Friday, December 31, 2010

When the Dealin's Done

It was June. And I was tired.

I was dealing with the residuals of some ridiculousness from earlier in the year, and I finally got to this place where I just stopped and said, How about a breather? And what if that breather lasted a while?

For some reason, six months seemed like the right amount of time, so that's what I chose. And while I was afraid to admit it too strongly at the time (because every vow is tested at some point), I knew that I would spend the next six months in one very serious sabbatical from dating.

So here we are, December 31, and I don't feel all that different. As in, I don't feel like I'm ready to wake up tomorrow and dive head-long into the relationship of my dreams. I mean, can you imagine? No. If anything, I think I feel more...temperate.

There have been these moments of stillness and silence in these 180 days...these times when I have had to quietly choose the right. And while I wish I could say that my heart has been steadfast enough to inspire the masses, I'm afraid that along the way, I have remained human. As I was reflecting on this unique little journey a couple of weeks ago, I was tempted to think that I've not accomplished anything of value, that since there was no grandiose epiphany, perhaps I had failed. Perhaps I had missed the point.

But see, the thing is, I've gotten the point. I'd gotten the point before I decided a break was in order. It's just that I needed the opportunity to flesh that out. I needed to have a chance to say what needed to be said...but I needed to learn how it is that I say that. I've known all along that my strength of compassion is also one of my greatest challenges, that I can hope in someone long after others have walked away, and often when I should have as well. What I didn't know was that, at some point, I could be compassionate without sacrificing my own dignity.

And what a revelation it has been. I landed in Houston in September, and it was there. I knew instantly that I could choose to be calloused, abrasive, rude. I truly had every right. Or I could choose mercy. My heart kind of gravitates toward mercy. So I chose mercy, but I chose well. And I learned that this was a good thing, that I could simply be kind. Simply.

What a marvel it is to learn how to be the best versions of ourselves. I only feel that I am just reaching the place where priorities have shifted into order and things are beginning to make sense. My daughter is such a gift, and being a mother is an enormous responsibility. My career is wonderful, but it demands an intense amount of focus. This is an extraordinary life. And I am beyond blessed to be living it. My hope is to live it well, and I'm grateful for the lessons that I've learned this year, both the painful ones in the beginning, and the peaceful ones in the end. So tonight, I celebrate. I started the year begging 2010 it to be better than the last. And while the year itself has no actual responsibility in the matter, I can honestly say that my desire was fulfilled. I hope yours was as well.


Saturday, December 11, 2010

And So It Continues

For the last few years, I've wondered at how difficult it seems to be to 'get into the Christmas spirit' as an adult compared to when I was a child and teenager. It's interesting to me that I often year other young(ish) adults say the same thing, that they're having a hard time getting into the spirit of the season. Naturally, that prompted me to analyze. The thing that I landed on last night was this: when I was younger, I had so many more opportunities to get jolly. I was in any number of choirs, all of whom would book holiday singing gigs. Every weekend held at least one organized Christmas shopping event, sometimes two. Decorating was awesome because there were five of us doing it (and five of us cleaning it up). And my mom was really good about playing Christmas music that we loved, making Christmas treats and crafts in the days leading up to the holiday, and just generally giving us reasons to be excited about the time of year. Now, you may have already figured this out, but it's taken me about 10 years to realize why it was easy to celebrate back then: I didn't have a choice.

Really, no one was holding a gun to my head, but I wasn't responsible for engineering my circumstances. I didn't plan the choir outings. Didn't schedule the shopping trips. Didn't pick out the Christmas tree or decide which cookies to bake or what record to play. The adults did that for us, and it was bliss because all we had to do was laugh and shop and sing and eat and make our wish lists. And the beauty of today is that I get to be the adult creating a season for my daughter where all she has to do is sit back and enjoy the ride. Sometimes that takes putting aside whatever stress may be lingering, or any issues that are clamoring for my attention. But for the most part, I'm finding such amazing joy this year in creating those moments for her and seeing the glee in her eyes when she looks out her window at Christmas lights, or she helps decorate our tree, or she gets to open her Advent box every night before bed.

It didn't come easily, though. Last year was a difficult year for me, and I struggled a little as we headed into December this year, half-flinching and wondering if this year would be the same. At some point, though, some switch somewhere flipped, and I decided it wouldn't be the same; it didn't have to be. I turned on Phil Wickham's Songs for Christmas and started getting the house ready for our decorations. As I cleaned and rearranged, the sound of bells and strings and voices swirled around me like magic until I was knee deep in good old-fashioned Christmas spirit.

Last night, Olivia and I came out to Cabot to help Nana bake the Christmas goodies she sends to grandkids who live out of town. I started out by making dinner for her and Grandpa, my trusty chicken enchiladas. After dinner, I gave Livi a bath and got her bundled into pjs, then we went for a drive around Cabot to look at Christmas lights. It was so amazing to see the same homes decked out that I used to marvel at 15 years ago. Livi just loved it and, as an added bonus, fell asleep on the way back to the house. Equally amazing was that after Livi was snoozing in the back, Nana was still oohing and aahing over the various displays in neighbors' yards. I so love her innocent spirit.

Later, Nana and I made Trash (her inexplicable name for Chex Mix, none of us know what it means), Ritz Cracker Cookies and Almond Bark Pretzels. We got into our pjs and watched Hallmark Christmas movies. It was a simple, low-key night, but it did my heart such good. So many reasons to be cheerful, such a sweet, simple time of sharing joy with my daughter and grandparents. And life is still life - I still have stress, there are still icky issues I have to handle - but the beauty of Christmas is that we get to stop, for five minutes, and say, "Peace."

This gift of God we’ll cherish well,
That ever joy our hearts shall fill.
How great our joy! (Great our joy!)
Joy, joy, joy! (Joy, joy, joy!)
Praise we the Lord in heaven on high!
(Praise we the Lord in heaven on high!)