By Rosemary Gray-Snelgrove
Christmas, for those who celebrate it, tends to mark our personal histories. (Those who celebrate the other festivals of the equinox might tell me if it’s the same for you). Who was there, where we were, were there children there and how old, who cooked the turkey: such indicators march us through our personal span of years.
The media, of course, trades on this habit by devising great Best Of the Dying Year lists. And so, my will having been battered by the assault of holiday desires, even with my best efforts to keep it all minimal, I’m going to join the crowd and tell you the best things that I learned this past year. There’s not very many. Don’t think I can get up to Top Ten. But the intensity of the greatness of what was discovered makes up for the low number of topics.
Please note, this all focusses on personal learning. Little visible social good was likely to follow my small journey, but it all happens in the context of the wide world of living thinking creative people of which we’re each a part so it is what it is!
The PLASTICITY OF THE BRAIN is the biggest bang of this year and of the whole decade (last one too). Jill Bolte-Taylor and Dr. Norman Doidge, among others, described our capacity to observe ourselves and thus see when we’re heading way off-base in thought and behaviour. Bolte-Taylor told us that our brains will lie to us and build on falsehoods. “Weed our brains”, she said. Get the useless stuff out of there once we’re aware of it – the best single insight and advice for every single human who is tired of messing up.
Doidge is one of many doctors and therapists who now use ‘mindfulness’ or self-awareness and attention to self as ways of assisting people to move beyond patterns of thought and behaviour that are self-destructive (even while we believe our lives depend on maintaining those patterns). I moved on this year from a 10-year relationship with a brilliant, generous and very kind doctor/family therapist, Danny Yeung, who has these skills of assistance. I’m now able, on days when I can’t respond to the beauty in daily life, to watch the plunge of emotions into chasms of my own devising, and watch my misery, but then encourage myself to climb back out. We’re all at a truly significant juncture in human experience, where knowledge of the brain will enlighten us. My prayer is that more and more people can find Helpers who are working at the “Frontiers of Brain Science” (from the title of Doidge’s book, The Brain The Changes Itself – that access to such freedom won’t be restricted to the fortunate, the financially comfortable, the educated. .
Another discovery: those who are called ELDERLY ARE AMONG THE MOST INTERESTING IN THE ENTIRE UNIVERSE OF HUMAN BEINGS. Some, unfortunately, got stuck at some point and haven’t have a chance to move beyond that spot, because of trauma, fear, too much loss, whatever. Yes, some can’t help telling all who will listen about what’s wrong with everything and they don’t want to shift from that comfortable position. But. Many more have kept moving and growing. They have reflected on the past and have interesting conclusions to share. They’ve been through what everybody younger is experiencing in the realms of love, loss, hope, fear. And they have seen what works and what doesn’t. Often they have a unique and humourous take on the scene around them. We’re missing something if we don’t take the time to ask and listen.
A big recognition for me has been the absolute pleasure and opening up of the soul triggered by BEING IN OPEN EXPANSES OF COUNTRYSIDE. A huge stretch of sky, a wide open space to either side of a road, flocks of birds wheeling and moving beautifully in a big patch of blue, fields of healthy growing crops – it’s like my heart slows down in tangible increments and I enter a space that feels like where I was before being born. That’s me. Maybe no one else. But getting beyond the city satisfies something I didn’t realize needed tending.
BEING OUTSIDE is another great re-discovery this year. Just feels better than anywhere else.
THE LOVE OF WRITING from the heart, pausing to let the right word emerge from somewhere in the mind, having a means (the blog) to place that writing among real people out there beyond this room: this year has had that particular richness added to everyday life.
Remembering BARTERING as a way of keeping up a satisfying flow of goods: I’ve never been good at selling and nobody is responding to my Kijiji offerings but a good trade can work well. Just a beginner but along with knitting, and finding ways to make use of the thousands of very good photos in our files dating back over 50 years, 2012 could be fun.
That’s what I hope for you. I’ll take a break from blogging next Friday but see you again January 6th.
If you have some Best Things Learned, add them.
And have the happiest Christmas you can. Many blessings to you all. You really provide a reason to keep writing.