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Trickle-down Story

The clock doesn't have an amygdala
so it doesn't worry, it tells
its own quick trickle-down story
of now and now and now until
neither yesterday nor tomorrow
is where it should be.
Welcome, traveler!
You might as well stay a while
and kneel to Happiness
and its hymns and its cross.

- Catherine Barnett

As we re-engage today with the world after the long holidays, return to our work and routines, put away the festive decorations and clean up the party platters and fold away the guest laundry, many of us feel neither recharged nor ready for re-entry. The in-box awaits, filling daily. New budgets and projects and meetings fill the weeks forward. We are worn-out with the busyness of the holidays and ready for simple days, yet crave mental space to rekindle both anticipation and energy for a new year.

This feeling is both replete and overflowing, empty and odd, all at the same time. I used to think of this period after the holidays as the inevitable "celebration burnout," but in truth it's about the need to take real time to recharge.

This year my husband and I planned an immediate trip to the Hawaiian Islands after New Year's Day. Many variables in our lives came together to make this possible. No children (all grown) or extended family to arrange for; no invited colleagues, or groups. Just the two of us. With an agenda equal parts work and play, we book-ended the work part with solid days of rest and recreation. A serious experiment in meaningful personal downtime in the aftermath of the hosting and travel and parties of the holidays. Primed for swift re-entry to work but seeking balance to the dark cold hours of our northern winters (which we find depressive and muting), this island week has been a blessing. Much as Catherine Barnett's clock ticking through the "now and now and now," the fatigue of the soul drops away.

More than a vacation, this break has been about slowing everything - including me, work, and the daily to-dos - down to the fulsome completeness of a given, measured day. Discovering what it means to absorb the happiness of the present, its freedom from urgency, planning, and anxiousness. We walk warm sands and talk, float in a lengthening and sustained present sense of time. We hike clouds on a crater and stand in the shimmering sunset. Wake, after deep restful sleep, heartbeats in keeping with the surf rolling against the shore. Experiencing now and now and now what it is to exist one moment to the next as Barnett's clock, "until neither yesterday nor tomorrow is where it should be."

Although we are (happily) at work here in our paradise, the days swell from sunrise to sunset complete unto themselves. And within each day, the seed of serenity and industry, celebration and reflection. May we keep tranquility in our pockets long after we return to the daily grind. And may this New Year be one of gentleness and joy, friends. A trickle-down story for you and yours of days well lived.

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