Each year when I do a Holiday/Christmas card I keep it fairly generic. I have friends of various faiths and my own spiritual beliefs don’t fit comfortably in a neat predefined package either, so my card message this year read, “May you and your loved ones experience the Magic of the Season and the Joy of the New Year”.
What is the Magic of the Season? I think it’s the confluence of: nature gone dormant; a turning inward; the end of the year causing us to think about the past twelve months and measure ourselves by our own past expectations; the dawning of a new year that brings renewed hope, resolve and change; mixed together with the often intense and emotional ties we have to our family and friends; and last but not least, a celebration of our faith.
This time can be full of pressure and power. For animals, they scurry in the fall to fatten themselves up so they will be able to survive the harsher elements and some may not survive. For humans, we are spending money, dealing with emotional issues brought on by family and memories and facing the onward march of time. It’s a time of reflection, evaluation and planning, and within that are the seeds that will form our experiences for the next year.
These images from the Grand Tetons formed part of my experience last year, and it was a part that was enriching, a part in which I felt like I was living consciously as an active participant. Much of the other parts of last year I felt like a victim, powerless to circumstances and the impact of those around me. As often happens when you undergo an experience which is intense and uplifting, it makes the normal and sub-par stuff harder to take. This happened with me. And now, somewhere deep within my innards I’m demanding change of myself.
I often think of life as a spiral. We so often seem to repeat the same patterns. I like to think that each time this repetition is taking place on a higher level – that I am experiencing similar issues in order to find different and more creative ways of dealing with them, perfecting my skills and deepening my resourcefulness and resiliency. However, honestly, sometimes it just feels like I am a rat chasing my own tail.
I am in the midst of yet another transition. I have stripped away things in my life before, simplified what’s in front of me as if to see the lines better, made the change, and then out of fear, retreated and ended up seemingly back where I started, in another meaningless job at odds with my principles. I again forget or don’t allow myself to do that which feeds me spiritually which results in a feeling of entrapment. To give myself credit, at least I’ve had the courage now and in the past to walk away from certain things. What I always seem to lack is the vision or focus of what I’m walking towards.
I know in a vague, day-dreamy way what I would like, but I need to do the work to make it happen. I want to have a no holds barred attitude, which means not only stepping off the cliff, but being willing to hit the ground.
For now I don’t want to talk or write about it. I want to gather my strength in this interlude and then go forth.
There was a passage I used to attribute to Goethe – but apparently only a part of it is; W. H. Murray in The Scottish Himalaya Expedition writes:
Until one is committed, there is hesitancy, the chance to draw back, always ineffectiveness. Concerning all acts of initiative (and creation), there is one elementary truth the ignorance of which kills countless ideas and splendid plans: that the moment one definitely commits oneself, the providence moves too. A whole stream of events issues from the decision, raising in one’s favor all manner of unforeseen incidents, meetings and material assistance, which no man could have dreamt would have come his way. I learned a deep respect for one of Goethe’s couplets:
Whatever you can do or dream you can, begin it.
Boldness has genius, power and magic in it!’
So for now I bide my time, cut the distasteful elements from my life, rest, and try to form a design that will represent how I want to live the rest of my life. Once that design emerges and begins to take shape, then I will start the journey or perhaps I have started it already.
I know there will be obstacles, and those who say it is impractical, but all one really has is this moment and the next, and I want my moments to be ones of my own making. I’ve never been of a Carpe Diem temperament, yet as I get older, I do want more and more to seize my days and savor what I think of as “real” life without always putting off the people and places I want to see, and the things I want to do, to some point in the future like the door at the end of a hall in a dream that one never reaches.
So have yourselves a Merry Christmas, A Happy Chanukah, or just a wonderful Winter Season. Relish in the intimacy of family and friends. Know that though we may be of different faiths, at different crossroads in life, with our unique and personal sets of handicaps and gifts, we do share the journey of life together, and I hope one day that is enough for us to find peace with one another and ourselves.