I have a confession to make. I struggle with an over developed need to be honest and transparent. While that can be a good thing, it makes writing a reflection letter summing up any year rather difficult. I read these incredible Christmas letters that come in the mail from friends and family across the country and around the world, and invariably I am struck by the consistent highlighting of only the good stuff. Little Joey learned to walk, we took an amazing trip, Suzie won the spelling bee, John won an award. Sound familiar? Worth celebrating to be sure, but is that all? Really?
So I always struggle and ponder how and if I can write my Christmas letter because I have this deep drive for people to have a fuller view of our lives. I want them to know that there were amazing things and there were terrible things. I want them to understand that we have incredible things to be grateful for, and places of challenge personally and professionally that we are working to overcome. I want to own the fullness and complexity of what life really is in what I write.
But who wants to read that? It’s kind of like when someone asks “how are you” when in reality they don’t want a real answer to that question. We provide the expected response “fine” and if we choose to reveal more than what was being asked, we are considered a bit too forthcoming. Perhaps I am just a cynic.
Today the sky was blue after several days of grey in a row, I got to have lunch with my best friend, and Christmas music was playing everywhere I went. Things have slowed down a touch at work with everyone taking short weeks and spending time with family. Today it is easy to feel like it’s a pretty wonderful life.
But today I also learned that a dear young friend just walked through the front door of a cancer diagnosis and into what can only be described as an uncertain and scary journey in 2015. Today another friend is looking at having to possibly say goodbye soon to her beloved grandmother. Yet another is facing a Christmas with so much strain in the family, it is a time to be survived, not celebrated. In these places finding the sense of a “wonderful life” is far more challenging.
Life is full of joys and pains, and they often co-exist in a single moment in time. There are seasons when all seems to be going along well, and other seasons where it seems life is caving in from all sides. Nobody is exempt. Not personally and not professionally.
So now that I’ve laid out my cynicism, in the immortal words of one brave author, I’m going to contradict myself and mean both things. I LOVE reading people’s Christmas letters. Getting a summary of what the previous year has brought them and their family, and feeling connected across the miles. Sometimes I just gather them all up and wait until I have a window of time alone to just sit and read them all, to be reminded of the diversity of people in our lives, and the joy of the journey each is on.
They share the joys and the great things that have happened that year, and how the various family members have grown and changed. It is a celebration of thanksgiving and looking back over the year to see what joys have come. It is an incredibly powerful tool. Remembering. Gratitude. Hope for the future restored by reviewing the past. Even those walking hard journeys still focus on the positive and what is being learned and clarified along the path. Lessons that are being picked up and wrong thinking that is being set aside.
In that vein, I just want to pause and take a few moments to be simply grateful for the fullness of life in 2014. There were amazing gifts alongside challenges to overcome. We have the privilege of doing life with people we care about both at work and at home. We have the privilege of calling our employees, clients and vendors “friend” and that is a gift that is indescribable. When things are good we celebrate together. When things are difficult we walk it through together. As Clarence Oddbody, the angel in the classic “It’s a Wonderful Life” inscribed in Tom Sawyer at the end of the film “…no man is a failure who has friends.” I am most grateful for the friends in our lives.
2014 was good. Very good indeed.