Whether or not we celebrate Christmas and its religious meaning, it does give us a time to slow down and reflect. Many businesses are closed or on reduced hours today. Cities and homes are decked out in lights and decorations. There is a hush that falls over many places as the crowds dissipate, even in New York City. I’ll happily take the R&R with time to see friends and enjoy the peace. Wishing you all a lovely day however you’re spending it, and Merry Christmas to all who celebrate this holiday.
What unites us and divides us?
As women and men, as adults and children, as different races and creeds and colors, as the haves and the have-nots, as humans.
How can we cross to the other side of the chasm between us, to a new perspective, a new point of view? Is it even possible to generate real understanding? Can we walk in someone else’s shoes and leave ours behind, find and use all their filters and lenses of experience that cannot help but alter the plain truth of seeing and hearing?
I would like to believe it’s possible. I would like to believe that our imaginations can take us anywhere we truly wish to go. I am trying. I am trying.
This is the hardest, most necessary work we ever do. We have to let the rivers of reality and fantasy wash over us in equal amounts. We have to accept where we are if we are to chart the course to where we want to go.
To make the climb. To take the journey. To walk and walk and walk until finally, mercifully, we sink down to the ground of compassion and empathy, letting it cradle and support us, until we find the strength to rise and say, “Now, I understand.”
I talked to a neighbor this weekend and learned that she’s also a yogi. She’s had a rough couple of months. She’s working hard to clear out her life and restore peace. There are remedies for surviving a tough time.
Give it space.
Give it time.
Talk it out.
Walk it out.
Read it out.
Celebrate small victories.
Understand that this is all temporary. Everything. All there is, in the end, is change. The shifts won’t always be comfortable or quick, but let them happen. Something better is falling into place.
“You only have control over three things in your life—the thoughts you think, the images you visualize, and the actions you take.” ~Jack Canfield
As we get closer to the inauguration and the situation in our nation becomes more uncertain, the anxiety rises. I can feel it in my own mind and I see and hear it spinning in the minds of many others whom I know and love. Quotes like the one above help me navigate and manage this stress. For the first time this year, I made a vision board on Pinterest for 2017. I look at it a few times a week to stay focused. I’m also making more time to read books and to spend time with art that inspires me. This is helping to calm and shape my thoughts and my actions. So if like me the anxiety of uncertainty and change is affecting you, I hope that these ideas will help keep us connected to each other and to what matters.
In my reading yesterday I came across this quote: “Listen and silent are spelled with the same letters. Think about that.” I thought about how much we miss because we’re so busy having our say. This year as I’m pausing, I’m also making a concerted effort to listen more—to my own heart and to the hearts of others. There’s a lot of noise in the world, a lot of people crowing as loud as they can, as often as they can, about as much as they can. In a time like this, I’ve found a lot of comfort in some time set aside every day for silence and listening. Peace of mind, peace of body, peace of soul.
I first read the essay “Winter” by Nina Zolotow in Rodney Yee’s book Yoga: The Poetry of the Body in 2002. Since then, it’s something I’ve re-read dozens of times. May it bring you the same peace and relaxation it gives me in this long, cold, dark, and restful season of winter. Rest, my loves, and be glad.
“In their garden there was always a wild profusion of tomatoes ripening on the vine, and leafy basil, arugula, and lettuce, and glossy purple eggplants, and red and yellow peppers, and zucchini with its long, bright blossoms, and there was always lunch at the wooden table on hot summer afternoons, with plates of pasta and bread and olives and salads with herbs, and many bottles of red wine that made you feel warm and drowsy, while bees hummed and the sprawling marjoram, thyme, and rosemary gave off their pungent fragrances, and at the end of the meal, always, inexplicably, there were fresh black figs that they picked themselves from the tree at the garden’s center, an eighteen-foot fig tree, for how was it possible – this was not Tuscany but Ithaca – Ithaca, New York, a rough-hewn landscape of deep rocky gorges and bitter icy winters, and I finally had to ask him – my neighbor – how did that beautiful tree live through the year, how did it endure the harshness of a New York winter and not only survive until spring but continue producing the miraculous fruit, year after year, and he told me that it was quite simple, really, that every fall, after the tree lost all its leaves, he would sever the tree’s roots on one side only and, on the tree’s other side, he would dig a trench, and then he would just lay down that flexible trunk and limbs, lay them down in the earth and gently cover them with soil, and there the fig tree would rest, warm and protected, until spring came, when he could remove its protective covering and stand the tree up once again to greet the sun; and now in this long gray season of darkness and cold and grief (do I have to tell you over what? for isn’t it always the same – the loss of a lover, the death of a child, or the incomprehensible cruelty of one human being to another?), as I gaze out of my window at the empty space where the fig tree will stand again next spring, I think, yes, lay me down like that, lay me down like the fig tree that sleeps in the earth, and let my body rest easily on the ground – my roots connecting me to some warm immutable center – luxuriating in the heart of winter.” ~Nina Zolotow, “Winter”
I’m used to walking hours a day with Phineas so since he couldn’t take a long walk, I took one for him on Saturday. I walked from my neighborhood across the city to Georgetown. We’re having an amazing weekend in D.C. with highs in the 70s, bright blue skies, and gentle breezes. It’s perfect weather.
Once I got about halfway through my walk, I started to feel a lightness. A funny sense of belonging, of feeling like slowly but surely I’m figuring it all out despite the stumbles and setbacks. I found a city I really love. Now I just have to find the right home. I found an industry I really enjoy working in, that I find fascinating, and that also supports all my creative projects like my writing and collage work. Now it’s just a matter of finding exactly the right fit. In the past two years, I’ve made a lot of big decisions and seen a long of progress. Now, it’s about refining and that realization gave me a lot of peace after a stressful week.
It’s amazing what can happen over time when we focus on making the here and now better.
Sometimes we face circumstances that don’t make any sense. That happened to me yesterday and I took a few steps to get a better perspective. First, I had to physically distance myself from the situation. Sometimes when we are so close to a problem, it’s tough to see a way through it. The distance helps.
Second, I distracted myself with a fun activity that had nothing to do with the circumstances of my problem. This gave my brain a break and elevated my mood.
Finally, I made the decision to accept that I know what I know and that I don’t know what I don’t know. I know I’m going to have to remedy this problem by eventually walking away from it. Now is not the time to do that for a multitude of reasons, but that day will come and when it does I’ll be ready to make the leap. And, the universe works in mysterious ways. We don’t always immediately know why something’s happening or how it’s going to turn out in the long run. What we can do is trust that eventually it will all make sense and we’ll understand why things had to unfold the way that they did.
And in all that action, there is peace.