I presented this as a closing philosophy yesterday at the last meeting of the year for my Hilo Toastmasters chapter:
Before we adjourn, here at the closing of another year, at the end of our last gathering for 2012, I’d like to talk a little bit about the idea of comfort and joy.
For many, these concepts are tied up with religious or philosophical beliefs. But I think it’s much simpler than that.
I think it has more to do with the sense of things ending that arrives with the coming of winter, and the tantalizing promise of new beginnings that lie just on the other side of the season, in spring. It’s about the anxious pause between all those endings and beginnings. It’s about finding reassurance in the space in between the old and the new; between the security of the past and the uncertainty of the future.
It’s about the change in the weather.
Shawndra and I have been talking about taking a trip next winter to a ski resort. Not to ski – honestly, I don’t think you want to see me coming at you, sliding down a mountain on a pair of polished sticks. No, just a nice place where we could go walkabout, hand-in-hand of an evening. To listen to the snow crunch under our boots, to feel winter on our faces again, to gaze at the frozen stars in an icy sky.
In my mind, I imagine that we wouldn’t talk about much of anything on our walks, least of all my half-formed musings about the meaning of comfort and joy. Afterwards, we would retire to a fireplace and a cup of hot chocolate.
Or, in my case, a glass of single-malt.
Forget the madness of shopping and gift-giving: For me, this time of year is – more than any other time – about the quiet joy I get from the feel of my best girl’s hand in mine during a winter’s walk, or the heat of the first sip of good scotch on a cold night.
For those of us who grew up in snowier northern climes, this is the time of year when – like any smart mammal – we seek shelter, we want to bundle up, we covet a good cuddle.
We want to find a warm fire, a warm hand, a warm smile. We want a bit of comfort in a world grown harsh with the season. This is the time of year we come together to find our shelter with our friends and ohana, to enjoy the warmth of family dinners and office parties; the time when we string lights and light candles; when we all laugh easier and a hug conveys more meaning than a host of speeches.
This is the time we find the time to pause – for just a moment – when we slow down and pay attention to one another, when we can find quiet joy in the simple gift of friendship.
Sure, it might be the only time, but at least we do have this time.
Here in our temperate paradise, we may find it more difficult to come to this place: The winter isn’t so unforgiving that it drives us both indoors and inward to find comfort.
But this one time of year – if we’re lucky, if we’re smart, and if we choose – we can look for and find the joy of living each day in the embrace of our friends, our family, our community – the small joys that punctuate our everyday lives.
As I say, this is our last meeting until the New Year. My wish for all of you is that you might in the coming weeks choose to notice the simple things that bring you joy.
And I wish that – like me – you might find some comfort in that joy.