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My Birthday Wish

birthdaywish
"I decided to start anew, to strip away what I had been taught.”
 —Georgia O'Keeffe

I've Been Thinking...

Well, well, well. Here we are at the dawn of a new era. A new beginning.

I am looking forward with eyes wide open. Heart wide open. And I’m not just saying this because I’m embarking on a new year of life, which I am after my birthday on Friday. Now, so too is our country. We are embarking on a new path forward. I feel honored and blessed to be embracing this historic moment. I embrace it knowing full well that not everyone feels the way I feel, thinks the way I think, or sees what I see. I accept that. I accept that there may be people reading this who do not even accept that we are entering a new era. It is what it is.

Two days before this historic election, I was sitting on my back porch thinking about life. I do that a lot around my birthday. I like to take stock of what was, what is, and what can be moving forward. I found myself sitting there thinking about how long it’s been since I’ve seen some people I really love. That startled me. It was hard to accept.

This year, I missed my annual pilgrimage to Cape Cod due to Covid-19. The Cape has always been my place to check in with my brothers, who live on the East coast, as well as my extended family. It’s the place I go to feel a sense of belonging. Not this year. 

I realized it’s also been eight months since I’ve been to NBC News in New York. Pre-Covid, I used to go to New York almost every week for my work with the network, as well as for connection with a few close friends. My friends there make me laugh. I break bread with them, and I have deep meaningful conversations with them. I miss that. I miss them. 

As I sat there the other day, I realized it’s also been more than a year since I’ve seen a few other people I love. Wow, Maria, I thought to myself. How could that be? Friends and family are your everything. How could you have let so much time elapse?

Thank God, my children live here near me. Thank God, I have a few good friends here near me. But still. Wow. I felt an emptiness that morning that I hadn’t before. I felt some despair. 

To reassure myself I thought, It's all because of Covid. It is what it is. But then, I suddenly wept. I miss what was. I know millions of others do as well. I think it’s OK to miss what was, especially if it was good. Especially if it brought you joy or made you feel grounded, whole, and loved. Especially if it gave you a sense of belonging.

Growing up, whenever I had a complaint, my mother would say, “Maria, I don’t want to hear one yip out of you! You are lucky, luckier than most, so no complaining. Go out there and make a difference. Stay the course. That’s who we are, and that’s what we must do.” 

My mother wasn’t into complaints, sadness, or any display of what she deemed “neediness.” I wonder now how she would have managed Covid and missing her family. I wonder if she would have missed what was.

One of the gifts I’m giving myself this year is letting go of the need to respond to things in an old programmed way. I'm letting go of my fear of expressing and/or acknowledging my own pain or traumas. I’ve come to learn that not acknowledging pain, trauma, or grief is unhealthy so while I know I’m luckier than most, and while I’m deeply grateful for my life, I also know that I’m human. It’s OK to have a yip here and there.

Speaking of yips, how about our election? I’ve been really sitting with my post-election emotions. I’ve been trying to be still, quiet, and calm. I’ve been trying to understand. As most of you know, I’ve been an open Biden supporter. I’ve known him most of my life and I believe in him. That said, it was hard to feel elated or celebratory when I went to bed Tuesday. I felt a sense of limbo and sadness. And, I must say, it stayed with me up until yesterday.

Over the last few years, I tried to hold onto the belief that we weren’t as divided as people said we were. I thought that, in the end, people would vote for the person who exemplified decency, hope, calm, kindness, faith, and love. I realize now that was oversimplifying things. 

What is clear now is the stark division in our country. What is clear now is that people on both sides have very little understanding of each other. Both sides think of each other as the “other.” This election revealed the complexities that exist within our country and within ourselves. It exposed the dark and the light within us. Millions of people on both sides voted for what they thought was right. And now, here we are.

For me, the silver lining is this: Every vote mattered. The margins were so slim. Imagine if those people hadn’t bothered. Imagine if people thought their vote wouldn’t have made any difference. 

But what will make the biggest difference moving forward is how we all behave given these results. I think each of us is going to have to look at the other inside ourselves. I think we’re going to have to stretch our levels of understanding. We can’t simplify this divide. It’s deep. It’s multilayered. It’s complex. We can’t hide behind righteousness, names, or labels. We have to seek understanding. 

There is a great Rumi quote that says, “What you are seeking is seeking you.” I’ve always loved that, and I think it is THE quote for this moment. I believe that we are each seeking to be understood and to feel less judged. To be accepted for who we are.

I love what Joe Biden said the day after the election. He said he knows there is work to be done. He knows that healing needs to happen. In my humble opinion, he is the right man for this moment. Why? Because he understands grief, pain, anger, and fear. He’s a man who has been brought to his knees. He understands what it feels like to be looked down upon, to be made to feel “less than.” He understands the urge to lash out and, yet, he doesn’t do it. He is seeking what we are seeking: acceptance, unity, visibility, love. He is the tender warrior we all need for this moment. I believe that he, perhaps more than any figure before him, understands that his mandate is to be a “healer in chief.” A healer in tone, in temperament, and in action. He is not a man at the start of his career gunning for the other. He is a man who has been through a lot in life and who is able to reflect, put his ego to the side, reach out to the other, and practice healing. That is a unique talent.

I, too, want to be that kind of person. In this new phase of my own life, nothing else feels quite as important as understanding and accepting what is, as well as who one is at this moment.

We all live with judgments and assumptions of the other. We look at people who appear to have lives of privilege and we make assumptions about them. We look at people who didn’t go to the “right” school and we label them. We see color and sexual identity and we judge. We see people who look, talk, and dress differently, and we judge. We see a Trump voter and we judge. We see a Biden voter and we judge. We tell the other, “I don’t want to hear a yip out of you! You are wrong and we are right.”

That attitude has gotten us to where we are today. I think this election shook all of us (or at least I hope it did). I know it shook me to my core. I also know that it’s up to me to do my part in bridging the lack of understanding that exists within myself and with those in my country. Yesterday, I reached out to a Trump supporter and asked him to gather others who share his beliefs so I could better understand moving forward.

This week, we all came face to face with what is. What will become depends on what we’re willing to give up in order to become who we can be. What you seek is seeking you. 

I know I’m blessed to get another year of life. I have friends who haven’t been given the same gift. I know that how I spend the next days of my life will probably matter more than the years I’ve already lived. I’m wiser now. I’m less afraid. I’ve surprised myself with what I’ve endured and how I’ve survived. My eyes are wide open.

The truth is, I’ve always been a seeker, and now I finally understand that what I’ve been seeking has been right smack in front of me my whole life. It's love. It's acceptance. It's understanding. It's love of who I am, not the family I come from. It's acceptance of who I have become, and of who I am becoming: the most evolved, strong, tender-hearted version of myself. It’s understanding what I’ve been through. It turns out that I didn't need to travel the world seeking anything. I simply needed to give the gift to myself and then accept those who see me, show up for me, and love me. I learned by staying the course, by working on myself, by being willing to let go of beliefs that weren’t mine, by doing tough internal work, by letting out my yips, and by seeing what was buried below them.

One thing we can all admire about our new president elect is how he has stayed the course. Life is filled with so many twists and turns, triumphs and setbacks. Staying the course is a triumph in and of itself. Staying the course is how we got to this moment. And so, here we are all thinking about what can be.

My birthday wish for you is that you discover what can be. My hope is that you discover what you are seeking. I hope it doesn't take you as long as it took me. You are so worth being loved, accepted, and seen. ❤️Amen. 

Love,



PRAYER OF THE WEEK                

Dear God, please help us look deep within ourselves, and outside ourselves. Please help us seek a greater level of understanding. Don’t let us hide behind names or parties or labels. Help us see ourselves as one. Help us heal as one. Amen.

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