January 1, 2010

Winter Renewal

The holidays, for the most part, are over. Soon the 60% and 90% off signs will come down in retail establishments and heart-shaped candy boxes will appear way too soon. Credit card statements will come in the mail as well as year-end earning reports to nervous shareholders. Children will return to school, snow will fall, winds will blow, ice will crack, the days will seem way too short and the workday, if we are fortunate enough to have one, will seem too long.

Winter seems a season of not-enough and can be especially limiting to the elderly and those copiing with disabilities. The fear of falling or the difficulties of navigating a wheelchair on a snowy sidewalk loom large north of the Mason Dixon line this time of year. The lack of natural light causes many of us to battle depression; and it is a battle. We wield positive thoughts like a near-sighted man learning to fence. For some, it is easier to stay in and count the days until baseball starts. For others, who work outside, who repair our electrical lines, gather our trash, continue construction jobs that oddly-enough were started in November... well, we can say they are lucky to have a job, but the truth is I wouldn't want to work outside in February in Ohio, or Michigan, or upstate New York, or Maine, or....

So, winter is here, Christmas 2009 is now Christmas-past. What to make of baby new year?

From a creative standpoint, the first quarter of any year can be an incredible time. Here's why:

1) Last year is done, there's a sense of "oh well..." as in "I didn't get that done...oh well" (big sigh, deep breath). Whatever was not done, accept it. Recite the Serenity Prayer. Let it go. Forgive yourself. Move on. Get a new calendar and plan ahead.

2) Things seem quieter in this period of blanketing snow. Use this calm, quiet to bundle up and walk outdoors, if you can; but also to think on what you want to make of the coming year. What is important to you, really important? What three things would you like to accomplish or experience this year? Write them down, perhaps in a notebook. Write them in as much detail as possible.

For instance:
"I'd like to spend more time with my adult son."

Could be expanded to be:
"I'd like to get to know my son better as an adult. To do this, I will share more of myself as an adult in an open-hearted way. I will resist the impulse to give advice, to make judgments. I will try to learn about his work, his dreams, his life challenges in a way that is not intrusive but keeps a door open for him to enter when the time is right. I will find out what he thinks is fun and see if I might find it fun as well. I will embrace those he loves and give thought to what he believes. In doing this, I will learn who this man is who was once my little boy."

Or, "I'd like to go on a cruise with my husband."

This could be expanded to be:
"I'm imagining time where there are no interruptions to our togetherness. No phone calls or emails or text messages from family, friends, or clients. No deadlines. We'll sit on the ship, hold hands and watch the sun set. We'll eat new kinds of food that we won't have to prepare. We'll read books for hours, if we want, see some shows, dress up for dinner. It will be like a second honeymoon."

Whatever your goals are for this year, imagine them in as much detail as possible. Write it down. How will you feel losing weight, starting that cottage industry or home-based business, planning for college, seeing that child graduate and leave home in May? What good can come of it--focus on the positive not the negative. These are goals, positive musings. You can find at least one for the year, right? The are opportunities and hopeful things to plan for all around us, even when life is challenging, even in the middle of winter.

3) Not only is there a sense of quiet contemplation in winter, and a sense of "oh well" over things that were not done in the previous year, but the first months of a new year are fresh, new, like a beautiful snowfall untouched by anything. And if you believe you have the power to write what you want on those new days, you will discover an amazing thing. That you can reach your dreams. You can achieve more than you may have thought possible. Life can hold wonderful experiences that at this point, on January first, you have no idea of. A good and wonderful experience is just around the corner.

"The future belongs to those who believe in the beauty of their dreams," said Eleanor Roosevelt. It is one of my favorite quotes and so true. I put this quote right up there for me with "I must do that which I fear most," by the same woman.

When my soul and my life were in winter (and I'm not talking weather here), these two sayings really made a difference. Before I published a book, illustrated a book, published the work of 20 other authors, or edited and designed 200 books for other authors and publishers, I took out a red lipstick and wrote a hopeful sentence on a mirror in my bedroom that I looked at each day. It was my message to myself; it was the truth I told myself; it was my letter to myself: "May all your dreams come true." And while it takes some reflection to remember the things I would rather forget, it takes no time at all to bring to mind my dreams. I only have to look around me; they have all come true and now, in 2010, it's time to imagine new dreams.

For there are always new dreams to have, and this I have learned from my mother who, in her eighth decade of life, continues to dream. If she decided to take up a new hobby or return to college, I wouldn't be at all surprised. She is perpetual youth mixed with mature wisdom. Feminine grace and steely determination. How much I love her and admire her example.

So, let me let you go now. Go forward in this wonderful new year, holding in your hand a piece of paper or an iPhone with an electronic notepad or a laptop with a Word document that is titled "2010 Dreams." Write at least one dream down today, in detail. It will take you fifteen minutes at most. Save it to your desktop, put it on your refrigerator. Smirk at anyone who mocks it. Disregard anyone who judges it.

It's your dream, all yours. And the future belongs to you.

Happy New Year from the foothills of Appalachia this early Friday morning, January first.


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