The best thing about this time of the year is the momentary lift in routine activities giving the possibility to reflect, which is the first step towards renewal. Christmas Day itself seems to expand before me as something much longer and more full of potential than any other day.
Both of my elderly parents are very ill yet somehow doing well at the same time. Their lives are so different from what they were even one or two years ago. It is sobering to see that the decline of their physical strength is now at odds with their desire for life. I see that there is no real preparation in our lives for this loss of power and that, despite the help of their caregiver and the work of doctors, there is very little support to transition from being a highly productive, creative person to one that is battling illness in many ways. Yet I also see that the opportunities to recapture ambition can return once an adjustment is made to circumstance.
Striving and triumph can exist in the smallest of acts, things that will never be recognized yet are superhuman, such as my formerly powerhouse, mountain-climbing, solo-sailing, house-building father now calculating how best to build momentum that will allow him to leave his chair without pitching forward on his head! I am realizing also that the striving of the deepest self towards expression and recognition never leaves and should be honoured to avoid a descent into bitterness. My shy, blog-writing, activist mother is so encouraged when she is recognized by political thinkers, legal activists and others in professions far removed from her own.
I have collected archives of the accomplishments of my mother whose huge behind-the-scenes work resulted in publishing the chronicles of their early lives together in the Family Herald (Montreal Gazette) and eventually in her own book store and their own publishing company. Together, they build many homes and created the B. Allan Mackie School of Log Building with knowledge and skills that spread around the world, spinning off into the lives of countless people. The sight of the materials seems to stir both a flicker of pride and old sorrows. There appear to be immediate roadblocks to collaboration yet maybe the flare-ups of rancour and ire are signs of life! I have hope that their abilities will collaborate yet again to tell their individual stories and their joint history with all the candour necessary to make it useful and fascinating.
Above all, outcomes seem to reside in the spirit of the individual. I can witness in myself and in my parents the undeniable fact that our successes come from resolve and persistence while failure seems to come from fear and avoidance. And that success/failure are inextricably intertwined… so often the best information can come from pursuing a fear to its hiding place. Resolution and determination are dangerous commodities if we act from fear. Yet fear in proper proportions is a catalyst to success. And I also wonder if bitterness and regret can undergo an alchemical reaction if we apply our other powers of organization (deciding on goals), collaboration (asking for help) and resolve (committing to a project with no guarantee of rewards).
I celebrate everything this year….the fact that my parents are still alive and that it is Christmas and I am roasting my first turkey and I will keep playing my bassoon because it is the place where I meet my fears and my ambition. I want to hone my understanding and skills even as I rest from the hustle of daily life. And I will keep reminding my parents of the complexity of their lives that has led to inspiration and productivity for thousands of other people.
Merry Christmas everyone!