It’s hard for me to wrap my head around the fact that the year is coming to an end. I feel like I have nothing to show for it, in part because my writing has been so sparse lately. I have managed to return to my “morning pages” habit – so I am at least scribbling my thoughts into journals and flushing out the debris, so to speak, – but my blogging has suffered harshly lately, primarily due to my fitness regime. In fact, the only reason that I am not down doing my 45 minutes on the exercise bike this morning is because my car is parked at the entrance to the little subdivision that we live in and I need to hike to down a snowy hill to leave and then back up it when I return. My legs still ache from the last two days of trudging through the snow, so I feel confident that my trips to and from my vehicle will suffice for the day’s cardio.
Since today is the last day of the year, I feel like I need to pause and give myself credit for the good. It is true that this year life did not allocate all that I had hoped for; but it is unfair to evaluate the year based on my failed expectations. There are always failed expectations. To expect is to invite disappointment because I cannot see the big picture and, in the moment, I have no idea how the pieces fit. As the Course says, “Some of your greatest advances you have judged as failures, and some of your deepest retreats you have evaluated as success.”
So, this morning, rather than beat myself up for all the things I didn’t do, for the million ways I’ve let myself down, I thought I would practice gentleness. If I evaluate gently, there is no need to judge. The Course says that gentleness is one of the characteristics of God’s teachers. It is what happens when one gives up judgment. “It is necessary for the teacher of God to realize, not that he should not judge, but that he cannot. In giving up judgment, he is merely giving up what he did not have. He gives up an illusion; or better, he has an illusion of giving up. He has actually merely become more honest. Recognizing that judgment was always impossible for him, he no longer attempts it. This is no sacrifice. On the contrary, he puts himself in a position where judgment through him rather than by him can occur. And this judgment is neither ‘good’ nor ‘bad. It is the only judgment there is, and it is only one: ‘God’s Son is guiltless, and sin does not exist.””
I had plenty of opportunity to remind myself of this this past year.
“It is necessary for the teacher of God to realize, not that he should not judge, but that he cannot.”
If I were ever going to get a tattoo, I might choose that quote to remind myself. So, rather than judge, I thought I’d review all the wonderful, beautiful things that have come out of this year. Appreciation feels so much better than condemnation. Here are a few of the many ways progress was made this past year:
- 1. Health: Jay and I purchased a semi-decent exercise bike last December and we both use it on a pretty much daily basis. My husband now does seven miles daily on the bike (I usually do 4 to 5). This helps his blood sugar levels; exercise is important for diabetics. (Not affirming diabetes, Lord! He’s had the illusion of appearing to be a diabetic.) For me, it’s about improving the circulation in my legs since I’ve had “the appearance” of varicose veins and they sometimes hurt like hell. Beyond the exercise piece, which I feel is pretty darned important at our ages since we are both in our sixties, we are eating a LOT healthier. Much fewer processed foods. Less sugar. More healthy fats. Less alcohol (we usually drink ½ to maybe 1½ glasses of Pinot Griego on the nights when we drink). Both of us have lost weight. I feel like we still have a ways to go, but I am quite pleased with the progress.
- Elimination of stuff: In the past year, we have cleared out tons of crap from our household. There is still more to clear, but we are more organized and less burdened by things we don’t use or need. True, there have been a few moments when I have reached for something that I no longer own, but in truth it was only sparked by this recent weather anomaly. Then I missed our old snow shovel for one and experienced a twinge of regret over giving away the ratty denim jackets I’d hung onto for years; one had belonged to my son and the other to my brother – neither of which fit properly and which I wouldn’t have missed at all if I hadn’t been out shoveling snow in my good coat. But, all in all, I’ve been very happy with how much crap we’ve eliminated. It’s easier to find what I am looking for.
- Re-establishing credit: It’s over two years since we filed bankruptcy and it will be finalized for two come next February. Miraculously, we now have some credit. True, this past year was not as financially healthy as I’d have preferred because getting back into flipping houses hasn’t gone as planned, but at least I feel like we now have credit to fall back on a bit. When tax bills and insurance bills came due and I didn’t have the available funds, I was grateful that I could at least pay them off with credit cards. Of course, that means I have much more debt than I want, but at least I know that I have re-established credit enough to be in a position to pay those bills. Plus, it was reassuring to recognize that I am no longer comfortable with having maxed out credit cards. Once upon a time, that was very normal for me.
- I’m tougher: It’s an interesting juxtaposition that I am becoming gentler and tougher simultaneously. Since we teach best what we most need to learn, naturally I found myself in conversation with one of my Course students about the importance of being clear with regard to boundaries. Getting back to the flips, I found myself needing to be more forgiving with regard to what I thought should happen (I do not know what anything is for!!!) but also clearer with regard to what was acceptable and unacceptable. This is still something I need to work on, but since my expectations have been dashed again and again, I have had to relinquish them. I’ve had to embrace forgiveness but also learn the lesson that communicating clearly upfront is the only way to make sure I’m not in that position again. I’m learning how to keep from being taken advantage of. Between contractors and tenants, I got lots of practice this past year and while I am far from expert at establishing my baseline going in, at least I am not so intimidated by expressing what I will and won’t tolerate. “Eat the pain,” has become one of my new mantras. Instead of avoiding those painful situations, I am learning to embrace them because they make me stronger.
- I’m more grateful: Following along the “eat the pain” lines, I find myself grateful for even those things I don’t particularly enjoy. Because I believe that everything is in divine right order, I know that my lack of comprehension for painful situations does not mean that God’s Love stopped showing up. “Love will have Its way” which is a fancy way of saying that Spirit tries to communicate what we need gently, but if we refuse to listen, it will become more insistent. (“This need not be painful, but it usually is so experienced.”) It is the resistance to what is happening that causes the pain. Life just is. I am learning acceptance.
What is joyful to you is painful to the ego, and as long as you are in doubt about what you are, you will be confused about joy and pain. This confusion is the cause of the whole idea of sacrifice. Obey the Holy Spirit, and you will be giving up the ego. But you will be sacrificing nothing. On the contrary, you will be gaining everything. If you believed this, there would be no conflict.
What is joyful to you is painful to the ego!
So, while this past year was not all that I had hoped for personally (I won’t even go into the political or global fronts), it may just have been some of my greatest advances. I honestly don’t know. I cannot judge. I don’t want to.
So, as this year comes to end, I say, “Thank you, God.” Eat the pain, and let it be transformed into joy.
Namaste, my friends, Namaste.