“Character — the willingness to accept responsibility for one's own life — is the source from which self-respect springs.”Joan Didion
Every year I pen our kids a New Year's Letter, but frankly, it's also a primer for myself. So here's the 2022 edition:
My DEAR ones:
Another year means another annual letter. This has been a challenging two years for all of us, and in response to what seems like constant noise and chaos, I have been doing more soul searching. How do I find equilibrium when the surface appears as unsteady as quicksand? After my Cancer Journey During the Time of Covid, I decided to start with reassessing my relationships.
Well, Mom, what does that mean? Last year's illness forced me into solitude that I thought was fine until it wasn't. I let a great deal go — masses of unreturned emails, calls, and managing other responsibilities like our foundation and all the thousand details that make our lives move forward. My world really shrank. Consequently, many of my relationships evaporated. Now some of this was inevitable, perhaps a gift, since everyone grows out of certain relationships. But once my health was restored, I realized that neglecting community, friends, and family takes its toll. You run the risk of your world becoming too precious, too insulated -- an excellent way to wither on the vine.
And frankly, the world is becoming a more challenging place to navigate, so we need each other. This year I hope you can take your lead from my mistakes. Make more time to listen, to ask questions, to be curious. Avoid having what I call "parallel play" conversations where you are merely talking side by side, not with each other. Asserting yourself and not accommodating another's view is garden variety narcissism at best, bullying at worst. The members of the U.S. Congress are a perfect example of this style of communication! You don't have to be correct all of the time or use your words to gain leverage. It took me many years to understand that there is strength in giving power away, in admitting your weaknesses, along with the holes in your perspective and knowledge.
We can start with each other and expand out. It's easy to underestimate what your family has to offer — I did that until it was too late. Relationships take work, take time and take energy. The only control we have is how we walk through our own lives. One key to tranquility is to avoid seeing the world as a series of transactions or in terms of scarcity. Consequently, I need to be that much kinder — to see everyone and accord them respect even if the "returns" are never manifested. There are plenty of people who lower one's vibration, but even then I can throw out some light and move on swiftly. I am trying to say something positive to anyone I encounter unless they look like a maniac and might hit me, particularly on an airplane! One of the many reasons your father is adored by so many is because he sets aside his ego, and doesn't let his prodigious intelligence get in the way. He takes time to see people.
I want to emphasize what I am sure you already know. I built this house to be a sanctuary, even if this community may not wind up being your community. This valley is becoming more and more of a monoculture catering to the one percent of the one percent, so I doubt it holds much appeal or opportunity for you. But it is still breathtakingly beautiful and that feeds the spirit. I want us to be here for each other and to avoid taking each other for granted. Let's do a regularly scheduled family group chat, let's make sure to touch base on a regular basis. We are family, all very different individuals, but that's what makes us special. We sure do love you. Bring it on, 2022!