Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Auld Lang Syne

I am sitting in my bed at Mom & Jim's house in Long Creek. It is 1.11 a.m of 01/01/2009.  
The snow started to fall about three hours ago - prelude to a blizzard that is going to thump the Maritimes tomorrow.   This seems as fitting a scene as any to do a little reflecting on the year that has passed and the year that is to come.  

 - Many hours later - 

So my attempt to write an insightful blog post at an ungodly early hour in the morning did not pan out.  It is now 9.04 Pm of 01/010/2009 and I am sitting by the fireplace in the living room with laptop, quite appropriately, in lap and the blizzard still blazing its way through Long Creek.

These last few weeks on PEI have given me much by way of food for thought, as well as food for my belly!  No, but really, there's something to be said for the therapeutic nature of 'coming home'. It is in this familiar place and space that I am able to find myself again and again.  Funny how one needs both to venture into the unknown and then return to the known in order to truly realize what has come to pass in the journey. At least, that's  been my experience.  

So how does one measure one's journey through a year, or through another chapter in their journey?  I'm not so sure there's a generic formula - I reckon there's a different measuring stick that each of us uses. For me, I think that measuring stick considers three things:  my relationship with myself, my relationships with others, and my progression towards inner happiness.  

And for me, it's all a measure of relativity - how much better did I do in this chapter than I did in my last chapter?  I can't measure against any other standard and I hope that no one tries to do such a thing. You are on your own journey, so find your own guiding light and don't let yourself be measured against other people's expectations of you, or those imposed by society.  

Sometimes coming home is hard. There are more intersections with one's past than they might care to encounter. For me, this is the case.  It is hard not to be reminded of what who you used to be in the company of people who knew you  at different intervals of the past. And while, thankfully, most of those people - family and truly wonderful friends - allow you to grow and stick with you on your journey, there are others that remain inevitable reminders that you've not always been a great friend or wonderful daughter.

The temptation in these instances is to wallow in self-pity or punish yourself for your past errors. But what good is that?  This year when I was confronted with a reminder of a past iteration of me that I've worked very hard to improve, I was tempted by anger (at myself and at those who haven't the inclination to engage the present iteration of me) and let it take hold briefly - for the length of a 4 kilometer jog to be precise.  At some time during that jog I decided I needed a little help from my friends to get through this one and found myself grateful because I had two wonderful, insightful friends - old friends - that listened and loved.  

In the end, these little intersections with the past serve as reminders not of what we once were, but of how far we've come from there.  In my case, this particular intersection also served to remind me that I am blessed with some truly outstanding friends.

So in measuring the latest chapter of my life, I have to say I'm pretty happy. Over the past year (and beyond), I've put a lot of energy into ME.  And I can not only see the progress, I can feel it.  I am happier with who I am than I've ever been before. I'm a work in progress - a woman in progress I suppose, and 2008 was a productive year in this regard.

 And in regards to my relationships with others - well, I know I'm not perfect by any means in this arena, but I know I'm getting better. I know because I find myself smiling more, hugging more and loving more.  An amazing domino affect of being happier with yourself is that you find more positive energy to give to your relationships with others.  

I am getting better. Every year since the close of 2005, I've seen marked progress. Maybe there is something to this whole 'getting older' thing (besides the reduced car rental rates that kick in at 25).  

Progress - it has positive connotations whilst still suggesting that there is more to be done, that there is some final point at which we must arrive. I'm not convinced yet.  For now, I'm quite content to be a woman in progress - to acknowledge that change is necessary and good, that it must be actively pursued by one's self, to accept that setbacks might occur, and to forgive the occasional error of judgement or mistake.  

And that, for now, is all I shall write.   

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Christmas Letter 2008

For all those whom I didn't reach with a Christmas card, I wish you wonderful moments for today and all the days to follow. Here is my Christmas letter for 2008:

As I sit down to pen this Christmas letter, I find myself unsure of where to begin. It’s tempting to give the typical chronological summary of the wonderful experiences and people this year has brought me. I am, however, reluctant to fall into temptation’s arms, because while ‘tis the season to reminisce, reflect and make resolutions for the future, ‘tis also the season to breathe in the moments that are unfolding now.  

So what is there to say about the moments that make up today?  It seems the economists, politicians, and media have plenty to say about what’s going on in the world today. Let’s face it, there’s an awful lot of doom and gloom being reported to us at every turn - war, economic downturn, environmental destruction. It’s not much of a leap to expect that we are going to find ourselves buying into what we’re hearing, which seems, at first and second glance, to be a rather somber, sobering and reasonable take on our present reality.                                

And while I can’t deny that there may be a tiny sliver of credence to be taken from their words, I also find myself wondering whether we might be better off, both individually and collectively, if we listened to ourselves. No, no I don’t mean that little voice in your head that says ‘Oh, I should have …..’, or ‘Oh, I wish I hadn’t done that’  or ‘They’re to blame, and there’s nothing I can do.’ . Why, that voice is just as destructive as those of the ‘experts’ we rely on for a daily dose of reality.   No, I’m not speaking of a voice per se, but rather of the innate power each of us possesses direct our thoughts, emotions and, ultimately, actions. (Stay with me here, I promise I’m not vying to replace Dr. Phil). 

This morning I was reminded of just how pervasive and easy it is to harness our own power - to create the moments that lay before us.  A family member relayed to me the good feeling he experiences each year when he donates a turkey to the local food drive, so that a less fortunate family can have food on the table at Christmas.  He had thought about making a donation, the idea made him feel good, and so he put it into action by buying a turkey and dropping it off at the CBC radio station. The result is that a local family will feed on a locally grown turkey provided to them by a neighbor they’ve never met. 

When he first told me of the good feeling that he gets from donating a turkey, I was inclined to take the cynical view that his generosity was, in part, motivated by self-gratification.  Then, when I sat down to write this letter, I started thinking about that conversation and I realized I was completely off the mark; he wasn’t motivated by self-gratification, he was motivated by love.   Yes, it is just that simple.  Each of us has this amazing power to act on our thoughts and the related emotions. And if you feel good about a thought that crosses your mind, and then decide to act on that thought, well, you’ve just put love into action. And I don’t care what they taught us in Grade 8 health class – love truly does make the world turn round.

I could write about the power of love, about our ability to overcome challenges and fears by seeking direction from our hearts and trusting our emotions to direct our actions, at any time of the year. It seems, however, that the Christmas season invites us to listen to our hearts more than at any other time. There’s something magical about the Christmas season that gives us pause for thought about our own fortunes and those of our fellow humans, that makes us smile at strangers on the sidewalk, that allows us to let our guard down so that we might, for nary a second, let the infinite power and warmth of love take hold. 

 While I’ll be the first to admit that my understanding of Christianity as a religion is limited, I think I’d find little argument that LOVE is the essence of Christmas.  Without fail, each of us, in one way or another, acts on the love that their heart is constantly generating.  Christmas is a mirror of our potential – reflecting back on us what we are capable of individually and collectively.  With love directing us, we leap across the chasm – from fear to hope, from desperation to inspiration.We let our guard down and open our hearts, and it is there that we realize what matters most and what matters not at all.  

My wish, for myself, for those I know and love, for those I don’t know but still love is this:  That we will spend more time tuning into what our heart is telling us, that we will act upon our thoughts and create goodness in this world, and that we will recall, throughout the year, the infinite potential for beauty and love that humanity rediscovers with each Christmas that passes.  

Love and hope are ours to give and ours to embrace.  That is what I write this letter with. I know it’s a bit heavy and lacking the wit and humor that I often attempt to infuse my letters with, but I cannot apologize for this. It was written purely from the heart, my fingers simply typed what I am feeling and it is impossible to limit what the heart wants to express. 

I wish each of you a wonderful holiday season and a truly unforgettable year ahead. Next year, I promise, I’ll write a Christmas letter so full of wit you won’t know what hit you           

Merry Christmas with Love and Hop