It’s a sunny, but frosty 23 degrees Sunday afternoon here in Saratoga. The fireplace is on, the neighborhood kids are playing outdoors (they raise ’em tough up here), and I can hear the first sounds of football on TV in our living room. All is well, safe and peaceful for us… but it’s been a week of signs in all their splendor and severity. Hopeful heights and heartbreaking lows, and much to learn from all of them.
As I wrapped up last week, I felt ready to dive in to an admittedly self-serving presentation of my goals for the year as the focus of the Maven and Magpie blog in 2021. My intention: to burn brightly. And then, the week happened.
Hope is in the air
First, the joy and exhilaration of Wednesday’s Inauguration. For all the anxiety I felt in the lead up, and even through the vows and formalities as our new leaders sat so exposed on the steps of the Capitol, the day was magnificent. It was wonderful to see the blue skies, the flags, and the splendor of DC showing its best and most beautiful to the nation and the world. I loved Gaga’s glorious gown and rousing rendition of our National Anthem, I loved J. Lo’s over-the-top Chanel couture and her “let’s get loud” medley of feel good songs about our country. While I was much less impressed with Garth Brooks, I was utterly mesmerized and captivated by the absolutely extraordinary Amanda Gorman. Wow. What a gift for all of us to participate in the historic moment of her national debut and to receive her words, as a mantra to carry us through these challenging times.
I’ve written her poem by hand in my journal to help me absorb all the beauty in her words and I’ve decided to listen to her performance once a day for 30 days, like a tonic for a weary soul. (It surely can’t hurt.) I’d love to have you join me!
loss and Grief
Then, the blows of reality began to land. Three lives lost in my world, in rapid succession – from different chapters of my story – and all with the same, painfully poignant lesson: Tomorrow is Promised to No One.
While my blog is not the place to share the stories of each beloved individual, I feel the best way to honor them is to cherish each as a messenger for all of us. I am humbly and sorrowfully grateful for their role in making me feel the terrible un-fillable hole of loss that is left when someone is taken unfairly (to our human eyes), suddenly and seemingly too soon. The three losses I’ve experienced this week have pierced the walls of my cozy little cocoon, with a tiny sample of the painful reality faced by everyone who loved each of the 400,000 souls lost, so far, to a virus we knew nothing about one year ago today.
Each of these friends represented the very best of a “life well lived”. Theirs were lives that serve as inspiration for all of us. They truly and completely lived, in vibrant color and at full volume, until the last. Two of them, my peers from high school and from college respectively, were dealt the miserable hand of cancer diagnoses which they fought valiantly, although far too briefly. Their courage was their final gift to those who knew and loved them. The third, much older in years, but not in spirit, energy, passion or will to live each day fully and on his own terms – not bending to the expectations of someone “his age” in any way. Cruelly, for those left behind, this individual was gone with no warning and no chance to say goodbye – a peaceful escape from this earthly world, and a terrible shock to those whose future included so many plans with him at their center.
So, what to do with all of this? I am inclined to add my mourning of their passing and my awe in the way they lived each day to the kindling of my fire to “burn brightly” this year. It seems that the best way to celebrate all they were and all they demonstrated is to do great things as they would have done, given more time, and to remember them in so doing.
“To whom much is given, much is expected.”
This is a quote that has always driven me. It wakes me up in the middle of the night, it drives me to jump out of bed and to do my best Hamilton rendition of “not throwing away my shot”. My three friends are adding their voices to the chorus.
if only we’re brave enough to be it
So, I turn back to my intention for 2021: to “burn brightly” and make my greatest impact. This simple intent seems even more important and urgent than it did last week. I’m not sure my specific goals are meaningful enough to truly honor my friends, but I’m hoping they are clear enough to give me a chance to make a difference.
By sharing them, I’m inviting you to join me on my journey – both by following along the path with me and by suggesting new paths or doorways that might help me reach them more directly. And, of course, I’m counting on you to hold me accountable when I drift (and I’m sure to drift).
magpie goals for 2021:
1. To help my Padre navigate and execute a move to live nearer to me and to realize all the benefits of living in a supportive, active and engaged community. Objective: settling him and his loved ones into a new home in upstate NY by end of 2021.
2. To carry the message of the TRF (Thoroughbred Retirement Foundation) widely through dramatically expanded visibility and media coverage by specifically seeking out national and international audiences to whom I can deliver this message (speaking opportunities).
3. To secure at least one major gift ($5K or greater) for the TRF from a donor compelled entirely by the human impact of the TRF Second Chances (with only distant interest in the welfare of the horses).
4. To maintain a disciplined & balanced approach to the allocation of my energy including my calling (the TRF), my health (mental & physical), my community (family, friends and Saratoga), and an ample dose of time given to “unscheduled/unstructured” fun & rest too. Objectives: Run a 5K this summer & blog once a week – gulp.
5. To meet and exceed my annual Major Gifts fundraising goal. Objective: To enjoy a December similar to 2020 without anxiety.
This week’s recommended resources are:
- NY Times Podcast “1619“ – 6 parts, beautifully done, impactful & important.
- The Hill We Climb – Amanda Gorman (daily)
- “Dismantling QAnon” by TedX-MidAtlantic (Oct 2020)- challenging, shocking, eye-opening and scary. I’ve had my head in the sand about what this is for a long time, and this was super informative way to pull the wool away from my eyes.
- A Promised Land, Barak Obama – finished this engaging, informative and refreshing book this week… and can’t wait for the next one!
Much to Celebrate
- Lives well lived. May they Rest in Peace and their spirits inspire us Every Day.
- A new US President, Vice President, Administration and countless public servants dedicating and re-dedicating their lives in service to their communities and their country. (Shout out to our awesome re-elected New York Assemblywoman Carrier Woerner)
- The amazing volunteers who come together here in Saratoga to make the Rural Food Delivery Program happen. Wow! I may use my blog to capture the story of this incredible group. Over the past few months I’ve been observing them and documenting the system that keeps these trains running. Hats off to Saratoga LifeWorks (formerly EOC) and Presbyterian New England Congregationalist Church (PNECC) for all they do to make this happen.
- January is Mentorship Month. I’m hoping to become a mentor this year (two pending opportunities to make a direct impact), and I will look forward to sharing that journey too. If you have time and interest, spend a minute to google “mentorship programs near me” and see what you find!
And, that’s it for now. Looking forward to “raising a glass” with friends and family on zoom tonight and hoping to manage my time in the most impactful way possible over the week ahead. Thanks for listening!