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A seasonal opportunity to celebrate connection
I love Christmas cards. I love receiving them. Going to the mailbox in December has a touch of excitement to it. Who will I hear from? What news will they share? Where did he travel? Does she have a new pet? Have they thrown a wedding this year? Or welcomed a new baby or grandbaby? News from far and wide fills my heart and reminds me of how connected we are even when we’re apart. Each card I receive makes me thankful for the web of community that holds me in friendship and love.
I also love creating Christmas cards. I love going through my photos from the past year in search of the perfect shots to share. I love it even more when we “have to” get together to have a friend take a brand-new picture. Looking back over the year to choose a few highlights to share always leaves me feeling deeply grateful for my life.
Oddly, I even love the mechanics of sending Christmas cards. Going through my address list to determine how many cards to print allows me the opportunity to really think about each person – did they move? Marry? Suffer a loss? Or experience the joy of their family expanding? It’s a little thrill when I discover that I made a new friend in the past year to add to the list.
I was raised by some of the people on my Christmas card list, I raised my children with others. I went to school with some, shared yoga practices with others, sat in church pews and PTO meetings with still others. Stuffing and sealing each envelope feels a little like blowing a grateful kiss to each of these loved ones – “Mwah! Thank you for being part of my life.”
In short, sending and receiving Christmas cards is a reminder to me of how much I love and am loved. I closed the note in our card this year with a heartfelt truth, “Please know that each time you cross our minds, which is way more often than you hear from us, you make us smile.” For the opportunity to realize how fortunate I am and to be able to express this gratitude to those I love, I am grateful for this seasonal tradition of ours.
And a seasonal opportunity to realize how much more connection I yearn for
My closing line is also a reminder to me of the way I yearn to live. It is a reminder of how often I let the priorities of my heart – my friends and family near and far – get pushed to the side by the hustle and bustle of life.
I know I’m not alone in this. St. Paul, himself, confesses that he too struggled with this type of skewed priorities and choices. He wrote, “I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do, I do not do, but what I hate I do.” (Romans 7:15) This helps me to be gentle with myself each December when I realize that an entire year has gone by since I last reached out to people I deeply care about.
Lasting change comes from awareness
My practices have taught me that we cannot hope to change behaviors we are unaware of. Patanjali, in his Yoga Sutras, suggests that it is good to see in our practice of yoga and meditation how stunningly distractible we are. For until we recognize our distractibility and the havoc it wreaks on our lives, we can have no real hope of becoming focused.
My annual realization of my desire to be in better touch with the people who fill my life with meaning doesn’t have to fill me with remorse, guilt, or shame. I can, instead, receive this realization as a little alarm clock. “Look!” it rings, “Look at how your true priorities are out of synch with the way you are living your daily life!” “Smile!” it rings, “You have an opportunity to practice being in better touch and experiencing the joy of your relationships more often!”
Thank you from the bottom of my heart for our connection
We are all connected. In my heart, we are connected by love in all shapes and sizes. These weekly musings are yet another opportunity for me to, every seven days, feel awash in gratitude for the web of love and support that life has weaved for me. So, I’ll close this last essay of 2022 the way I closed the note in my Christmas card – in gratitude:
“Mwah! Thank you for being a part of my life. Thank you for making my world a better place. xoxo”
The end of a year is also the beginning of another. If looking back on the last year leaves you with hopes for changes in the next, a new or renewed yoga practice can be a great way to start and working with a spiritual director can create a great “community” to help keep you on track with the priorities of your heart.