If your year has been anything like mine, you’ve buried more people than you thought was possible in a 12-month period, most of which were surprises, all of whom were significant.
You’ve seen and heard more hate, contempt, and dismissiveness spewed in the name of liberty (or tax breaks) than you really believed people you care about could even muster… it broke your heart and has colored the way you see them. Leaving you to mourn the relationships that will forever be marred by knowing what people you care about actually think.
You’ve also said “I’m sorry for your loss,” or “get better soon,” or “this is a pretty routine surgery and it’s going to go just fine” more times than you care to remember. I’ll bet your auto-correct even expresses your condolences from time to time, it’s gotten so used to it.
This year has been remarkable in so many truly awful ways.
We all have a breaking point and I hit one this week.
After the fifth death in as many weeks, I got up from my desk and went home.
I had just poured a scotch when my phone rang.
If you know me, you also know that I rarely use the phone for talking out loud with other people. Sure, it’s a communication device, but it’s unusual for me to use it the way Alexander Graham Bell envisioned. This time, though, I answered it.
I admire those who respond to their gentle nudges. “You should call so-n-so.” “Pick up an extra gift card… I’ll tell you why later.” “Park around the corner this time.” “Send this card for no reason.” We’re all connected, and I’m so grateful that I have people in my life who listen to those little suggestions.
On the other end of the phone was a friend of mine that I speak to on very rare occasions, but she always lifts me up. She’s also known for speaking her mind, so I take every word of it to heart.
She reminded me that it is my nature to shine.
She saw my fire dimming and showed up to fan the flame.
She reminded me to shine.
She said a lot of things over the two hour conversation… we don’t truly know how we affect others, how the little things we do that barely even register in our memories are the things that change someone’s day, week, month, year,… life. Or maybe it just reinvigorates a fire that was dying. She reminded me of a day when I introduced myself to a room full of women. Something I never would have given another thought to. It wasn’t a big deal, just a quick introduction, but it was a moment when my nature sparked something in someone else.
We don’t really know when our sparks are going to land where they’re needed. We generally have no idea where they’re needed in the first place. Which makes it even more important for us to be true to our nature whenever possible.
Light serves so many purposes.
On shorelines, it helps us avoid danger we can’t readily see.
On pathways, it keeps us from getting lost.
In workshops, it enables us to be productive.
As accents, it reminds us to recognize the beauty around us.
Sometimes, it’s an indicator of warmth or hospitality.
And it shows up best when there is contrast.
For anyone serving as a light, from their vantage point looking out, most of what they get to see is the contrast… the darkness, and if they’re lucky, they get to see some of the things they’re illuminating, but they rarely get to see their own light. (They may not even realize they shine, since they don’t get to see it themselves.)
All too often, when someone who generally shines starts to dim a bit, the people around them who’ve been warmed by their light will start disappearing… once they’re no longer directly benefiting, they leave to go find someone else to fill that role. It’s a shame, too, because in most cases, all the light-giver needs is someone to stoke the fire a bit. We need the people in our lives to recognize when we are dimming. To provide a mirror so that we can see what we’ve been missing. To stoke the fire and help us return to our true nature.
For a good portion of this year, the contrast was brutal. From my vantage point, I was losing someone I cared about — or someone who played a significant role in my development — every 2 weeks, all year… and by December, it was picking up the pace. I could no longer mourn one loss before having to switch gears to another one. I honestly started loosing track of who was still here and who wasn’t. (I’m really not sure I have a handle on it, yet.)
I am also extremely fortunate to have people in my life who recognize when I need a little help, and they show up.
A Raging Fire
Thank you for bringing the oil… the fuel… the firewood… or a good ol’ fashioned fire poker.
I’m done with the past year.
On to the next.
Let’s burn it up.
I’ll light the way.