It's all good

I think that my favorite line from just about any story or book is "...secret, and self-contained, and solitary as an oyster." Charles Dickens used these words to describe Ebenezer Scrooge, the quintessential miser and misanthrope. But you don't have to be miserly or misanthropic to be an introvert who enjoys quiet contemplation.

Today is Christmas. Normally, I would have spent yesterday with my extended family, but this year the flu changed my plans. Instead of exposing my mother and the rest of the family to the virus, I decided to stay home. My daughters and I enjoyed the day as though it were Christmas; we opened gifts, had a long and satisfying brunch, and watched Christmas movies - including A Christmas Carol. Then, around 4 pm, they left for their dad's. I spent a bit of time cleaning up the house, talking to my sisters and mom on the phone, and then just sat. It was windy. The neighborhood was quiet except for my wind-chimes, which sang happily in the darkness. Rain began to fall around 10 o'clock, and I turned out the lights, opened my bedroom window, and laid there in the dimness, thinking about the last twelve months.

It has been a good year, despite its inauspicious beginning. Being diagnosed with a chronic illness is not something I would have chosen, but it has caused me to live more purposefully and to exercise care in how I choose to spend my time and energy. The breakneck pace of years past is no longer possible - thank God. I used to tell people - with some pride - that I worked full time, parented full time, and went to school full time. It was true, but it was not healthy. My life was crammed to bursting with things that have largely turned out to be unnecessary. And so, one by one, the things that could be let go have dropped aside. I still work full time - but I no longer obsessively check and answer emails every night and all weekend long. I still parent full time, but that doesn't have to include having every speck of dust cleaned up every day, all the laundry washed and hung, and every single dish put away. I have returned to school, but it is in a subject that I love and find endlessly fascinating, so it doesn't seem difficult or onerous.

This has been the first full year without my dad, and I believed that his passing left an empty space in my heart, but as the first anniversary of his death approached in May, I experienced a feeling of his presence that let me know that he is still with me, and always will be. I miss his physical presence but not his spiritual self - he is as close as a conversation with God. A relationship that I cherished ended early this year, and that caused me much grief. But time has been very kind and having space to think clearly showed me that my pain and sorrow was not about the loss of that love. It was about loss in general - loss of my father, loss of my life as I had envisioned it, loss of my health as I defined it. Time and sufficient space have shown me that as much as I cared for that person, the relationship was not what I needed. He could not meet me in the depths of who I am. That will require silence, and stillness, and the willingness to search one's own soul.

So - I am older, yes; a bit stiffer, and my joints creak and pop a little more than they used to. The red hair has some white scattered through it now. My heart has been broken a thousand times this year, but each time it mended a bit stronger. I am still secret, and self-contained, and sometimes I am solitary as an oyster, but when I am, it is by my choice; the silence brings me peace, and I do not need to fill it with things that don't matter. I seek people and connection deliberately these days, because I want to. So if you are in my life in any way, you are a member of my tribe, and welcomed into my own private corner of the ocean. It's all good - life, love, pain, joy...may we continue to bless each other throughout the coming year.

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