Wednesday, June 25, 2014

A year of kindness and loss

DSC05755 (1300x959)Would you choose to live this way,” I asked friends, “or would you make changes?”   They smile: You mean, the loneliness and the uncertainty?  

No, not really, and we all laugh, knowing.

‘Hard work for an uncertain future.  ‘Living frugally in a month-to-month rented room.  ‘Staying connected only by phone calls and emails.

Who would?

“Your business, especially as an expatriate, will take whatever you are willing to give it, then ask for more.” I tell my class.  “You have to recognize and remember, you have to choose, what is important, enduring, and meaningful in life and hold tight to it.”

“Or you can choose to lose it all.”

One year ago, in hard circumstances, I recommitted to those basic principles.  To recognizing the limits of ambition.  To imposing balans en grenzen in my life.  To giving attention and priority to the people who matter most. 

It has been a year of hard lessons and slow progress.

I have come to see things as they are, not as they could or should be.  While I still don’t accept hard truths easily, I have became tough minded in facing them and in recognizing the limits of my abilities to change them.  I have learned to be resilient.

I remember the periods of loss and grief, professional and personal.  The experience is still all too immediate: sitting in darkness with a warm cup of tea between my hands, cloaked in sadness at 4 in the morning, wondering how things came to this.  But I’ve been fortunate to have friends who gave me meaningful advice and tangible kindnesses when I most needed them.  I have learned to be grateful.

I know, now, that holding options diminish the chance for success: Giving commitment is all that matters in relationships and in business.  And that means making choices about what is in and what is out of scope.  Achieving the few most--important things takes focus, patience, and persistence, sometimes giving them less energy rather than more.

I rediscovered the simple pleasures that enrich my life.  Years ago I wrote about the value of sharing insights and laughter together, quiet reflections in open spaces,  sailing wooded coastlines, exploring books that touch and stories that define us; that special warmth found in a close and resonant relationship.  I’ve found that it’s still true: a well-planned ramble, a well-executed recipe, a well-shared conversation, make my days whole again.

My emotions now run closer to the surface than they used to.   I can be embarrassed by sudden vulnerabilities that sometimes appear when talking about past hopes or present passions.   But its also helped me to understand how much connection, communication, compassion, and love mean in my life.  I feel more completely human.

A lot has changed in the year since, and I took a long walk today, taking stock.   The essential elements of my current life, focused and reasonable ambition, balance and boundaries in everyday life, reconnections to family and wezen, have all flowered in peaceful circumstances along the Dorset shore.

I can still do better.  But this June  25, I sip tea, gaze over the sea, and feel content with progress made.

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