As this day ends so does another year. I haven't written anything in the past weeks because, as usual, I got caught up in the whirlwind of holiday shopping, wrapping, mailing and decorating. Even though I thought I had downsized in all categories, I still somehow managed to have way more to do than time to do it in.
But here's the strange part. I was on "go" most of the time, but I never really got frazzled. Oh sure, I poured myself into bed every night, and fussed at my sweetie more than once, but I don't think I experienced as much anxiety as in years past. And I definitely found time to listen to Christmas music and rest in the spirit of the holiday. These are good things!
I haven't been writing but I have been thinking - reflecting. And this is what I've decided. For me, the theme of 2008 has been generosity. Everywhere I've turned this year I've had an almost overwhelming sense of the generosity of people (known and unknown), places and things.
Knowing this, feeling this all around me, kind of wants to make me do the happy dance.
There were years gone by when I went to bed before midnight with blankets and pillows pulled up over my head thinking that sheltered as I was in my own private cocoon, there was no possible way the new year could touch me. Depression can get even more depressing when everyone one around you is clanging pots and pans, drinking champagne, and welcoming in change. Depression doesn't leave much room for change; dark is dark.
I've had some of those oh-shit-not-this-again dark days this year. Yet on the bleakest of days I reached a lady on the phone who calmed me with her gentleness. Not to mention the miracle of miracles that the doctor had an opening that this angel assigned to me. I could look at it like she was just doing her job. But I believe it was more than that. It was one person reaching across an invisible boundary and saying, "don't worry, everything is gonna be alright."
I've had lots of those moments this year. I've witnessed love and light even as a man lay dying. Just the other day my sweetie slammed on the brakes so not to run into the "#?@*! idiot" in front of him who was stopped in the middle of the road. As the idiot moved a little Sweetie's line of vision opened up. Right in front of us, crossing four lanes of traffic, was a momma duck and a trail of yellow ducklings following in a single line. What a moment! There was not one honking horn, or uplifted finger, just a bunch of cars waiting for this family to waddle by at its unhurried pace. That was a lesson for me. A lesson about slowing down, about sticking together in scary circumstances, about looking both ways then stepping out in faith.
Here are some other examples of the generosity with which I've been gifted this year:
- Life - Near the stroke of midnight on the first day of this year Miss Ivy Jane Wichansky was born. Like a special gift from our Creator all wrapped up in a pink blanket, this baby (and so many others) serve as a reminder that good things come in small packages.
- Heart - Not much more I can say about Terri St. Cloud that I haven't said already. Her heart is larger than average. She's not afraid to share it with others. She is an example of what generous giving is all about.
- Words - Carol O'Dell wrote and published a book about taking care of her mother. But she didn't stop there. She is in the business of helping others tell their own stories. She edits and encourages with kindness. She makes you believe in yourself even when you don't think you have a clue that you have anything to say. She helps you tell your story, then claps like a cheerleader.
- More words - my writing group, as I've said before, let me know I'm okay just where I am. First they give me rules to follow then the freedom to break them if I want.
- Family - I know how dysfunctional we are. Yet, we are all here together when it counts. Aunts, uncles, nieces, nephews, and cousins from 5 to 12 gathered recently to share Thanksgiving dinner and old memories. All the while making new ones. 500 photos tell the story of how good a family can be.
- More family - My sister, Linda. Her giving spirit doesn't end. She keeps the family heirlooms, stories, pictures, tea sets. She remembers every birthday. She pushes you out the door when you haven't had a vacation in 2 years. She makes Christmas stockings, borrows camel suits, and buys yarn for baby hats. Mainly she says not in words, but in her actions, "life is hard, let's share the load.".
- Photographs - In the midst of construction piles and hurricane strength winds my son grabs his camera and takes these phenomenal pictures which he willingly shares with people who don't have a clue what it's like to live in place where every time the sun rises or falls new shades of orange are created.
- More Photographs - Wendy has been taking pictures for as long as I can remember. Her newest endeavor is to make these incredible books on PhotoWorks so that her pictures are not stored away in a box but can be looked at over and over again - a gift that gives on giving.
- More photographs - I've recently re-discovered one of my favorite authors, Jon Katz. In the years since I've read one of his books, he's moved to a farm and picked up a camera. Every day I am wowed by several of his photographs. He's good enough to make a Florida girl who wears Birkenstock sandals (sans socks) 360 days a year want to move to Vermont and play in the snow, with a cow or a sheep or a donkey! The pictures he takes of his hospice dog take my breath away.
- Spirit - The Hispanic people in my church have a kind of spirit that is infectious.
- Humility - Fr. Georges
- Humor - Fr. Georges
- Honor - Fr. Georges. Since I grew up in a house full of girls I have no idea what it's like to have a brother. All that changed on the night Georges walked into our house kissed my father and sang happy birthday to Jack in 5 languages. My heart has grown over the year as I watch this self-effacing man take what's been thrown at him (and it's not all been pretty) with grace and love. He's not above a snide comment or two. He doesn't always take things lying down, but he practices what he preaches when it comes to loving. He has a smile that he's not afraid to share.
- Listening - My Sweetie has a special knack for listening. Even if he is deep in thought at the computer or entrenched in a nail-biting football game, when I tell him I need to talk, he stops on a dime, turns his head towards me, opens up his body posture and says "what's up." He listens with more than his ears. I think he hears with his heart. And he doesn't but in, he lets me go on and on. Sometimes he holds me. Sometimes he lets me wipe tears and snot on his shirt. There's a fine art to good listening and Sweetie is a pro.
- Unexpected gifts - Every time Jean goes to the beach the ocean coughs up a special shell or token. Her eyes are always open to the glories she'll find * Black Beauty sharing her bone with a stranger we brought into the house for a few days * The quilting lady fitting my little quilt into her queue of quilts to be done before Christmas - not once but TWICE! * Sorrow's Christmas give-away. * An apple-bearing Santa :) * Dad clapping his hands to the salsa beat of an well-known hymn * Great service from a Peruvian waitress in an Italian restaurant * Sweetie's son and daughter-in-law braving an allergy attack to say Merry Christmas * The look on Sweetie's face when he sold his first item on E-bay * A curly headed tot * Chinese carved ice sculptures * Yellow tree* Fairy wings
- Love - I had an idea this year. I asked for help; not easy for a girl who has control issues. People I don't know came forward. They gave baby hats, shoe boxes, bracelets, prayers, money, joy, and time. Mostly they gave love. I talked to a lady I've never met on the phone yesterday. She said, "my heart jumped" when I made an announcement in church. I knew exactly what she meant because with every gift of love given my heart has done double back flips.
I'm sure there's more. But I think I've hit the highlights. It's been an amazing year. I can only imagine that if I keep my eyes and heart open, 2009 will be more of the same. Challenges will come. Trials will arise. Shit will happen. But I've learned I can count on the generosity of others to get me through.
My prayer is that I give as well as I get.
May you be blessed in the year ahead. Looking forward to what comes down the pike,