Living Now That Which We Seek

I wrote my first blog in this space in December of 2012. Since that time I have not written as much as I would have liked. Recently, I stumbled on the Holiday Letter letter I wrote in December of 2011, and it struck me that those two pages contained more guidance and inspiration than most of the things I had written over the years. The value was not so much in what I had said, but in the work of others (including my daughter) whom I quoted and shared in that missive. I am posting it here, with the hope that some of you might still find inspiration and comfort in these words.

I always admired the late Reverend Peter Gomes, whose messages from the pulpit in Harvard’s Memorial Church stirred a lot of souls – especially the memorial services he offered at each of the reunions we attended. Years ago I got to introduce Peter at a church fundraising dinner.  (When he referred to me as “Brother Durham” during his remarks, this mid-western hayseed felt like he had made it to the big time!) Recently, we received a flyer announcing an auction of the contents of Peter’s home. This flyer did what death usually does – reminded me of the value of life.

On page 283 of his book, The Good Life, Reverend Gomes wrote: “The good life is not to be found wrapped up and waiting for us like the Dead Sea Scrolls or some ancient artifacts from a culture that once flourished but is now long gone. Not at all. The good life, whose object, like that of hope, is a future good….enables us to live now that which we seek.” Living now that which we seek makes so much sense. Why do we think that real joy is the goal, rather than a daily choice? I am sure Peter left behind some wonderful items for auction, but the beauty of those antiques can’t compete with the messages of love and good-heartedness he left behind.

Peter also wrote and spoke about gratitude – which has been mentioned in numerous blogs and Holiday Letters over the years. Those of us who write these annual missives predictably express gratitude for our family and friends, and for the many blessings we have been given. For some reason, though, I have resisted practicing gratitude formally by following recommended rituals. That may seem a little odd in the face of overwhelming evidence that keeping a so-called ‘Gratitude Journal’ makes us happier. Yet, I have not been able to discipline myself to do that, or anything else that is recommended by those who have studied the phenomenon.

One writer suggested that we should cultivate gratitude by taking a moment during each meal to tell those gathered what we are thankful for – not just during the Thanksgiving meal, but always. (It could lead to surprises, as I remember one Thanksgiving dinner at which a young Reid said he was thankful for Oprah and Wheel of Fortune.)  Maybe we will try this one in ’12.

Specifically, this year we are grateful that Paige is actually a fabulous teenager–the kind you can only hope for. (Can you believe she is driving?) We are thankful that Craig continues to pursue his passion of broadcasting baseball, and that he is enjoying all that Florida has to offer. We are grateful that Reid has continued to advance in his development; and we are grateful for the way Karen and I still have fun in all that we do together. We are thankful for a wonderful vacation at the O’Brien’s house on Lake Gaston, NC, where Captain Pat turned over the helm to Reid, and Paige mastered the Jet Ski. We loved the celebration in San Francisco with Gary and Barbara, Sarah, Paul, Roxie and Jarrett Tolman (who mixed in a half marathon!). We are grateful for Adam Tolman, and all who give service to this country. We are grateful for Denise, who keeps Karen running, and for Tom who shares his wonderful wit and wines with us. I am grateful that lawyers keep buying The Essential Little Book of Great Lawyering (recently published in Malaysia, of all places). And I am grateful to have a job I genuinely enjoy. We are all especially grateful that Karen has rediscovered yoga, as it opens her loving heart even wider.

As some of you know from years of reading about Reid, he lives ‘in the moment’ with great joy. “Live now that which we seek…”  So, I thought I would share with you a poem I wrote about Reid several years ago. (Read the right column first…)

There is something about Reid

that makes us smile

when he finds joy in the simplest things.

There is something about Reid

that makes him giggle,

seeing a moon, a sun, or a mouse.

 

There is something about Reid

that makes us happy

in the way his sweet heart sings.

 

There is something about Reid

that is so sincere when he invites

strangers for “supper me house?”

 

There is something about Reid

that gives us joy

as he asks for his favorite shows.

 

There is something about Reid

that touches souls

with the merriment our lives don’t allow.

 

There is something about Reid

that impresses us all

when we discover what he really knows.

 

There is something about Reid

that changes our hearts

when he says “me happy now.”

 

After Craig wrote such a terrific holiday letter last year, many of you are probably a little disappointed to see me back in the game. And I had truly thought I was retired. But when your brother comes through major brain surgery safely and successfully, you feel compelled to write a little bit more about gratitude — and miracles.

Those of you who have read The Secret know that there is great power in our thoughts. When it was discovered that Rick had a tumor, hundreds of people openly offered “thoughts and prayers.” Relatives, friends, contacts on Facebook and LinkedIn, co-workers at my firm, everyone at Grandville Printing, and the parishioners at our church all offered “thoughts and prayers.” (Even a stranger I chatted with in Denver added Rick to his prayer list…) Don’t ever doubt the power of thoughts and prayers. There is no doubt in my mind that the team of surgeons had an extra pair of divine hands in the operating room. The joy we feel knowing that Rick will be fine is indescribable. I look forward to playing lots of golf with him in the years to come.

Amidst all of this, I continue to be moved by remarks made by the Headmaster of Dedham Country Day School at a Thanksgiving assembly over a year ago.  Loosely interpreted, he reminded us that we should be thankful for sadness, because it magnifies our happiness. We should be thankful for loneliness, as it gives us a greater appreciation for connection. And we can celebrate failure, for without it we would know less success. Reverend Gomes said we can only know true joy, if we know suffering. Indeed, life is rich in joy and sorrow, in achievement and disappointment, in gain and loss. We are so very thankful to be on this journey with such supportive friends and family, as well as those unnamed Angels that move in and out of our lives. May each of us be an Angel for someone every day.

I would like to share a quote from The Power (sequel to The Secret): “So how do you fall in love with life? The same way you fall in love with another person — you adore everything about them! You fall in love with another person by seeing only love, hearing only love, speaking only love, and by feeling love with all your heart! And that is exactly how you use the ultimate power of love in love with life.”  Now, combine this thinking with a quote from Albert Einstein: “Imagination is everything. It is the preview of life’s coming attractions.” We have unlimited potential. Turn your imagination loose. Decide what you want….believe you can have it, believe you deserve it, believe it’s possible for you, and have an extraordinary holiday season.

Even though Dad is “out of retirement” from writing the holiday letter, he asked me (Paige) to add some thoughts this year. Dad has asked me several times to write the holiday letter, saying it would be a great opportunity, but I never took him up on the offer. I was always a little nervous about jumping into something that he has done for so many years, and for a piece of writing about which a lot of people openly express joy upon reading. I certainly didn’t feel prepared to step into those shoes. My other issue was that I never felt like I had anything truly inspiring to share. This is probably the first year that I have actually been able to somewhat connect myself to the things Dad has to say in the letter.

After reading The Secret, Dad did not want to keep the things he had learned to himself. Mom and I listened to him describe the messages and different ways he thought it could really change a person’s life. However, keep in mind that I live under the same roof as him, so our whole family is subject to these eye-opening things Dad has to say throughout the year–not just in this letter. And I do admit that I didn’t give it much thought the first time Dad talked about it. Then one day during wellness week, which is my school’s version of drug and alcohol awareness and prevention, the guest speaker suddenly asked if we had ever learned about the power of thought. Many in the room were clueless to the idea, but I knew what he was talking about. He went on to describe a time when he was very nervous about a public speaking event, so he envisioned himself doing the presentation and having it be a huge success; by the time he got up on stage, he wasn’t a bit nervous and did a great job.

So maybe this crazy idea that Dad had shared with us was something bigger then I realized; maybe it was actually possible. All I know is if a 16-year-old daughter can be inspired by an idea so grand and unimaginable, it could truly be life changing after all.

With Gratitude