This is a new year and I want to look forward because I’m so grateful we all made it to this moment. Let’s stop and let that sink in. Let’s pause and remember that we are the lucky ones. We really are. So many others didn’t make it here.
Now, I know you may be reading this and feeling anything but lucky right now. Maybe your holiday wasn’t filled with joy. Maybe it was difficult in ways you never imagined. Maybe you are disillusioned by what we witnessed this week and are already feeling disheartened about the start of this year. Trust me, I get it. Things haven’t been easy.
What matters, though, is today. It’s actually all we have. Here we are, each of us, together in community. Thank you.
Today, we each get to decide where to put our struggles and/or our pain. The same goes for our missteps, our regrets, our old wounds, and even our successes and triumphs. We each get to decide how the opening chapter of this new year will go and decide how to shape our narrative and share our lessons. That is tremendous personal power!
Many years ago, a friend gave me advice that I’ve never forgotten. He said to me, “Maria, don’t let your story be about the sad, heartbreaking things that have happened in your life. Make that a chapter, as it is part of your story, but don’t think of it as your whole story. The whole story—the one that will make you proud—will be about how you kept growing and kept trying. It will be about how you found your way to what you call ‘the open field.’”
“Don’t ever allow your life story to end up in the tragedy section,” he continued. “Keep it going and growing. Make sure it ends up in the heroine’s section!”
Good advice, right?
And so, my friends, in this new year I say to you what my friend said to me: Make sure your story is one of triumph. Make sure it’s one of joy and inspiration to yourself and to others. Make your story one that you can be proud of. Do not let it be about humiliation and tragedy, or rejection and shame. Don’t make it about what you didn’t do or didn’t achieve. Let it be about light. Let it be about your evolution. Make it inspiring. Make it about paving the way forward.
I have always used the image of “the open field” to keep me going. It’s an image that came to me while reading Rumi, who wrote about going out beyond right and wrong and meeting each other in a field. Rumi’s words inspired me to envision an open field, one out beyond right and wrong, but also out beyond shame, judgment, fear, and age. That destination has always kept me hopeful. Even in my darkest moments, I use the image of this open field to move forward.
Today, I find myself at this moment in my life feeling very different than I did at this time last year. My heart is wide open and yet I’m conscious of all the cracks in it. I’m conscious of the fragility of life and my own vulnerability. When I look ahead, I see a blank canvas. I have, for the first time in my life, no plans for my future. Zip. Zero. When that dawned on me over the holidays, it terrified me, but now I’m surrendering to it. There is no other choice. I look at this year as a wide open field. I look at it as a year of possibilities and a year of rest. I want to hold that paradox. My intention is to stand in my unknowing, even though it scares me to accept it and surrender to that reality.
That’s new for me as I’ve always been a fighter and a warrior. I grew up with all brothers in a big Irish Catholic family, and it was a deeply competitive environment. I know this last year was a struggle for so many of us, and it felt like we needed a fighter mentality to survive. But this year, I no longer want to “fight” to be seen, loved, or accepted. I no longer want to fight people with opposing political opinions or different opinions on COVID. The struggle that most of us engage in 24/7 is exhausting.
Letting go of the fight or the need to figure everything out doesn’t mean you will not thrive. So instead of trying to think and map everything out with my beautiful mind this year, I’m going to try to move toward feeling things out with my beautiful, tender heart. It’s time for my intuition, my heart, and my soul to take over. I’m actually relieved!
And so, if you also find yourself exhausted from all the fighting inside your mind and out in the world… If you find your heart in shambles… Walk with me. I’d actually love the company. I’m tired of walking alone.
My heart, with all of its cracks, still deeply believes in love. It still believes that people are fundamentally good. It still believes that our country’s best days, just like our own, are in front of us. It’s so important to focus on hope, otherwise you will feel hopeless, desolate, and desperate.
So, in this new year, right alongside our country, may we each feel our way into a new beginning. May we each feel our way into healing. May we each feel our way into a new part of our story, one that puts us squarely in the center of our lives. One that shines light on us. (The above photo was taken by my daughter Christina. She sent it to me saying, “Look mommy, there is a beam of light coming out of you!” That made me smile.)
The fact is, there is a beam of light coming out of each of us. It, in turn, allows us to shine our light onto others. I believe this with all my heart. We are not here to fight each other or ourselves. We are here to love and be loved. To care and be cared for. To help and be helped. To heal our wounds, as well as those of the ones we love. We are here to work and to rest. We are here to play, no matter our age. We are here to keep learning and growing. We are here to write our stories and to pass them on.
Like many, I had an incorrect story playing out in my head for much of my life that I was always “too much” and yet “never enough.” I worried that my needs were too big, that my light was too bright, and yet not as bright as others in my family. I also worried that people who were in families like mine actually shouldn’t have needs. I believed you had to work to be loved and that if you stopped, you would be nothing. It was all a lie.
So, if you grew up with a story that no longer serves you, simply close out that chapter and begin anew. Tell yourself what I now tell myself: You are not too much, Maria. You are not too little, Maria. You are not too needy, too weak, or unworthy. You are not invisible. You are not in someone’s way. In fact, you are the way! Your story is your most magnificent undertaking. You can make it awe-inspiring because it already is. Don’t look to others to validate your story or your existence. Don’t look to others to provide the love you missed out on as a child. Don’t look to others to mother you or father you. Don’t look to others to heal the child in you. No one can do that for you, nor should they.
You can do that for you. You have the pen in your hand, so get to writing. Know that how you tell your story can change your life and someone else’s as well. Stay open, stay curious, and keep the light on.
Happy 2021, my friends. I’ll see you out in the open field."