Winter Solstice 2014 – Shedding Skins

“Despite the wariness with which I approach resolutions, reluctant to imbue another year with a blazing expectancy, I do appreciate the winter walking alonefreshness of January, the invitation to dream and dare again, even if our footsteps are caked in the dust of past imagining.”
These wonderful words were written by Naila Francis, a close friend of our family who lives in Philadelphia. On the cusp of leaving one place of employment for another after many years, Naila  could no longer tolerate the restrictions of her job requirements.
She continues.
“Of course, I am sad to say goodbye, sadder still at the circumstances that have led to this particular exit. Yet I am also aware it is up to me to take a stand for my own happiness, to praise the shiver of aliveness that will steer us to any pursuit worth our while.”
[You can read more of Naila’s reflections at]
Personally, I’ve never really done New Year’s resolutions. I’ve preferred to go with the winter’s Solstice, the longest night of the year, when each successive day allows the light to linger a bit longer. On December 22nd, odd as it may seem, I begin to celebrate the “mud-lusciousness” of Spring.
I do believe that every season, every encounter, every experience is an invitation to step through the fears and self-doubts that keep us from blossoming into the colors we were born to display. Recently, when I mentioned to friends that I don’t feel as if I’ve accomplished what I’m on this planet to do, they were a bit dumbfounded.
“You, of all people…??”
Yet, that’s my unarguable truth. And I wondered what my emotional gut was trying to tell me.
It may have been that instead of simply following my bliss, as Joseph Campbell described it, I’ve looked for too much recognition from others, rather than settle into that bliss for its own sake. On the other hand, I’m aware of ways in which my busyness (which, of course, I can always justify!) protects me from certain risks.  “I just don’t have the time to return to music….too busy to sit and write….” and on and on.
A risky place, however, is often the unannounced springboard into our dreams and visions, the possibilities that excite and petrify us simultaneously.  Stepping in front of groups of people to speak and to inspire is my comfort zone; the time spent in isolated reflection to prepare for these talks, to be alone in search of my bliss and my truth, is more daunting…and brings “shivers of aliveness.”
Sometimes it’s the fact that those around us cling to us and pull us back into old patterns. Often times, they are family; at times, our colleagues and managers at work.
But whether it is an inside job of Self-restriction or the braking action of others not willing to let us leave home, we atrophy and, at times, even die in these places of fear and guilt. We abandon the authentic journey, and opt for the crippling familiarity of repetitious steps.
Mary Oliver, in her poem The Journey, said it so well:


Mary OliverOne day you finally knew
what you had to do, and began,
though the voices around you
kept shouting
their bad advice –
though the whole house
began to tremble
and you felt the old tug
at your ankles.
“Mend my life!”
each voice cried.
But you didn’t stop.
You knew what you had to do,
though the wind pried
with its stiff fingers
at the very foundations,
though their melancholy
was terrible.
It was already late
enough, and a wild night,
and the road full of fallen
branches and stones.
But little by little,
as you left their voices behind,
the stars began to burn
through the sheets of clouds,
and there was a new voice
which you slowly
recognized as your own,
that kept you company
as you strode deeper and deeper
into the world,
determined to do
the only thing you could do –
determined to save
the only life you could save.

-Mary Oliver, from Dream Work

Wishing all of you a courageous and expansive 2015.