My high school boyfriends family was of Polish decent. Every Christmas Eve they shared a beautiful and sad story about his great grandmother being taken during World War II from Poland by train and sent to a prison camp somewhere in Russia. When the war was over she was not sent home, but left to her own devices with other prisoners. From this unhappy situation she walked several thousand miles across a harsh Russian landscape, meeting with many tails of both adversity and kindness along her way. Eventually she made it home to her family and her husband. At this point her family chose to emigrate to the United States and a new story began in upstate New York.
For many years her family has thus celebrated Christmas Eve as both the Eve of Christmas, but also of the beginning of the New Year, wishing each other and their guests Health, Wealth and Happiness for the coming year. And although it has been many years since I have spent the holiday with this tale, I continue to appreciate the significance and history behind this New Years Greeting.
In this world of ours there continue to be stories of both adversity and kindness in our very own communities and around the world. The economic woes of the past few years and the political, military and religious woes since 2001 have served to highlight adversity in a world that is continually striving to do better and yet continually encountering set backs.
For better or worse 2009 presented me with multiple opportunities to both give thanks for the gifts that I have been given, but to also contemplate the fragility of life. My nearly invincible grandmother had a stroke in April and then broke her hip in December (she is amazingly going strong, although with a bit less steam). One of my cousins underwent surgery for a rare type of cancer, but just as she was healing her brother (another cousin) died of a cardiac arrest at the relatively young age of 40. And yet again, the first cousin again underwent surgery for cancer. She is doing well, but there is much to be hoped for in the New Year.
Id not been close to the cousin who passed on as hed moved away after high school; however, several years before hed moved, hed introduced me to MTV. Perhaps an insignificant event in the world of many children, but for a child who lived in the mountains without a TV and with parents who did not pay much attention to pop culture, it was a significant to me.
I specifically remember watching the music videos of 3 musicians who have have since had an influence on my life. The first was Paul Simon (self contemplation, world music and politics), the second was Robert Plant (the simple love of melodies and rock music) and the third was Michael Jackson. Today, I am going to focus on Michael Jackson. The young me was hugely influenced by the Michael Jackson persona of the 1980s and early 1990s that was genuinely concerned about making the world a better place. From his collaboration with a handful of artists on We are the World to Man and the Mirror or even Heal the World and to the millions of dollars that he donated to helping children around the world, I definitely took the lyrics of these songs to heart. And I so you might say that my theme song going into 2010, is going to be Man in the Mirror.
A willow deeply scarred
Somebodys broken heart
And a washed out dream
They follow the pattern of the wind ya see
Cause they got no place to be
Thats why Im starting with me
Im starting with the man in the mirror
Im asking him to change his ways
And no message could have been any clearer
If you wanna make the world a better place
Take a look at yourself and then make a change
Taking the time to look in the mirror and making a change based on what we see is such a wise, yet simple recommendation that it could have easily come straight from a Buddhist tome on Enlightenment. And, it is a theory that I have pretended to follow for the last decade or so. In fact my original screen name on Live Journal (I deleted the account long ago) and various other online venues was waterreflecting, a term I had used in a meditation given by Thich Nhat Hanh.
We all have ideas about who we really are, but our actions (our reflections) speak to the reality of our being much more accurately than our thoughts. What is a dream without action?
In theory I pride myself on being a family person and yet as my grandmother has grown older and frailer, I have spent less time visiting her in persona and or speaking with her on the phone. I am uncomfortable with the changes in her life and unsure how to react. I dont want to offend her or God forbid be offended by her and so I hold my silence and my distance. I understand the reasons for my behavior, but I am not proud of it and so this year I will let down my own ego and do what I can to help my grandmother enjoy the last years of her life.
Awareness of the fact that Ive been ignoring my grandmother, to put it bluntly, has been heightened by the loss of my cousin last summer. Id always intended to visit or to mention to him that hed had a positive influence on me as a kid. That hed opened up the world of music (outside of classical) to me and that I was forever grateful, but I was too shy to take the first step. He didnt contact me, so why should I take the first step? It is so easy for us to put things off for another day, but honestly, we never know that their will be another day, and so we might as well seize the day.
Seizing the day goes not only for my relationships with my family and friends, but also for my personal life. My own health, the health of my immediate family. Our physical health, spiritual health, and even our financial health. And so, going into the New Year I am going to focus on a few goals that will promote Health, Wealth and Happiness for myself and for those around me.
– I will make an effort to connect with my living cousins. Facebook is oddly a wonderful forum for keeping tabs on busy families and kids, but perhaps we should take the time to actually have some Face-Time. First I need to visit with my cousin who just had surgery for cancer (the second time in since last year). It is clear that her experience has taught her to seize the day and yet I keep putting off making actual plans to visit with her.
-I will write my grandmother a letter with real pen and paper and send it by pony express each week. I actually made this promise in person to my grandmother the week before Christmas. I have not sent a formal letter, but I did write a nice note with her Christmas card and included another with a small gift that I sent her last week.
-I will make time to spend with both of my parents. Ive been better about this since the arrival of my son 2 years ago, but I still feel as though we dont see them enough.
– Take the time to read books that both broaden my horizons and stretch my noodle. It seams that since having my son I have gone from reading 4 books per week to 4 books per year!
– Be calm.
– Practice yoga.
– Figure out exactly what is up with my digestive system and potential gluten intolerance. Right now I am actually eating a small amount of gluten and dairy each day, so that I can be tested again later in the month. So far it has been tolerable and honestly a little bit of fun just yesterday I had some Truffle Tremor Cheese. It is also bittersweet, because depending on the results, I just may never have this chance again!
– Get adequate sleep, so that I can continue to get up at 5:45 AM and walk with my faithful morning walking partner!
– Weight train at least 2 days per weeks, so that my body retains proper balance and strength and I do not re-aggravate old injuries whilst running or hiking.
– Get back into running. My walking partner and I have been doing some jogging with our walks a few days per week and so this goal will start off with the Oatmeal 5K this Saturday. (Thanks to a A Mama’s Blog for the motivation!)
– reduce spending on groceries (we tracked all expenses in 2009 and our food budget was OUTRAGEOUS!)
– continue a vacation savings plan started late in 2009
– continue to pay ahead on car loan and mortgage
– jump start my own retirement savings program (hubby has his down pat)
And More on Happiness (because you just cant have too much!):
– Become an expert gluten free baker and possibly turn this into a career
– Continue to walk, jog and exercise regularly
– Spend dedicated time playing with Little Boy Green Me each day
– Have date nights every 6 weeks or so with Mr. Green Me
– Plant a garden