FMM 12 16 2022 What is your intention?
“Life, if well lived, is long enough.” ~ Lucius Annaeus Seneca.
December is the best month. I say this, of course, because it is the month of my birth. And then there is that other great day that falls just five days before my day. As a spiritual person with an instinctive love of the pagan origins of nature worship, I also love the fact that my birthday falls around the time of the winter solstice. I was tickled when I learnt that the Romans, wishing to convert those pagans to Christianity, coopted the local festival held around the time of the solstice, to honor the god Saturn. At a time in the northern hemisphere when the daylight was the shortest, it was important to entreat the gods to bless the seeds sown at that time and hope that the sun would return.
Capitalism, with its endless thirst for rapacious spending, has turned the season into one long ad campaign. Where we used to have kids writing to a mythical Santa Claus living in the North Pole, now we have kids browsing the web, and sending their mothers electronic lists with the hyperlinks to the desired items. Even those of us who would wish that people don’t spend money on us (please make a donation in my name to a charity of your choice!), get guilted into buying gifts for others. For who doesn’t love opening an unexpected gift?
As an adult I am still looking for that feeling you got as a child in the leadup to Christmas, that anticipation, that smell, those decorations that sparkled and teased. In Jamaica, especially up in the cool hills, a special breeze could be felt in the early morning and late evening, ‘Christmas breeze’ would come visiting, originating in those snowy northern climes, reaching all the way from Canada to Jamaica. The traditions that help make the season special no longer seem to hold those same feelings. Perhaps it is because, as you age, the season comes around faster every year! We no sooner have Thanksgiving than we are shouting ‘Happy New Year’ and another page turns.
I heard a phrase the other day, one of those you never hear any more. When last did someone part with you and say ‘Make sure you write’? We don’t sit down and put pen to paper, create amusing, entertaining, newsful, sentimental letters. My mother would tell us ‘you don’t have to write every week’. She had seen her husband write a weekly letter to his mother faithfully over the years, and she was well aware that our lives were not always filled with interesting activities. She would complain about letters that were filled with ‘woffle,’ (waffle?) noise rather than entertainment.
She could be quite lyrical in her own letters, including local gossip, description of events, a colorful narrative that kept you informed, that made you imagine your old home-town. She used those old ‘aerograms’ or airmail letters, (three-folded self-sealing pre-paid pages that could be written, addressed and dropped in a mailbox without much ado). She would often find she had run out of space and squeeze in a few last words along the edge, at right-angles to the main block. As a secretary with shorthand skills she had already perfected the art of abbreviations, so those last lines might be a string of letters that you would then have to decipher. LOL was lots of love. YDHTWEW (mentioned above) was the reminder that you did not have to write every week. To save space she would use initials instead of full names so you would have to figure out who EJ was, only to shout out weeks later, Evan Jackson, of course!
This week I was thinking about the importance of intentions, and how with the best of intentions we can set off chain reactions that we never anticipated. With our modern tools of communication, it is amazing how easy it is to miscommunicate. A text swiftly swiped and sent may include totally bogus words. An unpunctuated message may offend. An email sent while still in a reactive mode may express far more emotion than you would wish. It is way too easy. A letter, especially when you had to pay for the privilege of sending it, required more thought, more commitment.
But I was also thinking of that other aspect of intention, one of intentionality. This is a positive act of setting your goal, of deciding on a mode of being in the world, and then following through. It requires being much more aware, more present, more mindful. Too often we are ruled by our thoughts, those unruly things that run ahead of us, traveling down unnecessary rabbit holes and distracting us from the here and now. Acting with intentionality can change your whole mindset, turning obstacles into amusing anecdotes; difficult people into problems for others to solve; extra challenges into a way to test your own powers of invention. And it may be something as simple as honoring the rising of the sun to remind you that you are one small speck of dust on this planet, and that for millennia the earth has been revolving around the sun without needing your help. Which can then put those daily worries into perspective.
This delicious December, I hope those around you can recognize your intentions, even if your acts don’t live up to them. Too often we don’t realize that we are judged by those acts and not the intention behind them, so we may need to be clearer. Although, as I said, my mother could write beautiful letters, her spoken words could often be harsh, could offend. Her filter was often out of place, and she would not know what she had done. But she never stopped trying to improve. Over her typewriter, pinned to her cork board, she had handwritten verses with positive themes, as if always aware she had room to grow.
For me, December has become even more special over the years, as the month when my father died, and my mother was buried. And I don’t resent these memories sharing space with my own special day (which is also the anniversary of the death of two of my mother’s sisters).
On this Friday morning, I wish that everyone reading this can recall those childhood feelings with a smile; I hope that even if there are sad memories of those who are no longer here to receive gifts or letters, that you can still feel their presence. And I hope that you can set your intentions to make every interaction today, a positive one.
Have a wonderful weekend, Family!