Hello, dear readers, and welcome!
Today I wanted to reflect a bit on what has been going on in my life. Near the end of the year, I always try and think through what has happened the past twelve months, and what I have learned from it. Looking back, before I move forward. It's been a good practice for me, and one that I look forward to every year -- sewing up the last seam, before I begin on a new garment (since I like to sew).
It's not yet Christmas -- my favorite holiday of the year -- but I've already begun the process of reflecting over this year, and thinking about next year, and where I want to go from here. I have a "turning point" birthday coming up, so next year is going to be especially interesting for me.
Christmas is my favorite holiday for many reasons. I love to celebrate family, the birth of Christ, the search for peace, and the importance of hope. But I also think it's a great way to end the year, and begin a new one, because it's all about good things, all about kindling faith, hope, and love. That's a good foot to end on, and to begin on.
This has been a tough year for my family and I, for various reasons. I spent most of my year at the doctor's office, trying to figure out how to best deal with my chronic migraines, so I could function better. My parents have struggled with health issues, and one of them lost a job. I lost a dear family member to divorce, and am trying to figure out how to proceed as friends instead of sisters. It's been an interesting, yet in spades difficult, writing year for me.
There were plenty of downs this year, and it would be easy to focus on them, but then we would lose sight of the ups that we have had, too. Christmas reminds me that, even when things seem bleak, there is always hope, and a new tomorrow. And when I think of New Year's, a chance to put the past in its place as I move forward.
This year has definitely been a lesson in letting go of control. I am, as my personality lends me to be, ever the perfectionist and ever the control freak, mainly in my own life (I've gotten better about it, as far as others are concerned, but I still have to stop myself from taking over). It sounds almost humorous, the idea of letting go of control, especially when we want to be successful, or to at least be as on top of everything as everyone else appears to be (though this control is usually a facade). But I find that the more I try to control everything, the more I find myself either knee-deep in things I have a difficult time handling on my own, or on the floor as my feet are swept out from under me. This year especially, the more I tried to be in control, to do things on my own, the more I failed or became frustrated.
So, a few weeks ago, I said enough. I had had enough. I was going to learn to let go, one way or the other, because obviously the other way around wasn't working for me.
Christmas is a good time of year for this, too, I believe. We become more generous at this time of year, and shift our focus to others. And in doing so we perhaps subconsciously open ourselves up to something else: to letting go.
People are more helpful when they are thinking of others, and that can also mean that they are more willing to allow themselves to be helped, or to notice the kind things that others do for them, even if they are simple. When we focus on aiding someone else, I find that is when we can let go of control, if even a little bit, because we aren't so worried about ourselves, and about how to control our lives, how to make everything perfect -- we are instead more focused on what really matters: how we can impact someone else.
I have met plenty of wonderful people lately, who remind me why helping others is important, and why stories matter.
I went into the grocery store the other day, only to pick up a few things. Outside was a man ringing the red bell, collecting donations for the Salvation Army. I told him I would stop by when I came out of the store, which I'm sure he hears a lot, and then headed in. Everyone was rushing, getting things for dinner or parties that are to be had -- including me. But as I was heading out of the store, money in hand for the donation, I saw something that made me pause. The man collecting donations was helping an elderly woman maneuver a cart into the store, and she was so grateful. There were plenty of others around, slipping past her, but this man went out of his way to help. When I brought him my donation, he grinned. He had a very severe speech impediment, but he wished me a Merry Christmas with so much joy anyway, and you could tell it was genuine. I think those words, and that smile, were as much of a blessing to everyone who happened by as our donations are to those who need them.
I've also begun working at an outdoor crafts market with my mother, something she has wanted to do for a while. And here, too, I've found great examples of kindness, and great stories. For our last day before Christmas, we all brought food items to share. It was very hot, and for some reason there were plenty of bees buzzing around the area where the food was, even though everything was covered. I'm very wary of bees. The lady who had set up the banquet was kind enough to shoo the bees off for me, and even help spoon out food when they wouldn't go away; we must have made quite the spectacle, because I kept running away, and she kept acting as a bee shield. Another vendor had just started the market, and had a large tent to set up, with plenty of supplies, but she put everything down to help us get our own tent up when it wouldn't cooperate.
Most stories are small, and they can seem very insignificant if we don't stop and take the time to notice them, to really see the impact that they have. A smile and a Merry Christmas might not seem like much, but then neither may a few dollars. I would have gone hungry if my friend hadn't been there to ward off the bees. And our tent probably would have fallen down, or we would have been very late in setting up, if someone hadn't lent a hand. And if that man hadn't helped the elderly woman, she would have been fighting with the cart -- and if he wasn't ringing the bell for donations, plenty of people would not be helped when they needed it.
I don't think there is anything wrong with wanting to do the right thing, or the best job, or to even try and manage some things yourself, but we all need help. We put so much on ourselves that sometimes we forget to let go, to let others help, to have faith that things will work out the way they need to without us killing ourselves. I think surrendering the need to do everything for ourselves, to pave our own path without anyone's help, can be a very difficult thing, but I also think it's worth it. It's proving to be worth it for me, anyway.
This is my last post for my #StoriesMatter campaign, and I thank everyone who has followed it on Twitter and here on my blog. Have a Merry Christmas and a great end of the year, everyone! See you after New Years!