Every year, at around this time, my word for the following year finds me.
For 2010, it was grace, and true enough I found it in abundance that year—in the events that conspired to make things happen, in the people I met, in every little blessing that I was given. For 2011, the word given to me was surrender. All throughout that year, I found myself in situations that helped teach me the very difficult lesson of learning how to let go. Although there continue to be times when I continue to grapple with it, overall, at the close of 2011 there was no longer any fear—that I could let go of whatever it was and God would catch me, or provide for me, each and every time.
This year, it wasn’t one word but a phrase—“ready, get set, go”—and for the greater part of this year, that’s how it felt— in the decisions made, the changes that I had to adjust to, projects at work, travel with my children, in responding to calamities, in personal emergencies. And again and again, the Divine saw me through.
Scrawls and scribbles
This coming year, I believe that the word for me is gratitude.
On Christmas morning, it was a joy to see one’s Facebook wall filled with scrawls and scribbles of gratefulness for many things. The news feed was like a film reel, with one scene of joy and reunion after another. There were photographs of families of every mold and shape, from near and far, celebrating and giving thanks. Perhaps because the world was still reeling from so much strife and sadness, we could not help but be extra thankful for everything we were given, and for the presence of everyone in our lives.
On Twitter, there were no barbs or caustic remarks hurled at one another, no spats or nasty tweets, and for two days the world according to Twitter seemed completely at peace.
A couple of days before Christmas, I saw a poster that read “For 24 hours make no complaints, absolutely none, and watch your life change.” I decided to take up the challenge on Dec. 23, raised the bar and decided to make it 48 hours. Now, to attempt not to complain in Manila two days before Christmas was certainly a tall order. However, I really wanted to see if it would make a difference. Having passed the test and made myself accountable to the 14-year-old and the 21-year-old who were with me constantly those 48 hours, I can now tell you that yes, it certainly made a difference.
Everything in those two days became lighter. Every time I would catch myself on the verge of complaining, I found myself taking a deep breath. And no, it wasn’t as stressful as I expected it to be. On the contrary, we breezed through two major malls on Dec. 23, Greenbelt and Power Plant. We had ourselves a lovely, delicious and peaceful meal, went to church, and drove through no traffic on Edsa. I suppose when you condition your mind, somehow, the universe and God conspire to make it light for you because your intentions are good. I’m now tempted to attempt the same 48 hours before a new year rolls in.
In those two days, I also took pause to remember friends and families who had lost loved ones the year before, those who were struggling with illnesses yet to be diagnosed, or those who recently lost a job, a relationship, or someone very dear to them. The world as we know it stops when these happen because they show us what truly matters.
Tragedy in the world
In the New York Times, columnist Maureen Dowd came out with a beautiful column written by a priest friend of hers entitled “Why God?”, an attempt to answer the question in light of all the tragedy in the world. The piece closes with this powerful statement that resonated deeply with me—“I will never satisfactorily answer the question ‘Why?’ because no matter what response I give, it will always fall short. What I do know is that an unconditionally loving presence soothes broken hearts, binds up wounds, and renews us in life. This is a gift that we can all give, particularly to the suffering. When this gift is given, God’s love is present and Christmas happens daily.”
Right now, I’m reading the latest Anne Lamott book, “Help, Thanks, Wow—The Three Essential Prayers,” and in typical wise and funny Lamott fashion, she explains to the reader how the three prayers carried her through. It’s perfect reading to close a difficult but terribly busy and blessed year, and a way of preparing my heart to be thankful for all that is yet to be in 2013.
My favorite line in the entire book is this: “Love falls to earth, rises from the ground, pools around the afflicted. Love pulls people back to their feet. Bodies and souls are fed. Bones and lives heal. New blades of grass grow from charred soil. The sun rises.” In 2013, may each one of us, in one way or another be graced by that kind of love, and may we be given opportunities to pass on that love to others. May we find it in our hearts to begin and end each day of the new year with gratitude for whatever it is we are given, and for all that will yet come to pass.
A blessed and meaningful 2013 to all!
Follow the author on Twitter @cathybabao