my turn to share with three dear friends, I had been so thoroughly engrossed in their journeys that I hadn't prepared my own soliloquy (a good sign of good listening, I think). So I looked through the cold clear night at the stars for a second and listened again to see what would rise up (a sign of a good Quaker, I think :). Two things jumped out loud and clear.
The first was my body (health, that is, not jumping out of the hot tub). Not so much the three months quite restricted by pain and fear of further injury until a July hernia operation, but the rebuilding process. After a 3 year hiatus, I returned to the hot Bikram yoga studio and discovered just how much I had lost in strength, flexibility and endurance. And as I sweated myself back to wholeness, I realized that I had never really recovered from the appendectomy the summer before. After that trauma I had become used to a lower level of energy and capacity, unconsciously reconciling myself to a premature aging. Never got back to ultimate frisbee, stopped jogging, moved slower around the land. Now as I return to vibrancy I find myself alive and focussed and open in a way I had begun to let slip away. I'm not 43, I'm just Rick.
The second was the return to professional work by launching FreeRange Consulting. Characteristically overconfident in my abilities and deliberately oblivious to the challenges of finding cash-strapped non-profits with the resources to pay me, I managed to carve a niche in the valley, become established in a marvelous circle of great organizations and committed leaders. It felt exhilarating and integrating to get connected to the community in this way, to start giving back and serving. I ended up investing much more time and identity than originally intended, and feel much more whole for it.
The extra money also allowed us to start an addition onto the rental cabin. It was a richly revolving year as our beloved Joe and Nathalie moved out after their baby Thomas made the space a bit too tight. Ironically, a family of four then moved in for the rest of the school year, then another family of 4 plus a dog followed for a 1.5 month stint while their house purchase came through. That fit the gap just perfectly for our new community member Crystal and her 4-year-old Tristan. But after 3 successive Good families adored the space but found it too small for a long-term stay, we felt compelled to make the investment in an office and 2nd bedroom to make it work for these types of people that we want in our lives long-term. In hindsight, I realize that I made the mistake of building the perfect bachelor suite when really we want family.
Crystal and Tristan have indeed quickly become family. We share 3-5 meals together per week, Crystal shows up with chai for late-night fireside visits, and we often wake up on weekends to find Tristan happily playing with the boys in the living room - for how long we have no idea, nor does Crystal. All four families who have lived in the suite created a different and rich iteration of Community - another one of the great gifts of 2010.
Writing continued to be a journey of faith in 2010. My blog readership doubled from the previous year (1,000 of you per month - thank you!), and I feel like I've found a voice and rhythm and breadth. I finally took a few writer retreats and sketched three different book outlines, one of which I'm committed to writing in 2011. Part of that process was reviewing all blog entries and magazine articles to find themes, gems, and misdirections to build upon. I never found/made time during regular life to move it beyond the detailed outline and first chapter written, but now have a base and vision to work with. And a working title: Slow F... actually, I think I'll keep that quiet for a while :)
Another emergent theme of the year, which only really becomes clear as I take time to look back at it, has been a deepening confidence in friends and family. Moving from the insecurity of counting friends or feeling left out, I find myself needing less quantity and discovering more quality in the people around me. Preferring an intimate dinner for four to a fun party for forty. I would still like to see more of our close friends, but quietly know that they feel the same, and don't put pressure on them or the relationship by equating time with essence.
It's seeped into my parenting as well. I'm setting up less playdates and instead finding and creating more magic and adventure with the family. The kids - Galen especially - exude a greater confidence and inner strength that in part arises from this solid, love-filled, trust-based home foundation.
Despite working over 30 hours a week, I still cling to the Stay-at-Home Dad identity and responsibility. More than ever I cherish the multiple walks/rides to school each day, the afterschool projects and play, the bedtime snuggles and secrets. Zekiah reduced to only 2 afternoons at home per week (down to 1 starting next week and zero after Easter - grade one gradual entry), so I suddenly didn't want to waste those precious 2-hour alone times on naps or playdates or setting him up with Leggo while I worked. We did more projects, card games, longer chats over lunch. That same lesson extended to afterschool times with both boys - the window of having their undivided attention and need is narrow, and I want to suck all the marrow of this bone I've dug up while I can.
A very unusual feature of 2010 was sports. After growing up religiously reading the sports pages, comics and Anne Landers each morning, I found while living in Africa that the newspaper clippings my dad regularly sent meant less and less, and I've easily stayed away from investing energy into other peoples' games since then. But I became much more excited about the Olympics than intended, then segued into the Stanley Cup and the World Cup soccer. All short-term dalliances, and I'm back to blissful unawareness of who won the Grey Cup or how the Canucks are doing (oh, just checked and they're first in the NHL! I admit, that does make me happy - still a Canadian, eh?)
Last but not least in this incomplete list, farming continues to underlie this new way of being. Our first growing season on our own (after mentors Joe and Nathalie moved), we spent the year just gulping and gasping for breath, figuring things out and trying not to pressure ourselves to overproduce. The result was a hands-on learning and still a decent crop, and a new confidence that we really can and will get it. I learned that our number one crop for the first 5 years should be not produce but soil, so we started aggressively composting and learning how to build soil fertility. This winter I've been able to start understanding farming books, with just enough experience and awareness that they make sense and help me form real plans for next year. It's only been 2 years, I'm still a baby farmer, but the important thing is that after the honeymoon I'm still a farmer.
After a revolutionary 2009 of renos, new farming and new identity, 2010 has been a rich year of new growth. Finding how to add professional work into the parenting/farming/writing/community mix; becoming a Slow Friend and Slow Parent; learning to trust and nurture my quieter voice, and relearning to trust and honour my body.
I was going to barge straight ahead with resolutions for 2011, but want to take time to read what came out tonight and reflectively build upon it. So for now, thank you 2010 for the time to learn the richness of Slow, without slowing down.
Write to Renew - One of our previous graduates, the talented Jay Nahani, is leading us in a Write to Renew workshop June 14th. For writers and non-writers alike, this one-d...