“You say goodbye, and I say hello” John Lennon
All good things must come to an end. And so a trip to the family, to England and Wales comes to an end. With it come the regrets, the questions. What if? What if I did not live in Miami? What if I had stayed in England many years ago? What if my father had never set sail for Jamaica, family in tow. What if?
But life is a series of choices. There are times when we feel, even tell others, we have no choice. We are stuck in a situation with no way out. Yet the truth is, we always have choices. Even the choice not to make changes is a choice. And when we fail to recognize that we have such choices, we give power over our lives to others.
I have been fortunate in my life, and many of my own choices stem from the choice my father made many years ago. Do we recognize the consequences of decisions we have made? There are those whose lives are changed in an instant, a sudden accident results in an absolute change in their life, and forever they are able to mark their life into before and after. Those who suffer severe trauma, paralyzing accidents, sudden loss of loved ones, they can clearly tell you when their life changed for the better or the worse. For most of us, the changes in our lives are more subtle: a baby born, then another, soon responsibilities and bills and a life of commitments. And when we look back over the arc of our lives we cannot see the decisions that we made that led us to this place. We do not recognize the role we played, the choices we made, the life we have created that now seems to tie us down.
There are those whose faith reassures them that an unseen force, a divine hand guides their decisions, ensuring that they make the right choices, guaranteeing the outcome will be assured. For many others of us, we have no idea, sometimes choosing carefully, comparing the pluses and the minuses, trying to estimate the impact of a decision made today. Often it is not until some time has elapsed that we can look back and congratulate ourselves, and maybe as we retell the tale we recount how sure we were, some gut instinct helped us as we stared at the paths ahead.
I have to confess that I often question decisions I have made. I am not strong on instinct, no intuition, no voice whispering which path to take. I have wafted on the breeze, enjoying the results of convictions, or moods, or who knows what. And as a result I find myself leaving one part of my family for another, traveling thousands of miles as I have to choose between two continents. Not to mention the tugging I feel whenever I visit Jamaica. But the same tugging and feelings of sadness carry within them the joy, the wonder of being able to claim many different places as home. The tears that tickle under the surface as I leave one place carry within them the pride of being cosmopolitan, a world citizen, a person who is able to feel at home in many places.
We cannot have it all ways, cannot know the comfort of never being far from home if we are world travellers. We cannot know the beauty of different cultures and environments if we stay within stone’s throw of our birth place. We cannot move easily between groups and societies if we are limited by the radius of one village. So with these perks come the knowledge that we are removed from the land of our birth, the district of our upbringing, the land that seems as familiar as the backs of our hands. Mixed with the sadness comes the happiness, the recognition that the bigger world, the larger landscape has provided us with an appreciation of what we left, as well as an enjoyment of the wide universe we inhabit.
A new year suggests opportunities for new choices, maybe changing the way we live, eat, or play. It calls for a re-evaluation of our life to date, perhaps encourages us to bravely make big changes. The reality is that changing the externals yields very few results if the internal environment is unchanged. The biggest change we can make is in our attitude. If we decide to view our life differently that will provide us with a whole new life story. Sometimes all it takes is a decision to view our old lives in a new light. If each time we are faced with a challenge we instead view it as a wonderful opportunity, we can create a new reality. If instead of longing for the past, fighting the compromises that seem to be forced upon us, we look for the bright, the new, the different, we can find a zest and an optimism that has been missing.
Life is not easy, and we may be hit with many obstacles. But if we look for different ways of seeing things, if we try to celebrate the new, the different, the diverse, we may find ourselves appreciating our old lives anew, seeing a New Year as an opportunity for reframing the old in a way that makes us smile instead of frown, relax instead of tense up.
As I sit on an airplane between England and America, I feel blessed and enriched by the memories of the past ten days, and happy that I have loving family members that sent me on my way, as well as loving family members awaiting my return. And while I may irritate and annoy both sets, as they may frustrate me, I know that within the frustration and irritation lie the unconditional love and acceptance that family members give each other. And so I smile, thanking whatever it was that made my father and mother come together and create the family that exists today, the family that is giving rise to a new generation and a new reality, full of opportunities and challenges.
I thank all those who have been following my Friday Morning Messages over the past few years, and hope that I have provided a little stimulus for seeing life in a slightly different way, through a different lens. Thank you for your support, your feedback and your jokes, they help to mold this new generation of messages.