With the holidays just around the corner, my thoughts have traveled back to the many years I have spent enjoying Christmas and New Year’s with my family. It’s a special time for many people; for me it is particularly sweet because it’s one of the few times I see my family. It is a time for connection, love, gifts, laughter and so much good food. It is also a time to hold those who have left us or who are suffering with extra softness.
This year I reflect back on these family moments with even more fondness and with gratitude that runs so deep. It is also accompanied by a different feeling of distance since living in Vietnam. What a unique experience it has been to be here during holiday season without all of the commercialization that tends to go along with Christmas. There have been just a few moments, each of which I have savored, when a Christmas carol has come across the loud speaker – each time I have that feeling in my heart that feels both joyous and sad.
I moved away from the mid-west for the second time just 4.5 years ago to take a new job and explore the Pacific Northwest and Seattle. It was there that I met my husband, and immediately following our marriage, we moved to Vietnam. Each step of this part of my journey has been filled with tension. It’s tough to really put into words what it feels like to have such a profound, huge, sweet, incredible love for my family, and simultaneously feel called to make choices in my life that leave such a great distance between us. Each time I see photos of my sisters, my brothers, my nieces and nephews on facebook I have that same duality of feeling – such sweet happiness and a feeling of loss. Each time I talk to my parents I’m thrilled to hear their voices and share our lives, yet when the reality of how far away I am enters into our conversation, I feel pain well up inside. There are also many moments when I just think of my family and how much I love and miss them – and I have tears come to my eyes and trickle down my cheeks.
I don’t try to push it away, but rather acknowledge the complexity and the true sadness that lives inside the messiness that is the unknown. I am more consciously and explicitly living my life step-by-step; instead of pretending I have it all mapped out, I simply say that I don’t know. And in some ways that makes the tension feel that much more present. I am so grateful for those who are on this path whom I love so much – this tension is a gift. So I invite you to reflect on the areas of your life in which you feel tension. Areas where you may feel pulled in different directions, or feel you are holding conflicting feelings. How can you be even more open and present to this reality? What gifts may be awaiting you through this time?