Excerpts From a Letter to Myself

For the past 20 years I’ve had a personal tradition of taking some time on New Years Eve to write into a kind of time capsule. It’s private — just for me, an honest outpouring and reflection of where I’m at in key areas of my life because I’m not worried about anyone else reading it or what they might think. It’s an important part of my process of understanding where I’m currently at by remembering how I felt in prior years.

This year I decided to share just a few small excerpts from my entry.

Every new beginning comes from some other beginning’s end

A new year is always a new beginning in a way. I’ve had to start over in life a number of times in a variety of ways. I’ve almost gotten used to it. It’s always hard, but it’s a time of valuable reflection.

I recently found the Father Mike Schmitz podcast and his episode on Saying Goodbye, Starting Over, and Transitioning I thought was pure gold. “Change is something that happens to us. Transition is something that we cooperate with,” he says. I’m doing my best to honor what came before but make room for the beginning of something new, to learn from prior endings but be open to life’s unending possibilities.

Father Mike says this about beginnings. “The beginning itself can often be even more challenging than the ending. Everything is unknown. You don’t have your bearings. Beginnings can be so difficult that we second guess if we did the right thing. Be patient with yourself — Don’t freak out, don’t run away, and let yourself be a beginner. Beginners ask questions. Beginners don’t know automatically. Beginners make mistakes. Beginners ask for help. Give yourself permission to be a beginner, to ask questions, to make mistakes, to need help. And remember, that last place you left, that was a sad goodbye maybe, because it was home, it was familiar, it was something you were passionate about. You started off as a beginner there too. You’ve done this before, you know what it’s like. Be patient. Know that the Lord is using this right now to purify your heart, to invite you to lean in more deeply and closely with his heart , and to invite him into the beginning.”

That’s my prayer for this year.

Reconnecting with my life force

“Focus on your life force and everything else will fall into place.” – Phil Stutz, in the Netflix documentary by Jonah Hill on his therapist Phil Stutz, who said if you’re not sure what to do with your life, to focus first on your body (exercise, diet), then other people (have lunch with a friend), then yourself (just write and see what comes out). This really resonated with me, in part because I had already started down this path and already felt started to feel more optimistic because of it. While I have some plans and I know what I want out of life long term, I really just want to focus on my life force and see where that takes me.

Be like the surfer

“Be like the surfer” is kind of a private reference for me. This year Sydney participated in Surfers’ Healing, where they take autistic kids out surfing – yes actually riding waves on a real surf board (a bit of a shock to at least this east coaster who had never even seen an adult surfing in real life). I was so moved by the whole event, that so many people would give back in this way. It was such an amazing opportunity and it was all free for kids with autism. Sydney’s volunteer surfer made an impression on me. He was out surfing with her for quite a while, maybe 45 mins. They’d ride a wave in and he’d just put her back on the surf board and head out again. I don’t know why exactly it made such an impression on me. Something about the way he carried himself and her. Sydney was in a bit of a mood that morning, she was impatient and unwilling to wait, she had trouble even standing in line and my forcing her to stay in place wasn’t helping things. But the surfer didn’t seem to mind. He just worked with her and kept heading out. As her father I want to have that attitude. She might be kicking, screaming and discontent, but instead of yelling at her, telling her “that’s not nice”, I just carry on with being her father and caring for her the best I can. Just put her back on the surf board with me and head out again to try to ride the next wave.

So this short saying, “be like the surfer” is a shortcut for me to reconnect with this picture of love that demands effort, tons of patience, and sacrifice.

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