Winter is many things. It can be a busy time with school and activities, holidays, and family events. Or it can be frustrating for outdoor enthusiasts stuck inside during cold and inclement weather. Cabin fever, anyone? But it can also be, and this is my favorite perspective, a time of reflection. Between school activities (for those with kids) after the holidays wind down, it’s an excellent time to take a breath and reflect. Sit with ourselves and examine the past year. Maybe there were significant hurdles or some exciting accomplishments. Perceived losses and gains.
I know for me, 2022 ended with a bell ringer. That’s what I call any activity that rings our bell of consciousness. Like a boxer taking a hard hit, an event like this stops us in our tracks. My bell ringer to cap off 2022 was an automated email from our medical provider letting me know I had a brain tumor. Who gets a brain tumor? After that, it was a week of shock as we navigated a complicated, impersonal medical system. It was up to us to organize the proper scans and find the right surgeon. We’ve learned through the years that we must be our own advocates. After the initial distress came months of waiting. That’s the worst; it’s like being in a slow-motion car wreck. You know there will be damage, but how much? Is it a total insurance claim? Or will it be just a big dent, maybe a door replacement? No matter what, after the initial shock wore off, I knew it was a good excuse to hit the brakes and take stock. What’s important? What do I want in life? It turns out that the last question had a simple answer. I want to be here. I want to experience more moments with my wife and kids. Simple.
The next question was, “what have I been up to, and what do I actually want to be up to?” I’m statistically more than halfway through the whole living business, so how do I want to spend the rest of my time? That’s a fantastic question for anyone as the old year turns into the new. And really, it’s the only question in town. Is it what you’re doing now? If so, great. You’re in a good place. The answer, in a broad stroke for me, is that I want to create works that matter to someone, preferably more than one someone, but maybe I’m not that ambitious. I know that’s a simple answer to a complex creative process, but there isn’t enough room here to get into flow states and why creativity and art are cornerstones of the human experience (maybe we need an article on that).
Back to the tumor stuff. If you’ve read Eckhart Tolle, you’ll be familiar with the term “watcher.” That’s precisely what I decided to turn this tumor into, assuming it wasn’t a more sinister variety lurking in my brain, waiting to pounce. Only time, and more scans, will tell. The goal, assuming the best, is to be thankful for it. Sometimes I am, and sometimes I struggle, but I rarely wake up in the morning staring at the ceiling with the words “I have a brain tumor” floating through my mind anymore. I consider it a success if, most of the time, I let it remind me to stay present (that’s why it’s my watcher). It reminds me to reflect on my actions and truly shine the spotlight of consciousness on my intent. Purpose is great (a subtle nod to Viktor Frankl here), but our intent can be a driving force underlying each moment of our lives.
So here we are, in a winter wonderland reflecting on the past year. I’m thankful for my family and friends and look back on a year full of wonderful adventures, another novel finished, and more visual art creation and appreciation than I can recall. And as my new surgeon said after the last round of scans, “your brain isn’t mad at the tumor,” which means no swelling or surgery for hopefully a long time, if ever. Now I just have to work on the thankful part; that’s a practice in progress.
So I encourage you to reflect this winter. What bell ringers or zingers did 2022 bring you? Take the time to sit, meditate, and be with yourself and your loved ones. Is there a town you’ve been meaning to explore in the Northland? Make time. Drop by a local coffee shop and meet new people. Take in the local art (Chris Fleck’s portraits are a great place to start). And don’t forget to tune into “Good Night, Ukraine” to help Anthony Glise and his local radio station support the children in Ukraine. You never know, by giving yourself time and paying attention, your intent may just reveal itself.