I've written before about the paths we take, the steps we take in the shoes of our choice, and how our choices make us the people we are. Sometimes we surprise ourselves and we are stronger than we thought possible. Other times, we are weaker. We've done a lot of traveling, and unfortunately that took a toll on us, health-wise this season. It was unexpected and unusual for us to be so ill for so long. I'm never at my best when I'm sick, or when a loved one is sick, or hurting. I remember the last Christmas we had with my Dad, and how weak and frail he looked at the end. I see the vacant chair at Christmas morning when we open our stockings, and I miss him. This year, even though it's been 3 years now, I missed him more than ever.
IMG_6227 He'd love to see the grandkids and their sparkly faces. He'd love to see how they enjoyed seeing the Crystal Palace at Disney World, the Osborne light show at Disney Hollywood, IMG_6042 how the kids greeted me at the door at my daughter's house for Christmas morning. With a living room so filled with packages all colorfully wrapped, there wasn't room for furniture. A sea of abundance.
There was that ache in my heart, partly from missing those that have passed on, partly because I just felt something was missing. My life is truly blessed. I have everything I've always wanted, and more. And yet something was missing. I thought a lot about it during these past four days. This morning I found the answer.
My best friend sent me some music and it made me cry. I'd been staying off the internet, trying to be present with the people physically around me, trying to get over this lonely feeling something was lost or missing. But I opened my computer and saw a post from Mark Divine, who is a SEAL trainer and one of the smartest men on the planet. With the beautiful music as my background, I read his blog, "The Secrets of Resiliency." And that was what I was missing.
Being a romance novelist I am very sensitive. When I was little, I would cry at movies and TV shows, my family often making fun of me. I was just like my grandmother Fox. When I stayed with them, we would sit on the couch and cry together. Shows like Come Back Yeller and Lassie just broke us up into pieces. Our big red puffy eyes testament to how deeply we felt things. Two of a kind. We wore our badge with honor.
Mark asked the question, "Do you tend to back off when you get overwhelmed emotionally and let fear, uncertainty or frustration derail you? I had to answer "yes" to that. I've been halfway around the world. Had a scare with my husband's health and a diagnosis I was afraid to hear. I'd just finished a book in a new genre for me, which turned out to be more work than I'd anticipated. My year was huge in terms of what I accomplished. And yes, I've been overwhelmed. Though I'm proud of all these great things, I was letting fear take a front seat in my roller coaster ride of life. What if next year is even harder? Am I prepared? Have I made the right choices?
The miracle of life, of the season, and the answer I got this morning was that yes, I have been making the right choices. Feeling emotionally vulnerable prepares me for the next big challenge. Of one thing I am certain, there will be challenges and failures next year. People will disappoint me. I will disappoint those I love. Nothing is, afterall, perfect.
But it still is. Because the perfectness of life is that we get to learn how to be more resilient by being challenged. We don't learn to walk except by falling down. We don't learn to do anything outstanding without having first experienced failure. But if we let fear stop us, we don't progress. And by progress I mean we get resilient, not perfect. We learn how to dust ourselves off and get up and try again. We get the opportunity to have a breakthrough. Without the toughness and the fears we have to face, we don't get those breakthroughs. We don't get the silver linings without the clouds.
We got to share our Christmas Eve with a couple from Croatia and their four year old daughter. What a blessing it was to see their faces light up as they watched their daughter, only here seven months, be able to speak English and share her first Christmas in a new land with an American family. It was an honor to share our home with them. It was my greatest Christmas gift.
So I have the gift this season of being emotionally challenged, overwhelmed, with my heart bursting with gratitude for all the opportunities I have now, and in the future. Oh yes, fear will still be my familiar friend, but now I can thank him for making me a stronger person. For reminding me that my job is to feel. Not just be, but to feel. And the more resilient I become, the more gifts of feeling I will be able to experience.
Nothing stays the same. Everything passes on, fades and dies. Everything. What I see now at my age is different than what I saw as a child, a young bride, mother, daughter, grandmother. I don't have to be perfect. I just have to fill my days with enough of all the good things I can stand.
Happy, Bright, Shining New Year. May it be the first of many.