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  • Bill Stauffer

Gratitude Friday 12-2-22 – Endings & New Beginnings

How did it get so late so soon?” ― Dr. Seuss

This is my 57th December. Something to be grateful for. I almost did not make that first one. I nearly died shortly after birth. Addiction later in life was the thing that nearly killed me, but my first brush with death was right after I came to be. When I was a young boy, I recall my mother telling me about what happened to me at birth. The only reason I had survived was that President John F & Jaqueline Kennedy newborn son, Patrick Bouvier Kennedy died not long before I came along. That tragic loss led to advances in medical techniques that were used my doctor, C Everett Koop to save my life. The only helicopter ride I have had in life was from the Lehigh Valley to Philadelphia Children’s Hospital in 1965.


My beginning was nearly my ending. Of course, I have no recollection of that event. But perhaps the knowledge over time of how close death has been to me from my own start has had an influence on how I see the passage of time. In short, all of these extra moments are a gift. I never actually thought I would see 2023 which will come to its start at the end of this month. In addiction, I did not consider living past 30, which at the time seemed like an old age. Hah.


December is a landmark month. It is and end as well as the threshold of a new time. One thing to celebrate is that we made all made it thus far. Was 2022 a cakewalk for you? It was not for me by almost any measure. I had a lot of challenges. But unlike other periods of my life, I did not have to fight simply to stay alive, so perhaps it actually was an easy year in the measure of these things. It is also true that in my life, I have grown the most in difficult times. Much more so than when I am walking on easy street. Perhaps challenges are something to celebrate. I should be most grateful for the people and conditions I have found the most difficult, because it is out of them that I found things within me I did not know were there when I was coasting.


December itself has had a tough ride. The word December comes from the Latin decem (meaning ten) because it was originally the tenth month of the year in the calendar of Romulus (c. 750 BC) which began with March. They adjusted the calendar over time by adding January and February to the beginning of the year but keeping December at the end of a new 12-month (Gregorian) calendar even though it means ten. It is sort of symbolic in some ways that we adapted the tenth to the twelfth position and just rolled with it. That is how life works in so many ways!


December is also National Fruit Cake Month which I will not be observing in any way. If any reader celebrates the month of fruitcake in any way, please let me know what one does to celebrate it. I am curious. Although I won’t be eating Fruitcake to pass my month, I will be reflecting on what this year has meant to me as December unfolds. It has been more of a normal year than the two that immediately preceded it in which we were mired in the pandemic. There have been a significant number of accomplishments for me professionally and I got to spend time with people in ways that seemed impossible as the great isolation became more complete.


December is a month filled of rituals. We buy lots of stuff to give to people. We come together for meals and celebrations. It can be a time of great expectations of familial perfection, peace on earth and good will to all, even as the reality is far from any of these things for a whole lot of people. For me, the Holidays have not ever been like a Jimmy Stewart movie, although there have been moments to cherish. Perhaps we feel a bit blue over the Holidays because we are fed expectations that our lives should look like a Martha Stewart set. One of my most memorable holidays was when our dog was sick, Julie and I got sick, the Christmas tree fell over and we ate Campbells Chicken soup in isolation. The antithesis of the expectations ingrained in us from the media. One I find quite humorous now.


One of the things I am grateful for is I don’t need to live up to our sensationalized Holiday expectation. Considering my life, I was never in the running for it anyway, so why bother. In fact, many of my holidays were spent with people who have the least and for whom it was the first Holiday not spent under a bridge or in a prison cell or even with people who cared for them in any way. Those ones have been among the best for me. It really puts things in perspective.


In full candor here, I am not a huge Holiday person. I own no garish sweaters and spend as little time as possible doing the consumerism thing. There are few get togethers on the radar. Its ok. I am alive, I am in recovery. I spend a lot of my time doing things that have meaning in my life. I have people around me I love and who love me. All of those things are gifts I am grateful for even if no one ever puts a bow on a luxury car and hands me the keys on Christmas morning. I am grateful for all the things I have and have for the most part put unreasonable expectations of perfection behind me. I am grateful for a modest and relatively quiet month planned, which is what I hope unfolds. Whatever will be will be.


What are you grateful for today?

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