A Zen proverb says “We cannot see our reflection in running water. It is only in still water that we can see”
The dictionary defines reflection as thus:
(1) the throwing back by a body or surface of light, heat, or sound without absorbing it (2) serious thought or consideration
This photo illustrates calm. It was early spring at our local fishpond, the winter chill gone, finally, from the air. The Lady came out to dance. After a long, bone chilling winter it felt good to be outside. Mosquitos hadn’t started to become pests and hands did not need protection from the frost. A moment in time captured…a perfect reflection upon still waters. In photography, many, many images are captured but very few are chosen to be frame-worthy. The perfection of that particular moment did not exist in the frame prior nor immediately following.
For some people, the New Year is a time of reflection before embarking on a brand new trip around the sun. Christmas is a time of reflection for me…I think it is tied to the “naughty or nice” aspect we bring to the holidays. That pressure to be very, very good in order to insure that we get exactly what we want. I’d be lying if I said my inner child didn’t struggle even now to reach some ideal once put upon me my parents and that I now lay upon my own heart. That somehow the gifts received reflect directly on behaviour. Burnt the toast too many times? No Diamonds for you! Lost my patience too many times? No “Best Mom Ever” mug for you! The flip side of this is receiving a gift so thoughtful or particularly spectacular that I am left wondering “what did I do to deserve this?” When you’ve had as many dysfunctional holidays as I have, the above is embarrassingly true.
The perfection of Christmas has been long sought after. I did not have a a kind and patient role model in my childhood so I sought and tried to emulate role models from what I saw around me…Mrs. Partridge, Mrs. Brady and later, Martha Stewart. If the tree, the decorations, the presents, and the meal were all perfect…what could go wrong? Many Christmases I lost my humanity in the attempt to find perfection. In my endeavours to create the perfect holiday scenario, I managed to create some pretty memorable occasions (and nothing Martha would approve). The stress of perfection was not kind and always after the holidays I felt deflated and unworthy – I had failed.
After enough years of that, I began to feel the pressure to perform immediately upon hearing the first Christmas Carols being rung out in the mall. Where once that momentous event began in early December, it now starts just after Halloween…almost a full two months of angst. Something had to be done and I wasn’t in any position to enact a law limiting when carols could be sung or Christmas advertising deployed.
This is where I began to reflect on reflection. If I believe myself unequal to the task, if I believe myself unworthy of kindness, if I believe I am not good enough to ask for and receive my hearts desire, if I believe I have been more “naughty” than “nice” – when I look into that mirror, that is exactly what I will see reflected back. Nothing more, nothing less. The mirror is a perfect replica. However, if I choose to reflect deep within myself and truly recognize and identify the past trauma, the unrealistic expectations (helped to no small measure by social media and Hallmark), and find true acceptance and embrace that whatever is, is – my reflection changes. I can reflect back kindness and calm, acceptance and grace regardless of whatever chaos and uncertainty threatens my serenity.
I now believe that I have the capacity to do my best, not “do my perfect”. That the holidays aren’t just for the enjoyment of others, that I have the right to enjoy and partake as well and that I alone am responsible for whatever happiness my inner child still seems to expect from a jolly old man in a red suit. Christmas is a lot more magical when we create that magic for ourselves and not depend on someone else to magically understand our needs. Christmas is truly magic when we manage to bring happiness to others without losing our minds in the process.
Perfection is simply a snapshot moment…the frame before and after are often a hot mess, but that one moment in time becomes the ideal that we chase…not unlike the Lady Aurora herself.
Enjoy the moment (no matter what time of year), accept whatever challenges appear, and endeavour to make more unique moments…not feel the need to incessantly attempt to recreate the ephemeral.