Shadow and Light

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On this last Monday in November, as our half of the earth makes do with less sunlight while the other half gets their share, how are you holding up? If you’re from the U.S., was your Thanksgiving Day a happy, boisterous time with extended family crammed around a table, eating, conversing and giving thanks for all the goodness in their lives? Or was it fraught with tension if relatives don’t all get along or sadness if you missed loved ones who have passed away or at least moved far away? Or maybe it was a dinner with just one or two? Or a quiet meal alone.

When I was a child, before I’d lost any close family members or friends, I didn’t understand why adults would say the holidays were difficult. I knew that money issues made it stressful for parents wanting to buy gifts for several children. It wasn’t until my maternal grandmother died two weeks before Thanksgiving when I was seventeen, that I experienced my first hard holiday. And as the years went by, I lost two more grandparents, siblings moved or there were tensions between various family members.

This was my second Thanksgiving without my kids, so I know a bit more about the bittersweet way life can intertwine joy and sadness. Last year was tough to not have them with me. This year, as I knew they really wanted to be with their dad’s family in Pennsylvania, I focused on their happiness and, although I missed them and got a little teary-eyed a couple of times, I made the most of the quietness and relaxing atmosphere. We texted throughout the day and I thought of them often, but I decided to enjoy the day and I did.

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Everyday, we can find ways to drown our feelings or choose to feel them all. I can smile and laugh one hour, but maybe cry later on. Float lightly on a moment of gratitude for goodness and fortune in life, but sink into a somber mood as I reflect on ways I’ve failed, people who’ve failed me and then comes the decision: Will I leave my heart open to love, to possibility, to believing that people are mostly well-intentioned and look for the best in every situation? Will I focus on the positive and enjoy everything I can in the life I have now?

That’s the question. I choose to look up. My favorite Normal Rockwell painting is entitled “Lift Up Thine Eyes”, because of the message, mostly. So many things to turn down our gaze, but we can choose to look up, to find the good, the best, the excellent that resides within people and the joy that is to be found even on difficult days.

I hope you enjoy every moment of daylight this Monday and remember to lift your eyes and not miss the best the day has to offer.

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