Just like that, the year is over and a new one begins. In the last three months we celebrated five birthdays, three major holidays, many celebrations, performances and parties. A hectic, but memorable time of year when my mind flips between calendars and “to do” lists on a regular basis. With so many things on my mind, is it any wonder that I haven’t been able to write a blog?
In actuality, I wake up early almost every morning to write, but hundreds of pages later, I’m unable to share a single thing. Often times the story doesn’t meet my expectations. It’s too preachy and depressing, not engaging or thoughtful.
For as long as I can remember, I’ve been a story teller. As a child, I would write stories and poetry on my mom’s typewriter, sharing my best work with family and friends. I credit my father, the attorney, with his story telling skills and poignant choice of words. I try to convey my thoughts in a way that is meaningful and inspiring; threading together real life stories that illustrate a deeper meaning in a light-hearted way. You’ll find that I frequently use analogies or life experiences to get my point across.
Through this blog, I’ve tried to share the ups and downs of my daily life. Although difficult at times, I’ve worked hard to expose my vulnerabilities and shed the layers I wear in the world. But let’s be honest, no one would read a single thing if I were to just say what I think. Instead I share stories of the kids and pictures of my life because it’s softer, while barely scratching at the surface. I flip back and forth between fiction (the nice version) and reality (my truth) to say what I need to say. I struggle between these two worlds to find a middle way and summarize it with a heartfelt story.
“They ran down the stairs and squealed with joy, while their starry eyes twinkled in the light. Bright, cheerful presents greeted them under the tree and sparkled in sheer Christmas magic. Bursting with pleasure and wonderment, they carefully shook each gift before ripping away the paper to uncover their treasure.
But riding a roller coaster of emotion, how quickly they crash into a puddle of tears. My three-year old, Evelyn, stepped onto her new scooter, devastated to find that it wouldn’t move on its own. The very gift that had given her so much joy, only moments before, was now the source of her rage.”
This small, but perfect example illustrates the fact that material things can never bring us the happiness we seek. No matter how magical the experience, each gift will eventually bring disappointment, as it cannot satisfy our ultimate desire. One day, every gift we opened on Christmas morning will sit in a dusty pile in my garage, waiting to be donated or thrown away. There is nothing magical about them, as they will wear out or we will grow tired of them, just like every other gift that came before them.
But year after year, I get into the “holiday spirit” and spend ridiculous amounts of money to buy my kids the perfect gift. I perpetuate a lie and portray to my children a false meaning of Christmas; teaching them unrealistic and painful lessons of materialism that will eventually need to be unlearned. Evelyn was so upset that her expectation of the scooter didn’t live up to the reality. She thought this thing would make her happy, but material things don’t do that and they never will.
No, unfortunately, this is not a story about how magical our Christmas was, nor will it be wrapped in ribbons and bows. But behind my words you will always find the truth and reality of the struggles I’m facing. Writing provides me with an outlet to communicate life lessons in a way that balance the yin and yang of life; even in the best of times, a touch of sadness, and in the worst of times, a silver lining.
Because you probably don’t want to read about the death of my 17-year old cat and how painful it was for me to watch her die. Or the tears I shed at work, when a co-worker shared her pain in going home for the holidays with fresh memories of her late mother. If I try to approach the subject of death and the dozens of lives we lost in our network of friends this year and during the holiday season, it would be far too depressing. But this is the unfortunate reality of life, no fiction or silver linings, and sometimes it’s just too hard to take.
Behind the holiday cards, pictures and stories are the challenges and tragedies of everyday life. It’s unrealistic to think that I can go on writing and not touch the surface of suffering. No matter what time of year, I would be doing myself a disservice if I continued to avoid the tough stuff. Our hurdles are the same, but we experience them in our own way and in our own time. We are all connected and can support each other as we go through it; sometimes as the teacher, other times as the student.
Sure, we can continue to figure it out as we go and get punched in the gut along the way. Or mistakenly look to things outside of ourselves to bring us momentary happiness. But if we’re lucky, we’ll have someone to talk to, a pastor, spiritual friend or mentor. Someone who can look us in the eye and say, “I’ve been there. I know what you’re going through.” We can learn through the unfortunate mistakes of others.
Life’s hard lessons aren’t packaged with a soft message, and you can’t just break down and throw a temper tantrum when you don’t get what you want. But, unlike Evelyn, we shouldn’t mistake the fancy package under the tree, for what’s inside, because the gift is your reality. If you’re fortunate enough to find something you cherish and people you love, then hold on to them dearly, and appreciate them while you can, because nothing will last forever.
My commitment this New Year is to continue walking towards my truth. I hope that all of us continue to narrow the divide between our fiction and reality and lead the most authentic life possible. It’s simple really, no bells and whistles. I just don’t want to look back at my life many years from now and regret anything. I don’t want to wish my life away by dreaming that I was somewhere else. Instead, I want to be firmly planted in reality and witness the miracle of my life.
Anything else is just a fairy tale, the window dressing that someone is trying to sell you.
I should know. I’m a story teller. It’s what I do.