My 2018 Year-End Reflection or Learning to Give No F**ks by Christina Knowles

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So often, it seems, that we imagine we will have time to be happy later, time to relax and do what we want to do some day. Maybe we are waiting for retirement, but sometimes retirement never comes. Maybe we are waiting for a new job to make our lives more bearable, a new schedule to give us time to spend nurturing relationships, or to make more money to make our lives more enjoyable or less stressful, but what we don’t realize is that waiting will never end unless we just stop. Just stop waiting to be happy. Happiness can be found right now in every day.

That was an excerpt from my 2015 year-end blog—a year where I watched loved ones suffer with illness, a year where I struggled to find balance and peace amidst chaotic situations. Yet, I still felt good at the end of that year, having learned the secret of happiness. I had the epiphany that living in the moment, being aware and thankful is where contentment can be found, and realized that happiness is often just a choice. I wish I could say that since then I’ve been totally awake, that my life has achieved that balance I spoke about, but it has not. At least not completely. Shortly after that, some major tragedies struck, and I lost my footing for a while. However, I am progressing from one year to the next. I’ve had some bumps in the road, but now I’m picking up speed.

For example, 2018 brought me a new level of self-awareness that, in and of itself, has been an epiphany of sorts. I may not have perfect balance or peace at all times, but I know who I am, what I want, and what I need to work on in greater clarity than ever before. This past year has been a year when I learned a great many things about myself and about those around me. I faced great sorrow and great joy, which is usually the case every year it seems.

2018 was the year where I learned how to live without my sisters, or maybe, it was when I learned that sisters don’t have to be blood-related, and I was about to lose a third sister. I watched in fear and anxiety as my best friend of the past 13 years packed up and moved across the country, embarking on her new journey. I flew out to see her when she’d been gone barely two months. She’s always been a kind of guru to me, and while there, I sat on a huge rock, staring into the vast Pacific Ocean and learned to feel at one with the universe. We laughed until we cried, and we sat in silent meditation together each day, and I wondered how I’d ever get through life without her physical presence each week, but I also realized how our friendship had shaped me and helped me grow throughout all these years, and really prepared me for this reality.

I leaned more heavily on my book club friends and found them to be warm, generous, kind, and loving. They taught me, and still teach me daily, that there are good people all around me, and no matter where life leads us, there are friends to be made and fun to be had.

There were other struggles in 2018. It was a year when I stood up for myself and found a depth of strength and resilience I never really knew I had. I also found an inner peace that overflows to cover any negative circumstance, and I learned that nothing is good unless I think it so, and thinking it makes it thus.

It was the year when I examined myself and found me wanting, and loved myself unconditionally anyway, and as a result, I committed to my self-improvement without judgement. Looking at yourself honestly and still loving yourself is the most comforting of experiences. It equips me to work on myself with no stress or anxiety. But honestly, it also helps when you’ve learned “the subtle art of not giving a fuck.” I read the book by this title, authored by Mark Manson, and took it to heart. I’ve learned to say, “I don’t care what they think,” and mean it. It doesn’t mean I knowingly annoy people or hurt them; it just means that I do what I think is right according to my own ethical standards, and no one else has to agree with it. I care what I think, and those closest to me. That seems sufficient to me.

2018 was yet another year when my husband, the love of my life, was my rock and gave me strength to face every day amid all the changes coming my way. Together, I think we both became even more open-minded. I thought I was open-minded before, but as many of us do in the face of this radical and vitriolic political climate, I became more and more closed off to the concerns and reasoning of the “other” side. Throughout the year, I read many books that I found particularly helpful in showing me where I might be wrong, and to reconsider the truth of my opinions. I have distanced myself from political parties and have gone back to looking at individual issues, and I’ve tried to see things from the perspective of those who disagree with me. I still retain most of my political views, but I’ve recommitted to seeking truth, instead of confirmation.

On the lighter side, I did some other awesome things this year like taking a psychology/nutrition/health class, a class on dying, and an online Spanish class. I read 77 books, spent more time with my wonderful daughter, built an awesome patio with my husband, and threw a fabulous party with my numerous friends. I’ve spent less and less time at home doing work that should be done at work, and more time pursuing things that make me happy. I’ve made some strong relationships and connections this year, and I’ve tried to give of myself and to be open to helping others without over-stressing myself with busyness.

All in all, considering the major changes I and the country have undergone this year, it was a year of general peace and personal growth, and I look forward to using the tools I’ve gained this past year to make a choice for peace and joy every day of 2019.

Happy New Year!–Christina Knowles

Originally published in 2018

“Safe” by Christina Knowles

“Safe”

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When I stare point-blank

Into all that is not there

And realize this sham

For what it is, the mist

Dries up, the fog dissipates like on the lenses of glasses

Unexpectedly, everything is clear.

What, then, do I attribute

This unrelenting life?

How does one risk all

For one last roll of the dice

When the odds are always against?

Easy, easier still with nothing

Nothing left to grasp

Holding loosely, how can I not fall?

I see me slipping through cracks

I pretended not to see

Too dangerous, precarious at best

So, I am frozen to this unlikely spot

Reduced and fading as a dream

Uncharacteristically still

Furiously safe

Counting out my days like pennies in a jar

Abundant and worthless

Cruel irony that I know how to live

And yet

Refuse

—Christina Knowles (2015)

Photo snagged from odinist.org

Entropy by Christina Knowles

Melting_Snow“Entropy”

Shimmering snow, delicate and fine

Each intricate flake is one

Unique in its design

But just another drop of water in the burning sun

Forming into crystals

Its hardening has begun

Then melting, drips—it ripples

Just another drop of water in the burning sun

Flakes, so fragile

Their formations, valiantly they’ve won

Glittering, they dazzle

But last but a moment In the burning sun

Smoothly frozen once again

Now merging into one

Newly impenetrable until when

It’s just another drop of water in the burning sun

Change is constant, it is written

Transformation is never done

The end is always hidden

In a drop of water in the burning sun

When at last, a vapor, it surely will succumb

To the scorching of the burning sun—Christina Knowles (2015)

Photo from rochesterinsurance.com

All Grown Up by Christina Knowles

IMG_2659We buried our mother today, my family and I. She was a wonderful mother—loving, strong, kind, principled, and dedicated. I don’t know what I’m going to do without her.

Losing a mother is a unique kind of pain. It’s different than losing a father, a spouse, a sibling, or a child. I’m thankful that I haven’t experienced all these different types of devastating loss, but I just know that it has to be different. I’m not saying it’s worse, just different. In fact, I’m pretty sure losing a child would be the worst.

But losing a mother is the ultimate severing of the umbilical cord. When you lose a mother, you feel lost, insecure. I haven’t depended on my mother for many years, but I guess I knew she was always there if I needed her. Knowing she is gone makes me feel all alone in the world even though I know I am not. I feel a primal need for her. I wake up in the middle of the night calling for my mommy, and I don’t care that I am a grown woman, a grandmother even. I want my mommy.

Losing a mother makes a person grow up instantly. You are no longer the child, and having already lost my father, I am no longer anybody’s child. That’s a strange feeling. I am the mother now. I feel this more now than ever, even though I have been a mother for 26 years. Not being someone’s child is a lonely feeling. It makes me want to pour myself into being a mother to my children. Unfortunately, they’ve grown and left home, and I don’t see them as often as I’d like.

Being without a mother makes me feel different. I am different. My husband warned me that losing parents changes a person, but I didn’t really understand before. Losing a mother leaves a void that nothing else can fill. Really losing anyone you love does, but to whom will I go for advice? Who will be proud of me for absolutely no reason? Who is capable of unconditional love besides a mother?

That’s what’s really missing. It’s knowing I will never be loved unconditionally by anyone again. My husband loves me almost that much, but I know I could make him lose his love for me if I tried. Of course, I won’t. My brothers, my sisters—that’s close. They have loved me through everything so far. My kids—I’d love to think that they love me unconditionally, but even though some part of them may need me or love me no matter what, it’s just not that same I’d-die-for-you kind of love. I know this is true because the only people in the world that I would love under any circumstances are my children, the only ones I could forgive anything.

My pain sounds so selfish. It’s all about what I will no longer have. But isn’t that what grief usually is? We miss the people we lose; we will no longer enjoy their love, their presence. My mother was a wonderful person. She left the world a much better place than she found it. But even if she didn’t, today I would still be an orphan. I suppose her goodness just intensifies it.

So today I said goodbye to my mother and to a love I will never experience again. At 49 years old, I just grew up.—Christina Knowles

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