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My boy lies on the sofa under a blanket with the dog curled at his side. His fever is under control for now, so I curl up in the next room on my writing chair. It’s the chair where I do my best thinking, almost like the birthing chairs of old, where one sits to deliver the little one they’ve nurtured within for many long months.

Outside, the sky spits and presses down heavy and grey. From my chair I see the sad, limp Christmas wreath hanging on my neighbor’s home. They hung it with such joy and promise, and now the wreath languishes, forgotten until someone decides to put it out of its misery. A cardinal flickers into my view. One bright, beautiful flutter of red on a bare branch. It’s a winged sign. The proof of life I need today, the one that reminds me spring will eventually come, and with it, all that appears dead will bloom once again.

January is a hard month, isn’t it? All this talk of new beginnings and big plans and “embracing” sound so lovely when the twinkle lights still glow. Cut to everyday life–grey skies and feverish kids and ideas that refuse to give birth to concrete words. When I say I want to embrace all of life, I forget it includes January. It includes bare branches and leftover, limp celebrations. It includes the writing/birthing chair even when nothing is gestating.

Embracing a year is no light endeavor. It requires living with arms wide open in the darkness, as well as in the light. Arms must learn to circle around every last bit of life, even the bitterness that cuts the sweet. I think the secret to embracing the magic of our ordinary days is learning to see both, and accept that both the bitter and sweet are necessary to living an abundant life. Too much of one or the other and we either begin to lose hope and heart, or we become spoiled and self-centered.

My boy is awake now, asking for soup. The scarlet wings flicked away moments ago, leaving the branch with a gentle sway. I will leave my writing chair soon to get the soup to feed the boy to nourish the future man I once carried. This is January. This is me, embracing the bittersweet.


What does January feel like to you? Bitter, sweet, or something in-between?