Sometimes you gotta jump,
Just to see if you can fly
– Miranda Lambert
Sometimes you gotta jump,
Just to see if you can fly
– Miranda Lambert
and this is why I will remember yesterday as one of the most meaningful Christmas days, among them all.
For many, 2008 has been a difficult year. And I agree, but for me it all began in 2007.
The death of my Aunt Jane who raised me, the death of my mother, a very close call with my dog Charlie while in Missouri for my mother’s funeral, followed by the loss of my job as communications director for a nonprofit due to lack of funding for ’08 knocked the wind out of my sails. For twelve months now, I’ve sought to find a comparable position where I could serve others through my communications creativity and organization. But for reasons I cannot fathom, this has consumed a considerable amount of my energy with absolutely no result. Let me just say, all of this was very rough on my ego!
But I’m not the only family member who’s had a tough year. My husband is a very talented, experienced architect, and the economy has taken a large bite out of his practice. And the fact that he’s in good company among professional colleagues is a small consolation. So this year, it has been more important to keep the lights on than to demonstate our love through lavish gifts under our Christmas tree. And so, we agreed to a $20 limit (though we each privately found a way to exceed this, as our dogs Wilbur and Charlie each purchased gifts, abiding by the spending guidelines).
As it turns out, our gifts to each other were in no way diminished by the small amounts we spent. A $20-dollar bill won’t buy much these days – not even a tank of gas when the price is low. But in each of our hands, an Andrew Jackson was revealed as a cloth for polishing our marriage of nearly nine years.
As I perused books my husband would enjoy, I came across Neruda’s Intimacies: Poems of Love. Moved deeply by words that weave the grit of life’s realities and abiding love, this was placed under our tree to become a gift of connection and forward-looking hope to my husband. I opened packages that contained items meeting my practical needs, but the last – and smallest box – held what he proclaimed was the best. With my fingernail, I cut the tape holding the top down and lifted out a small piece of folded paper, tucked into the folds of soft purple tissue paper. On the front, he’d drawn a jewel radiating with pronounced sparkles. I lifted that to discover an arrow, indicating the prize was on the next page. And it was. There he’d written “Back rubs for one year – I promise.” And I cried.
Who shares these kinds of thoughtful gifts on Christmas Day? We do, and we are all the better for our $20 challenge. We found the gift of unwaivering connection in the face of the deepest recession we’ve faced together.
At day’s end, I sat at my computer woolgathering, catching up on email, and thinking of how I didn’t want my husband to video my pie-making because I was in a bathrobe that displays the fact that, over the past few years, I haven’t taken care of my formerly athletic body all that well. I wasn’t wearing makeup, and I am no longer the cute little 20, 30, or 40-year-old that I was back in the day. But I can make pie, and what the video does show is that my hands love the act of assembling a gift of food for others.
Then the Smilebox arrived in my email. I opened it, and watched a friend’s gift of slideshow images of her sweet young daughters. My eyes became moist and tears moved down my face, as I realized the gift of my soul on Christmas Day. It was the long sought-after gift of acceptance and self-love. I felt the beauty of being me.
I am the woman who experienced the birth of her friend’s first daughter, along side her husband and doula. It was a miracle then, and it continues to be one of the most deeply spiritual moments of my life as I look at Georgia and remember her entry into this world. I am a woman who has gained some weight, but I have also gained invaluable, precious experiences in my life that have both revealed and created all of the facets of my character.
A renewed connection, a love of what is in my life – right here, right now – is the gift that I will carry with me, as I close the chapter that was The Year of 2008.
Thanks so much for taking the time to visit me at The Life Spot today. I’m dusting off my blog, so I hope you’ll come back often in 2009 to see what I have to say and join in the conversation.
Through social media tools like Twitter, I’m comprehending in a new way that we live in a world free of limits and bounds. Without even leaving our homes, we can be agents of influence and change around the globe, spreading good will and acts of kindness just with a few clicks on our computer keyboard.
Please enjoy this recording of the original Band Aid in 1984. By clicking on the screen icon, second from the right on the bottom menu bar, you can view it in full screen mode.
My wish this Christmas Day is that the joy we share with loved ones is carried in our hearts – out into the world where it may touch the lives of those we might never know.
Many lives of one heart fill,
As the chalice
Is served to each who would accept
From the cup that is lifted
In the name of family.
Opening only –
Patient with one who resists,
In quietly waiting,
More strength than
Muscle or might
Girl with nose pressed against
Saw love out of reach
Never understanding each time
Through clenched fingers.
Each time –
Holding a hologram
Thinking it true,
Her death grip choked
Imitation of life
From the silk rose.
Believing she had murdered
But when for the first time
No clenching, no grasping, no death.
Like fresh-cut mint
Across her heart,
Sense of possibility.
I saw before me a river that ran from south to north. From one end of that ribbon of water to the other traveled a group of people – stewards of the river – and they cared for the land through which the river flowed. The stewards taught others all they knew about caring for each section of the river, as each phase transitioned gently into the next with changing topography and different needs which required individual care. The manager of the stewards was a not a person having an executive disposition. Rather, he was a spiritual person who taught others through guidance – engaging them in hard work, demonstrating the gifts of the river, and teaching the stewards about the land and the special care each section required.
Along the way, there was a family too old to be physically capable of working the land they had previously cared for, so they watched after the land stewards, contributing food prepared artfully and with loving care. What they gave was offered in love, without a hint of responsibility or regret for what they could no longer do. One evening, I visited them in their home – a trailer they moved from placed to place, cooking for the new generations of stewards. It was a special dinner that night, the birthday celebration for one of the group, and the old man of the family made croutons for a marvelous salad. He toasted a perfect slice of crusty homemade bread on which he’d melted strips of cheese. With a knife, he carefully carved the toasted cheese bread into wavy croutons, and gently placed it on the salad.
Days later, I’d traveled with the group to work in the upper stages of the river. We had passed through many phases and transitions, and at this point, the land through which the river flowed was flat and rich with dark nutrients. The manager was now teaching all of us how to plant, using different mechanisms to scatter or sow new beginnings into the earth. One machine pressed rows of individual seeds into the ground, and care was placed on each kernel encouraging it to grow. Another machine stamped rounds of a brown creamy blend of diverse seeds and nutrients into the ground, side by side in rows. At this river stage, the the ground was very wet, filled with moisture, but firm and supportive. As we worked, I overheard the river manager tell a young man that there was nothing we had seen which could prepare us for the absolute beauty of the upper stage of the river we were about to enter. But even at this point, we were very far north, in a place unlike any place I’d been before.
Later, as we cleaned the trowels we had used for planting that day, the manager spoke to us, doing what he could to ready us all for the next part of our journey. I listened as I worked, and remembered that from the beginning of my journey along the river, I had worn only a single pair of shoes. After layout out the worn but cared for hand tools for use the next day, I looked down at my feet expecting to see my shoes dirty and black with mud – but what I saw to my surprise, was that my shoes had turned to glistening gold.