Too Many Clouds? Watch For The Light

Published in The Ferndale Record and The Lynden Tribune, January 30, 2013

Grave and inhumane acts occur every aching minute all over the world. Injustice and inequities, agendas both hidden and blatant seem to cover the sun, and it’s easy to wallow there, to get stuck.

I decided to think hard for just a few minutes (any more than that is a stretch for me) about what’s good and right in my world. There’s plenty, and if it’s happening to me, something similar happens to everyone, in every culture, in every nation, in every family. The consensus? In the muck, there are tender mercies and flashes of light. The trick is to grab and remember them.

Last year delivered some brilliance. I found out that I get a granddaughter this coming June, the Olympic Games rocked my world for a couple of weeks, I was the recipient of stunning acts of kindness and generosity, and I got to spend a solid week on the beach in Oregon.

Any of those items alone would have been enough to call it a fantastic year. But there were a few other things that stood out. Here are my top five shiny moments for 2012 – in no particular order, except number one, which is in its rightful place at the front of the line.

5. I sold a home. It’s my first time doing this as a single person. I had stellar help from a rock star realtor and advisors who knew their stuff. I was never alone in the process, but in the end it had to be my decision. I felt like such a grown-up.

4. After downsizing with reckless, joyous abandon, I moved into an apartment. Visitors are welcome. But I love the peace, relative quiet, and the ability to do, be and wear (or not wear) whatever I want, whenever I want.

3. One night I went out to dinner with my teenage son at his favorite eatery. We munched and laughed our way through conversations about video games, our favorite TV and James Bond, and then it was time to go our separate ways. We stood to leave and right there, in front of God and all the diners at Red Robin, he leaned in and kissed my forehead. I felt goofy and grateful. Months later, the sweetness of that unsolicited, public display of affection from my boy still lingers.

2. I ran a mile without stopping. This is not likely a huge accomplishment for many other people, but for me the experience was giddy and life affirming. In my world it’s one of those “If I can do that, I can do anything” kind of moments.

And, a tiny speck of brilliance ended my 2012 a week before the year was officially over:

1. On Christmas Day, six of our family members went to a movie together. I sat next to my daughter who, like me, appreciates music on a cellular level. It sears our souls. It speaks to the core of who we are and never leaves us. I knew the movie would be almost entirely sung, but was surprised at how the story and actors combined to make the experience so personal. During one especially fragile scene, my daughter gently laid her head on my shoulder, took my hand and started to sob. The connection and belonging of that brief instant will live in me forever.

I could write a column about all the bad things that happened last year, and there were more than a few. But why? Light always prevails. Always.

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New Year’s Evolution: Love, Hate, Whatever..

Published in The Ferndale Record and The Lynden Tribune, January 2, 2013

A long time ago I decided to stop making a big deal out of New Year’s—both Eve and Day. I’m happy with this decision and here’s why: Less pressure.

I used to like the hoopla. When I was a child and a teenager it was all about socializing and usually I had lots of fun. But the year I was 16, I found out, quite by accident, that my boyfriend had been at a New Year’s Eve party in another town with another girl. My heart ached and for a long time anything associated with New Years was off my radar.

I moved into adulthood ready to enjoy this renowned party night again. When my children were little, I reserved baby sitters months in advance. That’s right—months, just so my husband and I could go out with friends on New Year’s Eve. We must have had a good time because we kept doing it. But for all of the feverish anticipation, specific wardrobe selection and carefully detailed plans that were involved, I’m thinking, was it really that great?

The December 31st that I was expecting my fourth child, I couldn’t stay awake until midnight. Boom. There it was. That was the year I realized it was OK, maybe even better to do what I really wanted (which, in this case was go to sleep), as opposed to what felt mandated by the masses.

Even more years passed before I got out of the biggest end-of-December-first-of-January rut of all—New Year’s resolutions. I stopped making them, and here’s the kicker: No repercussions and no guilt! January 1st came and went without the seas boiling, and my inner rebel was saying, “See? It’s no big deal!”

Exactly. While some people view the midnight hour from December 31st to January 1st as magical, granting them super powers upon which to cruise into the new year, I do not. If I want to exercise more, lose weight, read more books, eat more bacon, learn to spot weld or shake it Gangnam style, I can begin my new project on March 3rd or July 14th.  Too many deals I’ve made with myself have been broken in the name of a new year. Never again.

So now, if I look back objectively, which of course we all do, I can see how this time of year used to be fun, and it still could be if I choose. I can also see how in the past I tried too hard to make it something it wasn’t—ground breaking, forever-beginning, first day of the rest of my life-ish. I can do that any day I want.

Freedom can be a by-product of hindsight. A good party, small get together, Times’ Square in New York, these things all appeal to me at different times. But so does skipping December 31st altogether. Yeah, that’s it. Let’s jump right to, oh I don’t know, January 2nd maybe?

The thing is, I really want to like New Year’s and look forward to it sometimes. But I don’t want holiday revelry to be required by law (or others who see me as anti-social), and I intend to feel just fine when someone asks “What are you doing for New Year’s?” and I can say with confidence, on both sides of the calendar, “Whatever I want.”