The twentieth of the major arcana in the tarot is the Aeon, which I think of as the turning of the wheel of time: the end of one age and the beginning of another. And just as the wider world experiences these sudden transformations, we too find that one day some great cycle has ended, and we find ourselves in a new phase. 2019 was like that for me.
First, I quit waiting tables, and think I may actually be done with food service for good. Famous last words, I know, but that was back in May, and I don’t see myself going back. To say that this is a relief is an understatement. I never minded the work – I actually miss the physical activity and socializing – but the working environment, especially the needless hierarchy and frequent mismanagement, was always hard to bear.
Since quitting, I’ve enjoyed a remarkable freedom to follow my own pursuits. All year I’ve been practicing yoga as intensely as I could manage, and in July did yoga teacher training with Kindness here in Denver. Teacher training has opened new depths to my practice (I wish I’d done it years ago), and also introduced me to a host of new friends. At forty-three, I feel an increasing need to care for my body – and at the same time, I have new aches and stiffnesses.
Even before the training was over, however, I had to leave to be with my brother Sean for his medically assisted death, after his years-long struggle with ALS. I had never witnessed a death before, and this was an up-close and personal as it gets, holding his hand as he died. His passing in many respects has overshadowed all else this year, and it continues to reverberate through my consciousness. Often I meet him in my dreams, sometimes as a boy, sometimes an adult, sometimes as the old man he would have lived to be. Sean, I am honored to have been your brother.
Returning to Colorado, I immediately helped organize the Zen Center of Denver’s summer retreat, in a spectacular mountain valley northwest of Boulder. With the retreat finished, we turned our attention to the imminent opening of the our new temple, a project that has been in the works for years (I even had a hand in helping design the building). Naturally this has demanded a good deal of my time and energy as office manager, and its completion is a dream come true, not just for me but for the whole community.
Shortly before it opened, I moved out of my apartment (and in with friends for a month – thanks again, Casciato/Benson family!). When all was in readiness, I moved into the temple as resident caretaker and office manager; and here I am, and deeply grateful for the opportunity.
Since moving in, I’ve been seeking to establish a regular daily schedule: meditation, writing, office work, exercise, errands, yoga, more meditation, and of course the occasional dance party. On Sundays I also go play Magic: The Gathering with a great group, which has ended up being surprisingly rich for me – not so much in the game (though I do enjoy mercilessly crushing my enemies) – but in the easygoing friendships it has fostered.
All this adds up to me being in a fundamentally different place than I have been for the last four or five years, since the end of my last long relationship – and in a way, it feels like the end of an even longer cycle, since the end of college (which coincided with the end of another long relationship). I might say as well that reconciling with solitude – i.e. not being in a relationship – has been one of my greatest challenges, a kind of ache I can never seem to satisfy; and for whatever reason, I have had a difficult time forging deep connections with women (or really, a woman – I ain’t greedy).
For the new year, my usual resolutions: Finish another novel. Do zazen every day. Perfect the handstand (I’m so goddamn close, I swear). Give my full energy, attention and generous spirit to each person I meet. Live with an open heart. Hold nothing back. Be thankful.