Usually the week after Christmas is one of the least serious weeks of the year for me. It’s always a quiet week at church. Customarily, the most pressing matters on my mind are which Christmas cookies to serve at which family gathering. This week was different. In addition to some lovely time spent with relatives, I engaged in three significant conversations with three young adults: one who is facing a cancer diagnosis, one who is in legal trouble, and one who is making remarkable progress figuring out his life and his future. I corresponded with an older person who is considering a dramatic lifestyle change as she thinks about how to live the rest of her life with abundance and authenticity. And then, on Wednesday morning of this week, we learned of the death of a 27-year-old nephew.
On this New Year’s Eve, all of these individuals are on my mind and heart as I do my own reflection on the year that is ending. I have been using this tool this year – the Holstee Reflection Guide– which asks some helpful basic questions. Whether it’s today, tomorrow, or sometime in January, I commend a year-end/year-beginning reflection practice to you. It’s so easy and tempting, in this rushed pace most of us live, to go from day to day, year to year, without pausing to think about how we are living. I love the example from one of the creation stories in Genesis in which God pauses, at the end of each day of creation, to look around at what has been made. God looks at the sun, moon and stars, and says, “It is good”. God looks at the waters full of fish and the variety of birds in the skies and says, “It is good.” And then on the seventh day, God takes a whole day to rest. If even God needs to reflect, give thanks, and rest, perhaps we would all be more creative if we learned that pattern and practice.
My own practice is what Julia Cameron recommends in her books as “morning pages”, writing three free-hand pages first thing every morning about whatever comes to your mind. I believe in looking to the past, not to feel guilt or shame or regret, but to learn more about myself. And I find that twenty minutes or so of reflection every morning helps me listen to my inner wisdom, rather than being swayed by the way others are living.
My husband Doug and I saw the movie, “La La Land” yesterday afternoon and it was the perfect way to end this week. The very first scene (a song and dance routine in the middle of an LA traffic jam) had me grinning ear to ear. The movie is a joyous celebration of creativity and imagination, and also raises some interesting questions about the price of following one’s dreams.
Becoming who we are meant to be is hard work, the work of a lifetime. Catherine of Siena puts it best: “Be who God meant you to be and you will set the world on fire.”
I dedicate this post to our nephew, Russell Brill, who lived his too-short life with passion and creativity. His father wrote this achingly beautiful and honest obituary.
To everyone who reads this, my New Year’s prayer for each of us is for health, for the ability to conquer our demons, and for lives that glow with joy that is deep and real.