The last day of the year has many of us reflecting on the past 365 days. What were my blessings?
Where did I travel? When was I happiest? Who taught me something? Did I contribute to something meaningful to me?
Regardless of how you frame this past year, when it is coming to an end, you will remember those
moments that most impacted your life. The ones that changed something in you. Perhaps you will hang your happiest moments on the wall in a prominent spot for all to see while slyly slipping the blemished moments into that junk-drawer you keep.
For me, 2018 was full of many blessings. I am very fortunate to have a wonderful and compassionate wife in Sarah and a smart and charming little daughter in Aila. We have much that brings us joy and we certainly hold those memories with pride and gratitude. However some not so pretty memories couldn’t be placed in the “junk-drawer” and needed to be disposed of in full. I guess you could say, I couldn’t fit anymore shit in the drawer and it no longer closed. So, I had to take all the shit out and sort through it.
Let me tell you, a mind is a tricky place. These brains of ours like to label everything! But it is often
limited by two categories. Good Pic/Bad Pic. We also tend to avoid, harshly judge or confront what we
perceive as bad. It never occurs to us that the bad might not be bad just broken and in need of some
TLC. The surprising thing about cleaning out the junk-drawer is we don’t usually find as much junk as we think. Sure there is plenty we no longer need to hold on to, but we also find some useful shit in there
that we knew we might need later.
After we get through it and shift some things around, we gain perspective by looking at the past with a present mind and using the new space created to allow growth.
When I was cleaning out the “drawer”, I came across some pictures of Sedona. Candice and I visited Sedona a few times through our years together after we first fumbled in on a road trip with my siblings.
Sedona is known for healing energy and transformation and Candice and I both felt very drawn to this
place. Regardless of what people believe, the natural beauty is a powerful pull and offered Candice and I a spiritual connection to this earth. We hiked and biked many areas there. When Candice was in the hospital in her final days, she said that when she felt anxious she would close her eyes and think of
herself atop Bell Rock taking in the vista of the surrounding red rocks. Shortly after she shared that
story, I waited for her to fall asleep and I ran to the Walgreens and printed the largest picture I could of a photo we had taken on one of our visits. I hung it on the wall opposite her headrest. When she awoke, I saw her eyes catch the photo and she smiled. It likely was my gesture more than the picture since the picture could hardly do the view justice.
In November, I had a conference in Scottsdale. The timing was serendipitous as I was also confronting “my drawer”. While I was in Arizona, I decided to take a day trip to Sedona. When I got there, I rented a mountain bike. Well I couldn’t believe how drastically the bike designs had changed! When Candice and
I were there last, bikes seemed much more simple by proxy of tire girth and weight alone. I tried to
request “a normal” bike, but I was steered towards the new and improved mountain bikes. There might have even been some remark about improved safety. I didn’t recall the bike trails of Sedona to be dangerous. Regardless of what I wanted, this was the present option so I went with the flow and let the shop owner gear me up on my new ride.
I hit the trails with trepidation. After all, I was alone for the first time in Sedona on this big wheeled,
heavy bike. At first the trail was full of other hikers and bikers. As I journeyed further, the crowds
began to fade. I will admit that I stopped for a period because I was afraid. What if I fell off this hunk-of-
junk bike? What if no one found me? What if a wildcat or rattlesnake crossed my path? I wanted to turn back but instead I took a deep breath and kept riding. The combination of both mine and the bikes extra weight made the once easy hills feel like mountains. I would stop, get off and slowly walk up the hills. What was once flowing and freeing started to feel embarrassing. I was only focusing on my inabilities. I forgot that I had some years of experience on bikes. Despite my negative thinking, I was determined to complete the ride. As I continued, I started to acclimate to the bulbous wheels and I worked through the pain in my legs to make some of the smaller hills. I still walked when I needed to, but there was marked
improvement. I made it to the end of the trail. I didn’t take much time there as I was eager to turn
around and head back. The ride back wasn’t life changing or emotional like I thought it might be. It was what it was. I went into town and had lunch and on the way out of Sedona, I hiked up Bell Rock to that special spot where Candice and I would sit quietly and reflect. It was windy on this day and I looked out for some time before whispering, “I love you Candice”. I let the wind take it to the bluest of skies. In that moment, I felt what Candice must have felt in her last days. The greatest love is letting go.
Before Candice died, we had a series of plans and goals. I had fully expected that if we did everything right and we worked hard, we would succeed. I have struggled with severe guilt over the past 4 years that all of our “collective” hard work was being reaped exclusively by me. While in Sedona, I was reminded that many great minds have noted that an expectation is akin to mailing a self-addressed envelop of disappointment. I am learning how to let go and forgive the past for not granting me what I had expected for myself and from others. As the witty and clearly evolved Lily Tomlin said, “Forgiveness means giving up all hope of a better past.” In order to do this, I needed to truly ACCEPT what has happened in my life and release the belief system that it “should NOT have happened”.
2019 will inevitably be as it is meant to be. For most of us, it will be made up of both moments of peace as well as turmoil. If we are lucky, we will learn and grow from both and we will always act in good faith towards others.
And what about the junk-drawer? I am learning that blemishes of our past are part of us all and if we try
to bury them, it offers no peace from letting go.
I like what a friend of mine has been doing lately. When she is walking her dog or headed to work, she looks around with a somewhat discerning eye at others’ junk left on the street. She doesn’t walk by like most of us do. Nope, she takes it – cleans it up and adds a little loving touch. Some of the things we see as ugly can still hold beauty. In the end, life inspires art and perhaps my friend’s latest collection is a little bit of us all.
I love the idea that we all think of ourselves as a plastic toy gun turned vase holding flowers.
May 2019 be what you want it to be.....