Recently I had reason to contemplate my accumulation of ‘stuff.’ Sometimes I blame our materialistic society for this vice, or the fact that I am a teacher and everyone knows that teachers are collectors. Regardless of where the blame lies, I admit to too much stuff!
Almost a decade ago a move from a house to a condo resulted in my downsizing. And then somehow right under my nose all that stuff multiplied once again. A few months ago a flood precipitated another downsizing. What I’ve realized is that most of my stuff is just that. Sure, some of it is valuable if considered monetarily, some of it is sentimental, but most of it is truly dispensable.
What I own does not define me. Not to say I don’t love a beautiful piece of art or that I can imagine my shelves without those rows and rows of books. Realistically though, life can change in one doctor visit. And the stuff we thought important is reduced to items on a shelf or clothes in a closet. Thanks to the people who surround me, life has so much more to offer!
“Peace.” This idea, this word, came up countless times this week. The dictionary defines peace as quiet and tranquility; freedom from disturbance.
Ultimately, I want peace in my life. To be at peace with myself and those around me. To live peacefully. To have moments of peace within each day. To live without regret. To accept past mistakes and move forward. To achieve harmony of thoughts and action. Peace of mind. A peaceful heart.
This morning I finished reading Wave: a memoir written by a woman who lost her entire family (husband, children and parents) during the tsunami of 2004. The writing of the book strikes me as an attempt to find peace after a life-altering tragedy.
After all, peace is not necessarily something that comes naturally in our lives. We have to work at it: in our relationships and within ourselves, despite our circumstance.
How will I find peace? I will do what I love and do it often… I will surround myself with those I love… I will be true to myself. The results are worth the effort; as Gandhi once said, “Peace is its own reward.”
This morning I finished reading I Am Malala: The Girl Who Stood Up for Education and Was Shot by the Taliban. Malala’s life changed in mere seconds when three gunshots were fired at her head. Yet after numerous surgeries and rigorous rehabilitation, she is making incredible strides. And though physically she is on the mend and her family reunited in the UK, they are all forced to remain away from home: away from the family, friends, work and life they built in Pakistan. New problems are imposed upon them as they deal with their altered reality.
For all of us, regardless of country or circumstance, there are times in life when dreams falter and reality alters the shape of those dreams forever. As we grow up and older we have a vision of the way things will be, conscious or not. Then, cards are dealt and sometimes the hands aren’t quite what we expect. Loss, illness, violence and broken relationships were not part of the imagined landscape. The challenge then becomes how can we make the best of this reality? How can we alter our dreams and vision of what life was going to be?
Throughout her young life, Malala (and millions of girls like her) have faced hardship, turmoil and terror like none we can imagine. Her dreams? “Peace in every home, every street, every village, every country. Education for every boy and every girl in the world.” These dreams put her in harm’s way. There are those who do not want to hear her words; those who would do anything to silence her.
How is Malala dealing with her new reality? The last line of her book holds the answer: “I am Malala. My world has changed but I have not.”
Those who find happiness in life are those able to adapt and adjust to life’s circumstance, those with a purpose greater than themselves. This young girl has lessons for all of us about accepting reality, fighting for change and altering one’s dreams. Malala will not be silenced.
Two weeks ago, our staff (myself included), were somewhat giddy and down-right exhausted. And with good reason: cold temperatures meant indoor recess after indoor recess and therefore limited opportunity for students to burn off that extra energy that comes with the holiday season. Yes, our students were also ready for a well-deserved break.
These last few weeks allowed for time with family and friends, time to watch hockey (international and local stars – yes, Donatella, that’s you!), escape with a good book, snowshoe through the freshly fallen snow in the mountains and simply indulge in an afternoon nap.
Tomorrow I will return to work feeling a little less delirious and a lot more rested. Some say we’re spoiled to have two weeks off at Christmas. Maybe we are.
I wouldn’t want it any other way.