Donna-Ryan-headshot

Relax

It’s a beautiful post-holiday afternoon in December, and I’m relaxing with a cup of coffee and my laptop. I’ve lived to celebrate almost 56 Christmases, and I’ve learned that this time of year is magical. Yes, there are stressful things like getting presents on time, but I focus on the joy.

I glance at my Christmas tree adorned with red and white peppermint candy ornaments accompanied by the same in a beautiful turquoise shade.  I smile at the red and white twinkling lights and once again think of my mother and aunt, who, no matter where they went, always had small wrapped peppermint candies in their pocketbooks.

Life has many twists and turns just like the peppermint candies. There’s no doubt that, for Kevin and me, our life has some broken pieces. But despite them we had a year filled with sweet memories.  We are learning to find peace.

My sister and I find ourselves reminiscing about Mom more often of late, and the other day we spoke of how she always told us that in life you cannot make plans.  Mom really shouted out that line back in December of 2010 when Kevin and I were planning a family celebration.

The preparations took months. We booked the venue, sent the invitations and ordered the cake. I was so excited. My family from Georgia was attending, along with Kevin’s family and our friends. We were all going to be together.

Well, on the day everyone was supposed to arrive, we had the biggest blizzard New York City had had in years. Luckily my sister was able to get the last flight in from Atlanta, but a lot of people had to cancel. We ate cake for over a week!

Thinking back, we can now laugh about the story. Sadly, we focused on all the things going “wrong” while in the storm. It was a disappointing day because so many loved ones could not attend. But we spent so much time being angry and crying and worrying, that in some ways we missed out on the enjoyment of the event we spent so much time planning.  If only I knew enough to relax. I know how to relax now.

As a child I used to love doing connect the dot and color by number puzzles.  My pencil would follow the pattern from one number to the next and when I arrived at the last dot there would be an image to be colored with a recommended shade.  By saying yes to many opportunities this year in many ways, my life feels like a connect-the-dot puzzle.  One thing led to the next, and none of it was planned. But it all worked out!

Through the years I disliked New Year’s Eve.  I always felt frightened and anxious to look at another calendar filled with 365 square white boxes with no clue about what experiences each one would represent.

This past year, I’ve realized how sad it is to have felt that way.  What on earth is there to be scared about?  I have my faith, and I do not have to fear what is to come.  I now realize there is something far more powerful than me guiding my steps, and with this knowledge it makes it much easier for me to relax.  There are days when the next dot seems out of sync, and some events make me shake my head in bewilderment. But at those times it is the most important for me to quiet my mind and relax.

I’m going to be open to all possibilities. Starting December 31st, my attitude will be, “If plan A does not work out there are 25 other letters to try.”  I’m excited to know that I have 365 chances to test them all out.

Happy New Year!