If there's one thing my parents taught me, it's that life is about so much more than me. And time and time again, they've proven right. No matter how much I focus on me, my shortcomings, my successes, my blunders, my disappointment, my misgivings, I do not get much further ahead.
It's actually in those moments when I sit back and let humanity, the world, the universe, the divine come to me that I actually start to move forward.
Yesterday, we were blessed to watch a world top amateur cross-country ski race take place right outside the flat where we're vacationing. My soldier, my daughter and I stood out on the balcony, cheering on people that we did not know, in whom we had no vested interest. 465 racers, some old, some young, some super fit, some bordering on obese. No matter, we cheered them all. Goaded on by the cheering of the crowds gathered below our balcony, we hooped and hollered, clapped and cheered, egged on those racers who showed superhuman speed, and shouted out "Bravo!" to those who could barely push themselves forward at that point. Why were we so engaged, so enthralled? I have no mathematical or scientific explanation; all I can say is that as we watched the racers come by, one by one, we knew we were a part of something much bigger and greater than us. We were caught up in a whirlwind of excitement for each of these individuals who had set out on a personal challenge, be it to best themselves, win the race, or simply make it to the finish line. We were caught up in the human desire to accomplish, to succeed, to excel. It was bigger than us, bigger than me.
A little over a month ago, I could not detach my heart from the Sandy Hook massacre that took place in the USA. I refused to watch the news, but I'd seen enough to be traumatized. Why? Why was every moment of every day taken over by little souls I did not know? I think simply because being a mom is not an individual privilege; becoming a mom grants you exclusive entry into a world of pain, worry, compassion, love, and anguish that is shared across women of all nationalities, faiths, backgrounds, cultures. Being a mom is bigger than me.
Same goes for the hostage taking in Algeria last week. I am one woman, married to one man working in a volatile part of the world. But across the world, there are many wives like me, shooing away the possibility of terrorism and terror, yet knowing during every waking moment that it is a possibility. I am just one of many such expat wives. Being a an expat wife is not exclusive to me; it is much bigger than me.
Christmas holds an extreme wonder for me. Wonder in the beauty of Christmas carols, wonder in the miracle of the birth of Jesus, wonder in the excitement of a child padding down the stairs on Christmas morning, anticipating a stocking full of treats and a tree surrounded by gifts. Wonder at sharing Christmas dinner with a few less fortunate than us, which we do every year, wonder at reading "The Night Before Christmas" every night with our daughter in the 24 days leading up to the big day. Wonder at watching "The Grinch", "Frosty the Snowman", and "Little Drummer Boy". Wonder at popping open the Christmas Advent calendar every night to see what surprise is hidden behind that tiny little door. Wonder at Christmas Eve mass, and the choir singing "Oh, Holy Night" two octaves higher than I ever could (but I try, much to the chagrin of my family). Santa holds wonder for me. Making egg rolls on Christmas Eve holds wonder for me (an old, strange, East Canadian Coast tradition passed down from my 'memere'* to me). Why? I can't logically explain it. It's just so much bigger than me.
As a family, we watched the inauguration of the President of the United States three days ago. Why? Not because we are affiliated in any way, but because it was something great (no matter what your affiliation), it was something bigger than us, so much bigger than me.
Tonight, I stood at the foot of the Alps, watching my husband and daughter tobogganing. As I stood there in the moonlight, eclipsed by the mountain peaks and majestic pines, I could not help but wonder at how blessed I've been to be immersed in something so much greater, so much bigger than me. And a prayer, which started in my heart, escaped my lips "Thank you, God, for everything that is in me and around me at this very moment." The whole moment was so much bigger than me.
The plight of children in Palestine, in Syria,and elsewhere: bigger than me. Victims of domestic abuse: bigger than me. World hunger: bigger than me. Female castration: bigger than me. Terrorism: bigger than me. Faith: bigger than me. Spirituality: bigger than me. Hope: bigger than me. Love: bigger than me. Bullying: bigger than me. Tsunamis: bigger than me. Health and fitness: bigger than me. Addiction: bigger than me. Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation: bigger than me. And the list goes on and on.
So what's my point? Not sure I ever really have one. I think, if anything, it's obviously that there is something out there bigger than each of us individually, and if we spend just a little time focusing on and engaging in those things, we can begin to marvel at the miracle of our lives. Nothing I ever accomplish or fail at will ever compare to world famine, to a star's light, to the miracle of a child who believes in something unbelievable, to the rise and fall of my child's chest in sleep, to humankind's ability for compassion, to humankind's ability for cruelty.
I urge you to stop, think, look, feel. What is out there that is bigger than you?
Or not. Up to you. But believe me when I say that I have never been disappointed when I stepped out of me to look at something bigger than me. Sometimes I've been saddened, sometimes I've been disheartened, sometimes I've been angry, sometimes I've been amazed, awed, overjoyed. There is so much out there that is bigger than me.
* Memere is the French equivalent of grandma or nana.