2017 is rushing to a close, and seriously, in so many ways, thank God. What a year. You know what is crazy? It isn't just the political climate, or our social and US cultural climate that has made this year crazy, but so many of my people have had one of the worst years of their personal lives as well.
Sickness and grief and injustice and loss and tumultuous relationships and depression and anxiety and...
...and so much more.
This holiday season I have been caught in my own tension of deeply desiring to enjoy the wonder of Christmas, the hope that advent brings, the renewal and sense of new beginnings that is ushered in with the turning of the year, with the reality of what has been and continues to be. There has been a heaviness that lingers, quietly dulling the brightness and energy of my heart.
As you may expect, I continued to be incredibly obnoxious over my winter break. I would repeatedly tell friends and family the old, familiar quote that "my presence is your present". (They never once got annoyed with me, either.)
In a world pregnant with sorrow and anger and brokenness, isn't it somewhat true though? What we have is each other, our presence in shared space, breathing the same air and living in a moment together.
As I write this, TJ and I are exactly 373.19 miserable miles apart. I say miserable not in a sappy, hopeless romantic way. I say miserable in the way that acknowledges that it is the holidays and he is at home alone trying to finish the biggest work project of his career, unable for the fourth time to get on a flight to join the rest of my extended family in Canada to ring in the New Year.
Well, I guess that is only the half truth. It's his 3.5 time trying.
He did actually get on one of the flights yesterday and did actually make it to Kelowna air space; and as I circled the airport for an hour watching numerous others meet up with their loved ones thinking he just got held up at customs, TJ's flight circled the air but failed to land due to wind, eventually flying back to Seattle for fear of running out of fuel. He keeps getting a standby seat and flights keep getting cancelled due to a winter storm that has come through this afternoon through tomorrow. With 7-12 inches of snow in the forecast for the storm, driving on his own isn't really an option at this point either. There is no way of knowing if he'll make it to join us all.
TJ is at home alone missing us while carrying the stress of work and the stress of going back and forth to the airport, wondering if it will even be worth it. My family is all up here missing him and I am having a hard time enjoying my time away without sharing in this season together. It feels miserable.
And then some perspective settles in (after shedding a lot of tears):
- TJ is safe. TJ is safe. TJ is safe.
- I am in Canada with family that I don't get to see all of the time, including newer family members, and that is really special.
- I can choose my attitude, while also acknowledging what I am feeling.
- There is room for rest and joy, if I make space.
- This is 100% not that big of a deal in the grand scheme of life and the grand scheme of problems in the world. I can get over it (well, eventually).
- This is my chance to practice presence. Here and now.
The reason I feel little glimmers of hope is because of the intentional love and support my family has showered on me up here. Each person has chosen to be present in something as little as distance and travel delays. Yes, it sucks for now. Yes, it really is a minor happenstance; yet each one has empathized with me, given hugs, and offered help. They have shown up.
Reflecting on the past 2 years, I have done a pretty poor job of being present with people. This is with the exception of my students and those that I see day to day in Seattle, although I know there have been some major misses there as well. I have a lot of important people that I have not been present with through circumstances that have actually been devastating or extremely impactful for them--completely different than weather related travel delays.
I can write it off as not knowing how to balance the kind of work that I do with having energy to give to others that are important.
I can write it off as needing to spend some very important time focused on my relationship with TJ.
I can write it off as caring for myself or needing alone time, but I think these may be only half truths.
My sister, Anjelica and I were talking the other day, and she was sharing how she had a friend that cancelled her plans and blocked a whole day just to sit with her through something, and how growing up that is how supporting people was modeled for her. Showing up and sitting there.
Sometimes I think I have to always bring my best self, be fully prepared to carry the burdens alongside others, to have all of the wisdom and right answers, while also perfectly listening to people, in order to connect with those I love. I can't do that, and I shouldn't do that. It doesn't allow for a reciprocal relationship (and yes, I do know that some relationships will not be reciprocal and I understand that too). Sometimes I just need to show up. Not just for others though, but for me. I need to show up in what I'm dealing with and ask for support. I need to be present and honest to others and myself.
Often I think about the story of seasons, the dying and rebirth, the planting and the waiting and the growing. In seasons, there are many things synergistically working together to usher from one movement of the story to the next. My personal story of seasons hasn't allowed for many others, if anyone, to participate in the synergy of creating and living together, but it is time for change, and I know it. I can feel it stirring.
Whatever may come, whatever will be, from 2017 to 2018 and beyond: Tis' the season. With each season, let us all learn to be present together just as we are, simply showing up and remembering how that is the most important.
And as this season comes to a close when the clock strikes midnight on New Year's Eve, maybe, just maybe I'll get to be present with TJ, enjoying a squeeze and a kiss from my favorite.