Tuesday, December 31, 2019

Saying Farewell to 2019 in a Spirit of Gratitude

This past year has been a rather momentous one for me, with many changes, including some deep and very personal losses . . . along with a number of new beginnings.

As 2019 ebbs, I want to acknowledge and honor all of this . . . but in a way that manifests a spirit of gratitude.

I could lament my losses and wallow in the heaviness of much of what I've been through this year, but instead I want to shift my perspective and look upon these important events with an eye to how I've grown from them and the things about them that I am grateful for.

In her book Tears to Triumph: The Spiritual Journey from Suffering to Enlightenment, Marianne Williamson reminds us that a very elemental way of understanding a miracle is as a change in perspective. I like that.

And so with all of this in mind (and heart), here are the important and challenging events of my life this year miraculously remembered in a spirit of love and gratitude.


I am grateful for my Dad

My dear father, Gordon James Bayly, died on August 5, 2019. Although I wasn't in my homeland of Australia to be with him when he passed, I am so very grateful that I spent five weeks with him and Mum and other members of my family two months earlier. That was a very special time. And when I left to return to the U.S., I sensed that because of Dad's declining health, it was possible that I would not see him again in this world. The time I spent with family and friends two months later in August, remembering and celebrating Dad's life, was also incredibly rich and meaningful. And it brought home to me in a new way just how fortunate my brothers and I were to have Gordon Bayly as our father. He was a man of integrity, compassion, and selfless service to others. We experienced and witnessed these qualities growing up in our hometown of Gunnedah, and they continue to inspire and shape us in ways that well serve us and the world. Thanks, Dad!

I am grateful for my work

Since January 1 I've worked full-time as the Palliative Care interfaith chaplain at Mercy Hospital in Coon Rapids, MN. It's incredibly meaningful and thus rewarding work, but also very challenging and emotionally draining. I am, after all, with people who are experiencing great challenge, change, loss, and upheaval in their lives and/or the lives of someone they love. I don't enter into the space of such lives to “fix” things, or to provide the “right” answers. And I certainly don't try to convert anyone to a particular way of religious thinking. Rather, I see my work as a chaplain (or spiritual health provider, as I sometimes like to say) as being all about embodying a grounded, compassionate, and listening presence. Such embodiment invites both myself and others to go within and seek, discern, and give voice to our deepest truths and/or to search for new truths in light of situations that may challenge us with honest doubts and new questions relating to faith and meaning-making in our lives. It is holy work, to be sure. And I often find myself amazed when, in retrospect, I realize that all the different aspects of my life have served to bring me to a level of consciousness and compassion whereby people tell me that they see the work of chaplaincy and end-of-life care as a “natural” fit for me. For this, too, I am grateful.

I am grateful for the ways I have chosen to respond to challenges and changes in my personal/relational life

In October I ended a four-year relationship, in large part because I no longer felt I was desiring to bring my whole self to it. I also felt that in some important ways, neither was my boyfriend. And I don't believe I'm projecting in saying this. I finally took the initiative, after months of hesitation, and ended the relationship; or better still, chose to name it for what it had become: a friendship. And we continue to be friends; friends that care for one another very much.

And then there were those other movements and desires of my heart, ones that flowed to another who remains to this day incapable of being for me what I long for him to be. In this situation there was projection on my part. I recognize that; recognize that I fell in love with a vision of a man of my own making; a vision that didn't and couldn't actually exist. And yet I could have gone there; could have used him, as, on one level, he was willing to be used . . . and willing to use me. Such a great temptation, such a sweet invitation. . . . One that I declined, walked away from. Truth be told, when I think of him I can still feel a surge of desire . . . and a profound sense of regret. And yet when I make the effort to intentionally center myself in Divine Love, as I often seek to do now, I know I did the loving thing – for both of us. And for that I'm grateful.

I am grateful for the ways that love is being politicized in the presidential campaign of Marianne Williamson

In this toxic era of Donald Trump, with all its lies and violence and inhumanity, I am heartened by the crop of presidential candidates that has risen up to challenge all that this era represents. I have friends supporting Pete Buttigieg, a good friend all in for Amy Klobuchar, another for Elizabeth Warren, and lots of people I know who are dedicated to Bernie Sanders. However, the candidate that inspires and energizes me most is author Marianne Williamson. She and her campaign are all about recognizing the need to embody our deepest democratic and humanitarian ideals and thus a politicized love, the only thing, she maintains, that can defeat the politicized fear and hate of Trump. Such an insightful call to action brings to mind commentator Greg Korn's contention that “Marianne Williamson has a rare ability to articulate the ethics of the Left in an approachable, graceful, confident, and wildly intelligent way. I truly believe that she's the most intellectually and philosophically sophisticated candidate I've seen in my lifetime.” I do too. Which is why as long as she's in the race, I'll be supporting her and sharing her message. And so, yes, for who Marianne is and for all she says and does in seeking to be the Democratic party's nominee for president, I am grateful.

See also the previous Wild Reed posts:
This Is the Time
Balancing the Fire
Out and About – Autumn 2019
Out and About – Spring & Summer 2019
Out and About – Winter 2018-2019
Winter . . . Within and Beyond

Related Off-site Links:
10 Good Things About 2019 – Medea Benjamin (Common Dreams, December 31, 2019).
2019 in Review: Ten Illustrations That Sum Up the YearThe Economist (December 30, 2019).

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