I start my day with the same mantra/ prayer/ thought/ silent focus. My Dad taught me this years ago and I started speaking it to myself in high school,
Some mornings I really speak the words out loud, some mornings I simply rush through the sentences in my head as I prepare for a morning swim, an early meeting, a day full of the moments that make up work and life. Some mornings I really think about the words of the mantra, if I'm unrushed perhaps I meditate on them or write in my journal. Some mornings I let the sentences dangle in midair, being cut off by my mind swinging to the next thing, thought, action needed to be taken. Despite all these years of opening the day the same way I'll admit that sometimes it is meaningful, sometimes not.
This morning I spoke them and I thought about today, this last day of 2014. My mind immediately jumped to many of the things I didn't do this year, items I didn't accomplish this Christmas season. I worked immediately to mentally shift to all that I did accomplish and the goals that I succeeded in, because isn't it true it's easier to find the negative than the positive, especially in oneself. I will tackle goals soon, but this post is all about The Christmas Letter.
My single greatest regret of the Christmas season was not completing a Christmas letter. You know, the kind you open inside of a colourful Christmas card, that falls out of the red envelope all folded, the kind that contains photos and a one-page newsy account of the year.
I decided rather than dwell in regret and frustration with myself, I'd do two important things: I'd write the Christmas letter I'd intended to put to paper and mail (and publish on my blog instead) and I'd commit to writing back on paper to all the kind souls in my life who managed to send Christmas cards and letters. I'm so amazed and impressed by all of you, and while the greeting won't be Christmas specific, I will send you something on paper.
As we prepare to close 2014, here is my Christmas letter. The one I intended to mail the last week of November, the one you'd receive about the same time you started decorating your home and preparing for Christmas.
Dear (fill in the blank of the family/friend/ acquaintance here),
Christmas 2014. My first real Christmas letter, the one composed to the masses but with a short hand scrawled note at the bottom. This was one of my favourite Christmas traditions growing up, I loved reading what my Mum wrote about our family year, and I always thought of it as the hallmark of adulthood to compose one myself. Hurrah.
Another important reason to write a Christmas letter, beyond sharing news, insight and cheer with the reader? In Brigitte Schulte's important book Overwhelmed, she indicates a research study wherein academics studied Christmas letters over a ten year period. Major finding? People who indicated they were "busy" correlated to increasing unhappiness, rather than the folks who indicated that there were important and precious moments in the year. The singular use of the word busy changed the entire trajectory of the happiness of the people writing it. Before reading this book I would have found a way to work in that both of us are "busy", but isn't it true that everyone is?
For us, 2014 will be a memorable one. We organized ourselves and purchased an adorable home only moments away from one of our favourite places in the city (Nose Hill Park), I completed my first entire year of business with Adesso Creative, and we were the lucky benefactors of adventures: to Montreal to visit my parents, to Maui with the Bird family. We also got out camping and mountain biking, backcountry camping, cross country skiing, to Kelowna for Across the Lake Swim, rode the Golden Triangle, and celebrated our first wedding anniversary in Lake Louise. I crossed off Interbike from my bucket list, improved on my mountain bike, and made it to Edmonton to see a Fringe Festival with a dear friend. I also made the long trip to Houston to visit little sister, and we adventured out to Austin to explore.
Our families are healthy and happy, we love the city we live in, and we brought a furry baby (weimaraner puppy we named Pal) into our family. When this year is coded in my memory it will be with happiness: we have much to celebrate.
It's not to say this year didn't have its frustrations or setbacks, its low moments and irritations. Running a business continues to be one of the most challenging professional leaps I've ever taken, a nagging knee injury virtually decimated my triathlon season, and the start of the year was a time of great turmoil for the Higgins family. But these challenges, like all challenges, only help to amplify the glory. To really highlight the times of wine drinking (as opposed to the times of grape-picking. Metaphor.)
In a manner of sounding cliched, but to wrap it up entirely, the year was fast. The year was slow. It was an effort at times to make the days count - and not count the days. But life is funny like that and time marches on, where we find ourselves now with another year ahead to give it another go at being the best versions of ourselves.
Wishing you love, compassion, hope and happiness in this year ahead, 2015.
(& Jon & Pal)