When we were saying goodbye, Beatriz and Raul, married artists from Spain whom I met six months ago when I was in Brazil (STORY), gave me a small glass vial inside of which was a neatly folded and rolled scroll. Admiring it in the palm of my hands, I asked them if I should open it.
"No, later," they said, their eyes adding "when you are ready".
A few days later, on my way back to Japan, I was visiting my father during a stop-over in the US. He had recently moved, and it was a time of much newness and unknowing. One afternoon, sitting alone at my father's table and feeling I was ready to open the vial, I removed the cork and attempted to extract the scroll. Having unfurled slightly, the paper would not fall out simply by turning it over and shaking it. In the moments I took to consider how to extract it without damage, I felt my anticipation of finding out what was written on the paper increase.
Using a straightened paperclip to snag the paper and pull it out, I was reminded of the trick we used to use to eject a stuck disk on our very first Mac. I slowly eased the scroll out of the vial as my heart beat faster.
Finally in my hands, I ran my fingers across the smooth paper as I held my breath and unfurled the tiny scroll, upon which I found was written... nothing. It was a piece of blank paper. A half-crooked smile appeared on my face, and I thought, "Hmm. That is not what I was expecting."
At the time, I had understood this gift as a lesson about anticipation, that sometimes it is the anticipation of something, rather than the thing in and of itself, which brings us joy. And although several times I started to write about Beatriz and Raul's gift, I found that I could not express into words what I was feeling about the blank paper, which in retrospect is a clear indication that I had not been fully receiving or understanding the gift I was being given.
Today, more than six months later, I find myself finally ready to open the vial; not literally, of course, for it has already been opened, but in a deeper sense.
So often we sit back waiting for something good to happen, as though everything in this life has been predetermined, is out of our control, and has nothing to do with our own effort. Where I had been anticipating some inspirational words or easy answers would be provided for me on the paper, Beatriz and Raul's gift was a reminder that what I am seeking will only be revealed through an effort much greater than simply uncorking a bottle.
The page that I had first seen as Blank, is not. Rather it is New, waiting to being filled. We are like that paper, our lives provided to us, but the words that will fill our page are written through living with purpose.
As this New Year begins, may our eyes and ears be open to the words we seek and may we receive the strength to fill our page with those words by living our lives accordingly.