Taking Stock After a Difficult Year

We’ll take a cup o’ kindness yet…

It’s come round again: The end of one year and the beginning of the next. In one and the same breath, it seems impossible that 2010 has seen the last of its calendar days, and that 2011 is making a debut. How quickly the days fly — and the months and the years.

It’s natural for reflection as we fold up on year and open to the next. We are trained in the “art” of resolutions — a list of changes we intend to create in our lives. Most of the aspirations will disappear as quickly as we claimed them, lost in the business of our lives, and wrapped with the quiet comfort with old habits.

Friend Emma and I crafted an alternate beginning more than a decade ago (OK, how is that possible?). Instead of resolutions, we decided to choose something we wanted to bring into our lives (embrace), and something we wanted to let go of (remove). For years, we tracked each other’s choosings, coached each other through ups and downs on the response of our intellectual/emotional decisions, and laughed with wonder at what manifested because of our choices. With each passing year we become more cunning, digging deeper, mining for more meaning.

These were 365 long days, and entrenchment in personal transformation and an acceptance that there are certain things I cannot change made the difference. In the course this year, my marriage fell apart, I lost my treasured Laguna home, and I found myself living as an ex-pat in a lovely Mexican city by the sea.

I miss my home city, my cherished friends, and a sense of roots that go back 55 years, but instead clinging to what has been lost, I train my eyes on the future. My travels are now backward — a week in Laguna each month, instead of the other way around.

It was the trials and travails that helped me grow as both a person and a communicator. Without the angst, how could I realize how sweet life seems right now?

I came to understand that we all share similar fears, celebrations, dark nights and brilliant sunrises. While feeling tremendously alone and isolated, I encountered friends on parallel paths who were willing to share their stories, and new acquaintances who were also searching for more authenticity in their lives. These shared experiences have provided additional grounding for my own journey.

Marcus Aurelius wrote,

Everything that happens, happens as it should, and if you observe carefully, you will find this to be so.

That’s the quote that my son, Austin, sent me in January 2010. He still passes his time in prison on drug-related charges, and the epiphany of the quote is not lost upon me. I’ve kept a copy of the words pasted in the front of a sketchbook, a constant reminder to look beyond my initial perception of events

It’s no longer the “how I got here” exploration, but the what do I do with new information, and what do I do next?

Which brings me round to my letting go and embracing statements. Without Emma coaching this year, I’m stabbing around on my own, but here it goes.

For 2011, I will let go of holding on to things that no longer work — relationships, habits, beliefs and/or belongings. And I will embrace the wisdom of the sunrise — that we start again new each and every day.

I started this column with the idea of doing an overview of events that had impacted me in Laguna this year, but I’m sure that Barbara and/or Cindy will cover that territory. Instead, as usual, one of your “muses” has put her head into the fertile basket of creative thoughts, and come out thinking about each and every one of you and your own personal journey.

I wish you a blessed year — full of challenges that allow you to stretch your humanness, knowledge and understanding, and plenty of moments to bask in the beauty and grace that living provides.

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