I’m Southern; y’all know this. I come from strong Southern stock. And we have traditions, y’all. I’m a Compton, a thoroughbred, like my grandmother. We send thank-you notes. We root for Auburn. And we eat black-eyed peas on New Year’s Day.
Last year, I went a little crazy with the black-eyed peas. Something in me was urging me to eat as many as I could. Maybe I had a hunch about what was coming; maybe I knew I’d need a little extra luck. Or maybe I was just being greedy. Regardless of my reasons, I was cheating. It doesn’t matter how many black-eyed peas you eat. You just need a single, solitary pea to ensure your luck in the coming year.
Once, when I was younger, I was complaining about having to eat black-eyed peas. See, I really don’t like them. They are awful and gross and they do not make my mouth happy. I told my grandmother that they didn’t do anything for my luck, because I’d eaten some the previous year and my luck hadn’t been all the great. She looked me right in the eye and said, “Imagine how difficult your year would have been then, if you hadn’t eaten any.”
That’s what I told myself yesterday, when I was standing over the sink with a spoonful of black-eyed horribleness in my hand, phone to my ear as Linds counted me down. 2010 was easily one of my most difficult years ever. There were times when I didn’t know how much more I could take, where I would get the strength to push through the next thing to happen, and the thing after that, and the next thing after that.
But somewhere, things shifted. Sometime after my heart was broken, by my partner and then by lost friendships, something changed. Call it life, call it the power of the Pea, but whatever it was, it was good. Because it’s all a balancing act, guys. You’ve heard the riddle of the man on the bridge, right? He had three boxes, each weighing five pounds. He had the cross an old bridge that could only handle his weight if he carried an extra ten pounds. How did he get across the bridge with all of his boxes?
He juggled, of course. And so it is with life, and with us. Each box represents our feelings: our joy, our pain, our relationships, our struggles and our strengths. And we’re all walking with more weight than we can carry. So we juggle. And as each box lands in our hands, we experience a bit more of that box than we do while it is in the air. And at the beginning of last year, I held onto the pain box. I experienced heartbreak and sadness more often than I held onto joy and hope. And I had no choice. Because you have to take your time when you are juggling so you don’t drop everything; you can’t get ahead of yourself. So I experienced the pain for as long as I had to; I settled into it and let it begin to transform me.
As the year went on, I started to let go of the pain. I was able to hold onto hope for longer periods of time. And then, as I nurtured my relationships with my friends, I held onto hope and joy. And as those friendships deepened and grew and new people, magical people came into my life, I caught the box with the love and I’ve been holding onto that.
I thought about this yesterday, while I stood at the sink, dramatically coughing and gagging down my spoonful of black-eyed peas. I realized that although my year began horribly and was more difficult than I could have imagined, it didn’t stay that way. Things changed; I changed. I’m stronger than I was before. I am a better friend. My capacity for love has grown exponentially. And most importantly, I am a much better juggler.
I’m excited for 2011, y’all. I’m going to take more chances this year. I’m going to push myself in new ways. And I’m going to continue practicing my juggling. And it’s going to be a great year. I bet it will be hard in some places because there’s no avoiding that pain box, but it will be worth it in the end. It always is.
Still though. Before I dumped the remainder of the peas down the drain, I ate a second spoonful.
Just to be sure.
Happy New Year, y’all.