Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Christmas Letters

I like getting Holiday letters from friends and family. Last week we got a holiday letter from one of Kathy’s daughters, as is her tradition, and as I read it I savored every carefully chosen word, every line, as I always do when I read her letters. She has a way with words that captures their playful essence beautifully, and in true holiday fashion, she sums up the year’s highlights with vivid images of shared love, laughter, and visual treats. I remember when we were growing up in Nigeria how we always looked forward to receiving “Christmas letters” from friends and family flung far and wide. I remember how my parents, especially my mother, savored them. She loved a good summary of life. Dad typed a few of the letters, which was rare, and his way of summing up our lives for their readers was always fun to compare to mother’s.  A line or two about each of us children, a paragraph or two about the adventures of “African life,” details of teaching and learning and always a few to perfectly capture a delightful personality who had become part of their social or professional network. 

Christmas in Africa was very different than in America in some ways. The sun shone brightly, and often we swam on Christmas Day, after early morning gift sharing, and shared sentiments of the meaning of the season and all we were thankful for.  It seemed a little strange to see our spindly fake fir shining with tinsel and shiny ornaments in the warm weather and being steeped in Perry Como and Bing Crosby’s I’m dreaming of a White Christmas. Yet it would have also seemed strange not to have it, and not to hear our parents’ familiar songs. We were always reminded of being blessed to have so much when so many had/have so little. My brother Mike was especially conscious of this even as a very small child.

This year has been a year full of changes.  I’m amazed that we are ending December in our calendar year already! I’m amazed that 2011 is upon us. I marvel that the weather stations report record storms and cold throughout the country. What do I remember most fondly about this year? So many moments, so many memories. Right now I remember Thanksgiving with family, and my little niece Banner, the cutest princess in the world, living her charmed life with total joy and the enchantment of being a princess in this big world. Her full-teeth smile which holds such joy as my brother calls to her, Hey Hollywood! This way! as she sashays by in her outfit complete with matching sunglasses. My Aunt, my mother’s twin, like a wonderful image of Mom alive and laughing, as they did together, and my Uncle, the consummate host and steady keeper-of-the-house. This Thanksgiving I met my new little cousin “Baby Henry” for the first time. What a doll. He is constantly in my mind’s eye now, as I get reminders of his growing and smiling, rolling and giggling. I remember driving in October and picking up my sister at the Airport, then going on to Birmingham where we visited Mike and his family. It was a wonderful “reunion” of sorts, and included a first-time visit to the missionary family reunion at Shocco Springs in Alabama. The annual missionary reunion included the traditional memorial tributes, this year Mom’s being part of the line-up. My sister and I, with a borrowed GPS, found a few spots to visit, and we sang our hearts out with childhood songs we had sung which had been triggered in our memory at the reunion. We laughed so hard we cried, and once or twice almost had to pull off the road. Some moments can never be truly appreciated except by those personalities present in the moment and on that memory node! I remember going to Birmingham on my birthday, where I saw my triplet brother then drove with my niece (home from college) to Houston, where I saw my triplet sister! Seeing them in different states on our birthday! What a treat!

Best of all is the gift of continuing to "Know Thyself" as I experience and share life and the knowledge that inspires me to continuing learning and growing in love. Today the sky is gray, the squirrels are busy, and the birds flit around from tree to tree, from bird feeder to fence post. Paperwork awaits, the coffee is delicious, and my thankfulness is infinite. Thank you friends and family, and all of my human family, known and as yet unknown. Happy holidays, and may we all create and enjoy a very happy New Year!

Friday, December 03, 2010

Why I Do What I Do

A friend from my boarding-school past, now a Human Resources pro, wrote a thoughtful blog post about “Why I Do What I Do.” (She writes a great blog!) I thank her for her reach into memory and updating  her passion for why she does what she does. Her article about boarding school stirs me, especially since my parents have both died in the last 2 years, and we recently have been to a reunion where many of their and our missionary “family” and our parents’ “girls” were present. Those at the reunion were happy to see us, very loving in their welcome, as always, and very kind in their remembrances and praise of our parents. My reminder of why some missionary “families” really do remain families – supportive, in touch by heart and mind if not physically, and caring – was embodied in full bloom.  I think our parents were well-suited to their job as house parents too.  I remember that they thought deeply about that choice before accepting the position – just as they thought very deeply about sending their children to boarding school, and of parenting so many children. They were good examples indeed.

Being born a triplet, with an older brother too, I began I think with a built-in sense of “community.”  I also began with a burning need to understand why I, why we, as people, do what we do – big, little, and long, short moments and lives included. (This was a primary motivation for writing my book – to “know thyself”.)
When we went to college, my sister and I chose to put our names in the collective pool as everyone else did, rather than request rooming together. My roommate was a young woman born and raised in Oklahoma City, eager for the new adventure of college life. She was smart, eager, and excited about her new adventure – yet we had very little in common, though we searched for things to talk about and to share. My depression grew, and I began to have to try to figure out what those growing-up years meant to me as a personality, what I might do with them, what did they teach me about myself and my world, my life, my friends, my family, my opportunity to choose and to create.

After teaching and working in a handful of other jobs over the years, for about 20 years now I have been working and studying with Kathy Oddenino, an RN by profession and also long-time teacher of Spiritual Philosophy and author of, to date, 8 books. From the time of my introduction to Kathy’s first book and to her personality, at an event in her home (then in Annapolis, MD), I began to feel that I’d found the right “signal” that my mind was looking for. I’d always had a sense of hope about life, though there were times (particularly when I was in college and then a few times in my twenties) when that feeling was buried beneath a lot of heavy stuff that I didn’t really know how to move. Though I’d had therapy a few times, and it was helpful, I’d never heard anyone explain depression to me in a way that satisfied my mind’s question – why me? Why now? What does this heaviness really mean to me as a personality? (What is the meaning of my life, of life? What is the truth?) Since I know I have a good mind, why can’t I figure this out? Since studying Spiritual Philosophy, I began to appreciate all of the rest of life and learning with a fresh perception. This came from being introduced to the thought reality that our mind must learn to “know thyself,” and as our mind truly seeks self-knowledge, the love within us as part of our design as a sensory being begins to express itself.  Religion did not define for me what the “soul” is, nor what the “spirit” is in a way that helped me to understand my own design as a human being. I work with books because I love books and knowledge, and I am committed to the joy of “knowing thyself” in this life. Spiritual Philosophy offers me the explanation of us as energy, which science validates, and which every sensory experience I create helps me to appreciate and expand. The Ethical Values are the basis of who we are as energy beings. What greater gift? What greater adventure? I do what I do because I believe this knowledge of who we are as human beings must be shared and passed on, as a conscious legacy of love. My parents gave me the gift of life, and we grew together in love. Good conversation (using the energy of the Ethical Values) trumps most things in my world. The beauty of life and Nature enhance all I am open to enjoying at any moment.  (My cloud fetish, for instance – I love studying clouds!) This is how we each learn to heal ourselves, and therefore to heal the Earth that is our home.  For me, knowledge about our human design is the foundation of all education. As Patty Griffin wrote in her song, It’s a mad, mad mission…sign me up!