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Well, where do I start? What. A. Year.
Yet, somehow, now more than ever, I feel compelled to close my eyes, breathe and repeat—to hold on to the lovely moments and breathe away the not-so-lovely ones. Life is a blessing, and I’ve always felt that, but this year has taught us this more than most, perhaps more than ever.
I know how lucky I am to be writing this and, indeed, how lucky you are to be reading it (even if we disagree—that, in itself, is a blessing that not everyone has the “luxury” to do), no matter how hard things are and might seem. Hope, love, and peace are needed more than ever and are all around us.
Christmas is coming and, as some may say, “the goose is getting fat.” But whether you celebrate Christmas, Hanukkah, winter solstice, something in between, something else entirely, or nothing, this year has taught me one thing more than anything: both inner and outer peace are everyone’s responsibility and can offer us the solace we so deeply crave, even if we don’t yet know we’re craving it or that it’s what we need.
Conversations with those near and dear over the past few months has led me to think that people have gone through life and all it so often entails—the beautiful moments, the horrific moments, the ups and downs, the mundane, and the joy in between—and have experienced every emotion they’ve felt to the greatest degree yet this year. They’ve felt alive, and to be able to say that, this and every year, is the greatest blessing of all.
The Oxford Dictionary offers many examples of the general usage of the word “peace.” For example: “freedom from anxiety, disturbance (emotional, mental, or spiritual), or inner conflict; calm, tranquility, peace of mind; freedom from civil unrest or disorder; public order and security.” I take these as examples of inner and outer peace, which are indeed heavily intertwined and both, somewhat, within our control to impact partly, if not wholly, depending on our view of right livelihood and life purpose.
I’m starting to believe that peace cannot be defined, but felt, lived, and experienced, and that is exactly what and how life is intended to be—lived and felt. This year has been incredibly disruptive for many, and far from tranquil. But there are those tranquil moments all around us, if we search for them and choose to really see them.
The birds who nested in my garden for the very first time, the friend who dropped off my favorite coffee on my doorstep just because, or the ability to walk down a main road feeling like the queen of the universe when cars were few and far between in lockdown one (we’re now in lockdown three in Wales, UK). There are always opportunities to be still when everything around us is changing.
That is how I will be spending my Christmas period. Choosing to search, to really see, and, where I can, breathe into the stillness.
How do I find peace in the madness? In the midst of the fear and uncertainty that this pandemic has single-handedly bred? Through hope and by having faith that inner and outer peace are not a state but a process and are totally possible, I harness the control to choose how I deal with what comes my way.
Maitri. This year taught me and offered me an insight into the power that I don’t have and the power that I do. By living and carving new ways each day to be kind to others and myself, I used the powers I had. I took deep breaths, I wrote, I meditated, I sang. I reached out to an incredible network of friends and family who nurture that feeling of home, hope, belonging, and everything in between.
I held on to hope for better, hope for more, that we can all do better and be more. Surely, we owe it to ourselves and each other and the loved ones that this year took from us far too soon.
This year has offered me time to think and analyse my own behavior and response to events in my own life to date. I’ve decided that instead of being so quick to speak, instead of arguing, I want to listen. Instead of “playing hard to get” and investing in silly dating games, I want to listen to learn and hold on a little tighter.
Dear friends, I know the burden will feel lighter when we are all able to be together again. Oh, I can’t wait to look into your eyes and share a smile without being in the Zoom room and feel the warmth that you create—even in silence, your spirit shines.
It seems that in a time when collective unity and cohesion are needed, politics has become frayed, frivolous, and fragmented. But I choose to believe that there is more, a better way to be, to act, to achieve, and to strive for something we all deserve: peace for today and for all of the tomorrows (we hope) that are yet to come.
It seems that the pandemic has monopolized our news media, conversation, and airtime space (rightly so), but this has meant that much of the ongoing struggles and new ones have been sidelined and sometimes silenced—human rights atrocities, rights of displaced people, coverage of localized and international poverty, humanitarian crisis, and all of the injustice in between. They have been concealed, but never forgotten. I promise that I hear you and your call, even if every effort has been made to ensure that I don’t.
Sure, peace at Christmas has long been a tagline and phrase used to embellish greeting cards and festive messaging, but what does it actually mean and why do we choose Christmas to promote this message? Isn’t peace something we should promote and embrace every day of the year?
Undoubtedly, many thousands (if not millions) of people will be alone this Christmas or experience suffering induced or perpetuated by the coronavirus pandemic. There are no words, and that is where inner peace comes in—to hold us when the injustice feels too strong to bear, too hard to handle. Just know, I write this with complete compassion, care, and commendation. You matter, and I hear you.
So, with my individual intentions outlined above and in honoring your individual beliefs, whatever they may be, I wish you peace, whatever that might mean to you.
Peace be with you.