Wednesday, December 30, 2015

A random list of gratitudes, in no particular order

     Having never been one for goal-setting, the end of the year appeals to me more as a time for reflecting on where my life is at than as a start point for setting goals that may or may not be achievable in the next 12 months. As John Lennon so eloquently noted, life is what happens to you while you’re busy making other plans. (In the spirit of goal-setting, perhaps I should pick 2016 as the year that I finally get that truth tattooed on me. I've been talking about it for long enough.)
     So I got to reflecting this morning. And I guess it’s not surprising that my thoughts turned to all the things I’m grateful for, given that I’m currently sitting here in my comfy home in the Managua heat, still in love after 19 years, practically giddy to have recovered from two herniated discs in my neck this past spring, and fresh off a terrific two weeks of travelling Nicaragua with a couple of our grandkids.
     Herewith, a list of personal gratitudes to herald the end of one year and the start of another. It’s by no means a complete list – just the things that popped into my head today. I wish for all of you that you find gratitude in the things that have gone well, and the resilience to get through the things that haven’t. Today, I’m grateful…

·         For having been a teenage mother, because what that translates into at the age of 59 is the chance to hang out in Nicaragua with two teenage grandsons when I am still fit and healthy enough to do adventurous things with them like hiking up volcanoes. Not to mention the great joy of having had more than 41 years of being a mother, and a ton of quality grandchild time for almost 17 years now.

·         For having been born and raised in a country with a high-quality, accessible education system, decent salaries, and publicly funded health care, because growing up in a country like that is a lifelong gift that gives you a giant leg up in this world no matter what happens after that.

·         But at the same time I'm also grateful for the opportunity to experience life in countries with none of that, where I have seen that even downsides can have upsides, and that countries where people have no choice but to figure out their own survival are capable of great innovation, adaptation, resilience and compassion.

·         To be part of a vast extended family that definitely gets fed up with each other from time to time but fundamentally understands that family is forever.

·         For whatever mysterious forces drove me to leave my really great private-sector job as a journalist back in 2004 and venture into non-profit work, where people’s stories still make up the bulk of my work but in ways that make me feel much more connected to meaningful change.

·         I am grateful that a lot of people are scared to live in Honduras, because that meant that the first Cuso International post I tried for back in 2011 had sat vacant for the two years prior to that, which in turn meant that my basic tourist-level Spanish passed muster and I got the post. And a whole other world opened up to me.

·         For a four-month strike in 2002 at the Times Colonist that at the time almost gave me a nervous breakdown, but ultimately revealed to me that I could easily live on half my wages. That revelation set me free.

·         For all the people who have opened up their homes, pets and possessions to Paul and I since we become “homeless” in 2012, welcoming us to care for their stuff while they are vacationing and making it possible for us to live as gypsies. (Well, except for our 2002 PT Cruiser. Come on, even a gypsy needs a caravan.)

·         Grateful to my parents and my piano teacher Kaye Wilson for hammering discipline into me at a young age, because I have put that to use in so many ways over the years, most recently to be able to learn Spanish as well as a new instrument (the accordion) that’s small enough to accompany me in my wandering.

·         For being a sickly kid who experienced being teased and judged, because that has made me into someone who never takes her health for granted and feels a kinship with anyone who has experienced being an outsider. And there’s a lot of us.

·         For all the times I failed, felt my heart break, stumbled, erred. Failure has taught me how to get back up again, and freed me from the nameless dread that gets in your way out of fear that you might fail.

·         I’m grateful that even before I knew that the man of my dreams needed to be someone who could help my youngest daughter with math, embrace cheap travel and a life of uncertainty, and be a kind and patient grandfather to my then-unborn grandchildren, I found my way to just such a man. Here’s to many more years together, Paul.

·         For whatever it is in my genetics that led me to be a person who can’t hold onto resentments and disappointments for very long. Life’s too short to be bitter. Happy 2016, everyone.

7 comments:

Ian Lidster said...

Enjoyed reading this very much Jody. One of the things for which I am grateful is to know a person such as you. Perhaps unbeknownst to you, you have actually inspired me to persevere in a few directions and to not get caught up in a wished-for outcome, but just to carry on. I wish for you and Paul the happiest and most fulfilling new year possible and thank you again for being you. That means a whole lot to me.

Colleen Milne said...

Thanks Jody - enjoy reading YOU as always! Happy New Year 2016 to you and Paul.

Chris MarieAsh said...

Nicely said Jody. Here's to lifelong gratitudes.

Daniel Williams said...

Thank you for sharing as you always do! I agree on the failure and lack of bitterness as a key to life. Why try to put life in a tiny little bottle of neatness when you can just fly into the storm? So much to see, great people where you least expect them to be.

Diana Holmes said...

Well said Jody. Your honesty led me to find out a whole lot of new things about you, like you were a teenaged mom, didn't know that, although we have followed your writing in the Times Colonist (weekends only) for years now. Really admire your CUSO journey, and the Honduran connection that you have. Stark honesty has such a place in this current electronically driven atmosphere of shallow attention spans, and a lot of lack of respect for one another. I really admire your voice of clarity.
Good luck to you. You can likely find me on Facebook in Nanaimo, B.C.

sax said...

Lovely to read through this as I reflect on my own last few years. Happy 2016 to you and Paul!

Gail Albrechtson said...

What a wonderful piece on gratitude. You live quite the interesting, generous life. Your grandkids are most fortunate to have such fun and adventurous grandparents. I've always loved your writing and am grateful that you keep on inspiring us through your blogs and posts. Happy 2016 to both you and Paul!