Some Kind of Wonderful: One step at a time
I wonder what 2019 will bring?
“Stay in the day,” some say. Don’t take the whole year at a time, a whole life at a time. “Keep your head where your feet are,” others advise, which simply means live in the present, this twenty-four hours, and trust that the rest will take care of itself—“one day at a time.”
At the beginning of a new year, along with every happiness, I wish you wonder. This past Christmas Eve during Midnight Mass the clergyman reminded us that Christ’s birth was predicted eight hundred years before His actual arrival, in Isaiah, 9, vi: “For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given; and the government shall be upon His shoulder, and His name shall be called Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty…”
While “wonderful” today might be used to mean astonishing, marvelous, or even just mildly pleasurable, like an interesting play or meal in a restaurant or visit to Marrakesh, properly speaking it conveys the sense “full of wonder,” incomprehensible, inexplicable even. When I try to recall instances of this in my own life, particularly from my youth when we are meant to be at the height of our capacity for wonderment—that time we are admonished to recall by the Bible: “become ye as little children”—I cannot. Perhaps due to the particular circumstances of my own childhood I was aware very early on of who put up the Christmas tree and who wore the Santa suit; who might be the Easter bunny and who hid the eggs; who was the Tooth Fairy and who was not. As one of the two eldest children in my family, and aware of a parent’s serious illness, more than likely I was the one called upon to act in Santa’s stead. I made the naughty and nice list, I did the shopping, and on more than one occasion made my own birthday cake.
So there was no spinning on my own axis when I first discovered fairy tales weren’t real. In fact, I found myself mostly impatient with them for their lack of logic and sheer improbability, a bit like the Saturday morning cartoons my younger brothers loved to lose themselves in while I was otherwise engaged sorting breakfast for them. Which didn’t stop me from harnessing the power of storytelling when the strain of living with my mother’s debilitating illness temporarily overwhelmed my siblings and me. I recall us all taking a lengthy train trip from Virginia to Ohio, a distance of five hundred miles or more. Overnight I kept everyone occupied and reassured by telling tales, making up yarns into the wee hours, to comfort my brothers and put them to sleep. I listened to them slumbering, and then to the rattling of the train, wondering about the bigger picture—what would happen next—trying to fathom complexities with common sense. Was this wonderment in that biblical sense? I think not.
Today I do wonder. I stand in awe of the sheer efficacy of putting one foot in front of the other. I wonder at the power of simplicity— the apparent magic involved in following a recipe just so and getting it right. Once, when visiting my then fiancé in Tallinn, Estonia, overwhelmed by the winter darkness in which the sun shone only briefly at mid-morning and disappeared again by early afternoon, I found myself daydreaming of equatorial climes. Sun-kissed had never seemed so desirable. Winter in the North can be very long indeed. I pined for heat and light.
Out of nowhere came a question: What do you want to do? Go around the world, I answered flippantly, pulling the duvet over my head and burrowing in deeply, knowing there wasn’t a hope in hell of that happening with my meager savings and my fiancé’s nascent business years away from being successful. Well, you know how to do it—one step, one action, at a time. Even if it was pitch black outside, with the wind howling and minus-degree weather at practically noon, I rose to the challenge, if only in the hopes of proving it wasn’t that simple. Boy, was I wrong to doubt my own powers of persuasion! After just a few phone calls to strangers, between Finnair, a local newspaper and a travel agent, I was on my way around the world via the sunshine route, on a writing assignment. This was wonderful.
I left Deepest Dark for Brightest Light, via Helsinki, Bangkok, Bali, Sydney and Melbourne, Los Angeles, New York and back again, in thirty days. That first phone call and a few subsequent actions, one step at a time, took me to windswept beaches, sun-drenched jungle, teak temples, Hollywood and Fifth Avenue. Even with my limited funds, in Melbourne in an old treasury building turned casino, I hit the jackpot. “Unheard of,” the croupier said. That whole trip was full of wonder, one step, one small action, leading to the next. Starting with a question “What do you want to do?”—a wishful answer, a vague vision, a phone call or two, and a willingness to see “what happens next,” to take action and let the results be whatever they turn out to be… this, as an adult, I call some kind of wonderful.
2019. I wonder…
Wishing you a Happy New Year,
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