“Your life has a purpose as long as you dedicate it to love. It’s not what we do but who we are that forms our biggest contribution.” ~ Marianne Williamson
Between now and December 21 (the winter solstice) we have a chance to reconnect and recharge and celebrate the darkest days of the year. We remember our pagan roots as we put up our Christmas trees, sing old English carols, and deck the halls with boughs of holly. We swim in the soup of our yearnings, long for the return of the light, and tuck in to weather the winter months. This is the celebration before the snow storm, the time to savor our connections and be grateful for all that is good in our lives. This is the time to experience the rebirth of wonder.
As a Buddhist, I feel more connected to celebrating the solstice than I do to the celebration of Christmas (which actually grew from the Pagan ceremonies on the solstice, if you know the history). I love the notion of using the solstice as a time to reconnect and reassess and re-experience what’s good in my life. We can cull and let go of what is outmoded and no longer working, and embrace a newer, sweeter version of our lives. We can re-determine our direction in life, and re-calibrate our inner compasses. If we’ve gone off track, this is the part of the year—a long, restful hibernation of sorts — that allows us to dream a better way of life into being.
Know that we are loved.
Don’t get me wrong. I love Christmas. I just don’t love the commercial version of Christmas that seems to revolve around guilt and spending money we don’t have on stuff we don’t need. I love making gifts like handmade cards or soap. I love writing Christmas letters and thanking the people who’ve made my life good during the past year. However, I don’t care much whether I ever own an XBox or the latest smart phone.
I don’t need to have presents piled under my tree in order to feel loved. I know that I am loved. I feel it. Every single day.
So, what is my holiday wish for the world?
Peace. Tenderness. Care. Collaboration.
Next year, I want to read about the wonders that children are experiencing in our society. The things they are learning. The way that their hearts and minds are shaping the future. I don’t want to read about another baby being shot by his brother with a gun that looks like a toy. I don’t want to read about guns that are left unlocked where children can find them. I don’t want to read about any mothers and fathers burying a child because of lax, careless gun owners. I want to see us protect and nurture our children. We claim that we see our children as precious and irreplaceable.
Let’s treat them that way.
Education. Universal healthcare.
Next year, I want to hear about the books that people are reading. The stories that captivate their imaginations. The epic tales and sad sagas that help us understand life on earth.
I want everyone who is sick to have access to healthcare—preventative healthcare, emergency healthcare, life-saving healthcare. Illness is a part of life. It is not assigned to some as retribution for their moral failings. It is a universal suffering that all of us will encounter at one point or another.
Trust me, the day will come when you need care. We all will. Let’s make sure that care is available when we are most vulnerable and lost and in need.
Full hearts and bellies. Kindness to animals. Respect for women and children.
I want to know that my tax dollars are providing meals for women and children and seniors who most need them. No one should be hungry in this country. No one.
I want us to stop killing shelter animals and stop breeding more animals. Everyday we slaughter millions of healthy stray cats and dogs. We must stop the carnage. Now.
I want to see women and children valued simply because they are here. Let’s respect the contributions and gifts of women and children. They are the life-blood, the empathy, the caretakers of our civilization. We need them. We need their open voices and creative minds.
Love. Love. Love. All We Need is Love.
I want us to walk away from fear and divisiveness. When cut, each one of us bleeds the same way. We are 99.9% similar. That one-tenth of one percent causes wars and rows and trouble without end. But we can choose to look at life differently. We can. If we perceive a benevolent, loving universe, our experience will, in fact, change. Immediately.
Dream a new world into being.
So, I dream of transformation and reformation and rebirth. I believe in wonder and the ability of the human heart to grow exponentially.
We are not destined to be shriveled, whining sacks of complaint, unless we choose to be that. And who in his or her right mind would choose that? Is that any way to live this infinitely precious, incredibly beautiful life?
We get to choose. Every day, gratitude or complaint. Every day, love or fear.
Your choices affect everyone.
Like an invisible thread, your choices bind you to the rest of the world.
Shavawn M. Berry’s work has appeared or is forthcoming in The Huffington Post, elephant journal, Journey of the Heart: Women’s Spiritual Poetry, Olentangy Review, Black Fox Literary Magazine, Vagina – The Zine, Rebelle Society, The Cancer Poetry Project 2, Kinema Poetics, Kalliope, Poet Lore, Westview – A Journal of Western Oklahoma, Meridian Anthology of Contemporary Poetry, Concho River Review, North Atlantic Review, Synapse, Living Buddhism, Blue Mountain Arts/SPS, and Poetry Seattle. Her technique essay on the dramatic monologue/persona poem is featured in a poetry database published in 2013 by Ebsco Publishing. In 1998, she received her MPW in Professional Writing from the University of Southern California in Los Angeles where she specialized in Creative Nonfiction and Memoir.
Ms. Berry teaches writing at Arizona State University where she just completed a 2013 Lincoln Ethics Teaching Fellowship. You can follow her on Facebook or read more of her work on her blog. A portfolio featuring a selection of her essays, blog postings, and prose is available at Shavawnberry.contently.com.
Image: Street Art, St. Martin Island