Dear Friends and Family:
I find it increasingly difficult to write the traditional Christmas letter that modestly highlights our achievements and skirts our disasters of the past 12 months, because I have discovered that a year of life is not enough time to determine if our disasters aren’t blessings and if our blessings have strings attached.
I think of the Taoist Farmer’s Luck Story. It goes something like this. A farmer’s horse runs away. Such bad luck, say his neighbors. The farmer shrugs, Maybe. The farmer’s horse returns the next day with two wild horses. Ahhhh, such good luck, say his neighbors. Maybe, says the farmer. The following day one of the wild horses throws the farmer’s son to the ground breaking his leg. Such bad luck, they say. Maybe, replies the farmer. Soon after the army comes looking for all able bodies men to fight in a war. The farmer’s son can’t go because of his leg. Such good luck, say the neighbors. The farmer sighs, Maybe. And on and on and on.
Was our year filled with good luck or bad luck? We can’t really say yet. But this is what it was:
Our two girls continue to teach us more than we teach them. Emma, our nine-year-old, is reaching for her independence, and we, as well as her sister, suffer greatly from it at times. Daily she flips from moody to mature, brilliantly creative and imaginative to dull and forgetful in her self-absorption. She searches for herself not even sure what she is looking for. We find ourself doing a careful dance of keeping her reeled into the family and giving her enough line to stretch and grow. My control issues have slapped me in my face over and over again this year as I learn to let her go, and my husband is saddened and aged by the fact that she is growing up. We cling to certain moments, like that of a few weeks ago, when she ran from the house on her way to school and shouted happily, “You are the best parents in the whole world!”
Clara is seven, and has bouts of growing pains from the several inches she has grown this year as well as the breakup of she and her sister’s twin mentality. Adrift, Clara struggles to find who she is, while we hold our breath and hope that she will regain her confidence. For months last winter, she slept next to me, needing solid reassurance as she closed her eyes that her shifting world wasn’t going to completely fly apart in the night. Her remarkable intelligence often leaves us speechless, and we wonder how much to prod her and how much to let her wisdom unfold naturally. As she has passed milestones this year—losing her front teeth, learning to ride a bike, making it to the top of a climbing route for the first time, a bit afraid and chin quivering, but determined nonetheless–we too relearn how to face the unknown bravely as we guided and helped her along the way.
This summer was Stephen and my 20-year wedding anniversary. Earlier in the year, I’d remarked at a dinner party that being with Stephen was the next best thing to being alone. Other guests were horrified at my comment, but my husband was not offended. He understood. There is no one else on earth with whom I can truly and freely be myself. He gives that gift to me every single day. And I know he feels that way about me…but is much more careful than to tell anyone.
I fell this year. Some unseen force picked up my feet and dropped me on a protruding rock inflicting a remarkable amount of damage. I became acquainted with physical pain, and for months was confined to the couch, my activity severely limited, lost in a haze of pain pills and doctors visits. But despite all that, I gained much. I discovered who my friends were, and that learning to receive was a long path I needed to walk. I had to clear my schedule, and the slow recovery has made me more thoughtful about how I fill my time. I was given a mini life do-over even though I didn’t know how much I needed one. I guess sometimes you need to get knocked down to figure out why you want to get up again, and to see who is there when you do.
This is a bit of our year, our small disasters and our generous blessings. Who knows what it all means. Good luck? Bad luck? Maybe. Time will tell.
Happy Holidays to you all,