My Year of Tender Mercies


All things new.

This little mantra has been thrumming in my heart in the four days since my birthday. Which, incidentally, was my best birthday ever.

I’ve been feeling it in my body so deep this turn around the sun, and honestly, the weeks leading up to it were hard, tear-soaked days. I pulled out my journals and took a brave look at the last five years. They were some of the most emotionally and spiritually transformative years of my life—the violet-shadow-covered grays on my head are well-earned while the violet shadows in my heart hold much tenderness. My body is weary and I’m still coaxing words out of the inner depths of me. In some ways I feel like I’m still discovering what I really want out of life, and in other ways I’m rooted fierce and sure. This paradox has become a way of life that I’m slowly accepting might never become resolved. It is maddening and comforting.

So it is with awe and wonder that I say this: this birthday has been pure enchantment. I feel like I’ve moved through a portal into a wholly unexpected and glorious world where all things are new and sparkling with promise. A poetic scripture whispers to me with luminous and prophetic clarity: winter is past, the rain is over and gone. The flowers appear on the earth; the time of singing has come.

And so I declare this my new year, a year of tender mercies.

My year of tender mercies

I am flooded with a sudden and deep hunger to do things differently.

What if I choose to believe I have everything I need whether I see or feel it, or not? What if I believe I am loved and wanted despite the uncertainty and pain of “it’s complicated” …? What if I choose to believe that I can lose the weight I carry—and keep it off? What if I choose to believe that money will not be an issue? 

What if I just do what feels good to my body? Stretching my limbs gently in pools of sunlight on the floor, curvy hips swaying to sultry rhythms, warm, soothing oils on my skin. 

What if I believe I am enough? That I am where I need to be, whether that means in this body, in this apartment, in this city, in my work?

What if I truly believed the best about others and their intentions? What would that look like; how would it feel? What if I moved beyond the fear of being taken advantage of, and simply loved—and loved well? What if I could have the softest and most immense compassion for those who criticize, judge, imitate, debate, and react, knowing these things explicitly show their own fear, terror, insecurity and shame?

What if the soft expanse of my arms is the only circle I need and so I am never “in” or “out” … I am, just simply, I AM?

What if I could show mercy first?

What if the very breath in my lungs is gratitude—inhale—compassion—exhale? What if I moved through life as embodied prayer? What if my life is the altar, my sacrament is gentleness, and the reinvention I crave is wholeness?

What if I learned to love my kitchen and the cozy space it offers? What if I became inspired to create lush, nourishing meals full of life and light, using fresh offerings from the earth as a path of wholeness? What if I truly cared for my body as a sacred temple, blessed it, adorned it, honored it, loved it for the holy light within? What if I embodied the Spirit and the breath and used my words to stop writing what is beautiful and write what is true?

What if I could be, really be, the hands of the holy—that my touch, my presence, my embrace, my work would be direct portals for the divine to pour through with healing, transformation, and comfort?

What if I believed that I could sort through the accumulation of years that weigh heavy upon me—the material things which pile up collecting stress and dust, the emotions which swell my body with their vastness and intricacy, my deeply-ingrained default settings of futility and ennui that follow my creativity like a shadow?

What if things could be different?

What if I don't have to settle? What if I could heal my mental default of scarcity? What if I could live from heart-soaked abundance and trust and joy? What if I could make magic with my time and press sweet nectar out of every juicy moment so that I can do all that I desire? What if I could embrace longing as a spiritual practice? What if I believed that this immense tiredness and physical exhaustion in my body is only temporary and that I can, and I will, glow with vitality and energy and passion?

I want my soul to burst with flowers appearing, those seeds planted in the dark cold ground at last leaping into light. I want my body to sing its wild hymns and to bring forth the poems written on the inside of my bones. I want my voice to ring out with grace and truth. I want to create new rituals and ways of being, to go forward with wisdom and gentleness. I want to approach new opportunities with thankfulness and eager creativity. I want the fortitude to make needed life-changes and to gracefully surrender to the highest good.

I name this my year of tender mercies. This is my year to do everything differently. To let down my guard. Let light in. To be curious. To be surprised. To believe the best. To hope. To live creatively with sparkling inspiration. And in the hard moments, to seek new ways of being so that I may release or embrace, surrender or resist, run or rest as needed.

It's taken years to get me here, and now it's time. Life is calling. Life is my calling. I dwell in the wild fields of grace.

Hillary McFarland