About this year…

white bird of joy

I do have something to say after all.

For many of us, this year was packed with surprises (and not all that good I might add), intense struggles and maddening contradictions. Yes, even more than usual…a year that pushed us to test ourselves, get all the negativity, baggage and self-doubts out of our systems, and in the process, establish once and for all who we are and what we’re truly made of.

I’ve talked to so many people this year…and based on their stories, as well as my own, it seems those of us who set out to initiate genuine positive change did it because we felt we had reached a rather low point in our lives on many levels.

Many of us became reluctant to reach for what we wanted, or else do what it takes to pursue our dreams with courage, faith and determination. We fell into a habit of preparing for failure and disappointment, relying on negative experiences to provide “wisdom” and define what we convinced ourselves were “realistic” choices and approaches.

Instead of looking for inspiration and seeing the good, we focused mostly on problems, and used them as justification for giving up. We anticipated things we cared about breaking down instead of working out. Our vision became more and more defined by clues from past failures. We forgot about potential altogether.

And so we found ourselves living with suspicion, never allowing ourselves to fully embrace the brightest of opportunities or trust that we are capable of creating something special and good in our lives. We grew increasingly weary of optimism and success, as if we felt somehow undeserving of both.

Obviously change was needed. So pretty much everyone I know, me included, asked for it. We set out to find definitive solutions to our problems, both in a spiritual and material sense. This year, it felt like the requests, prayers and efforts were particularly powerful, genuine, and driven by a sense of urgency to the point of recklessness.

If we judge by what we see on TV at least, most people get rather exited at the prospect of a makeover and opportunity for significant self-improvement. I certainly was. The problem is that I for one signed up for the equivalent of a competent and thorough “house” cleaning. What I got instead was a full renovation, during which I found myself naked and homeless for quite a while.

As much as I wish to make this sound really amazing and inspiring, I would be lying if I didn’t outright say that the process of transformation this year was NOT easy. Like my friends and clients, I too thought my good intentions and track record of good deeds had earned me a smooth, gentle experience; that my enthusiasm and courage would serve as buffers for any hardship. And so I imagined receiving insights into issues delivered in delicious bits I could savor at leisure while the universe cleaned my “house” and made things sparkle. I also imagined solutions and resources arriving like a pretty new set of luggage on an airport carousel.

I was wrong. Genuine change, healing, growth and the lot do not come in sanitized, Disney versions. The universe, God…whatever you wish to call it, doesn’t look to make the process comfortable. Like a good service provider, the only concern is to do an excellent and thorough job. And so, once the transformation begins, it grabs and drags us through whatever it is we each require for a complete “treatment”.

I of course went through it all kicking and screaming, arguing that it’s very unfair and cruel, begging for a break, and sometimes even a refund. On many occasions, I came to the conclusion this universe is fueled by a perverse, sadistic spirit out to torment and deceive everyone.

But everything that happened, as rough as it was, makes sense in retrospect. If we want something real, we can’t go half way towards it. If we want strength, cleansing and healing, we’re going to be shaken to the core so that we can know true strength, cleansing and healing. If we want the freedom to embrace the gifts life has offered, we can’t very well keep holding on to our baggage. And if we want to nurture these gifts, we can’t handle them with dirty, complacent hands.

The greatest challenge for me, and from what I’ve seen, for pretty much everyone else, had to do with holding on to a positive outlook. All that we go through, however unpleasant it might be for a time, is intended to lead to a very happy outcome. But how on earth to feel positive when the “training” you need to go through feels like a boot-camp in hell? There comes a point where we feel exhausted and overwhelmed, hardly in a position to burst into dance and song. Seriously.

I’ve asked myself and have been asked a million times…where does the positivity come from when we need it most? How are we supposed to find strength in moments of utter exhaustion, courage when we are paralyzed with fear, and faith when all we see is disaster all around AND looming ahead?

As a coach, friend and parent, I tried to come up with some answers…and I did. I pulled out every book, quote, image, song and story I could think of to provide support and inspiration to myself and others.

The truth is that as much as all this stuff helps, none of it provides an actual answer. We find what we need when we need it because there is no other choice. You know how in the movies people get to the edge of a cliff and have nowhere else to run from whatever is chasing them? And yes, they have to jump from that unthinkable height…no ifs ands or buts. There’s the answer.

And another thing. A bit of an awkward add-on here, but it must be said. If we want wonderful things to happen to us, we must make room for them. Optimism and happiness are hard work. Pessimism is easy, safe and predictable…optimism isn’t. Just like happiness, optimism is demanding…it brings uncertainty, doubt, and risk.

But there is no way anything good will come into our lives no matter how much we struggle, how earnestly we pray or hard we work if our minds and hearts are cluttered with fear and every other kind of negative junk. Here again, there is no choice but to accept uncertainty, take a risk, open the door, and have faith. It’s not so much a spiritual or intellectual issue…it’s one of survival.

Ok, I think I’m done. I leave you with thanks, my best wishes, Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays, and this:

May you all be blessed with more happiness than you’ve ever imagined possible; may your hearts and homes be filled with light and song, open to abundance, love and everything you wish to bring inside; and from now on, may there always be fresh bread on your tables.

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