The Storm

January 1, 2014

There is a street behind our house

where we go walking, my wife, myself and Diva our dog every day about 5:00. Being in business for ourselves means most of our customers and suppliers close their doors around that time so business communications pretty much go silent.   So we find it a great time to take a short break for some fresh air, a review of the day and a little reflection time between man and wife.

 

Our walk usually comes with a short but pleasant interruption from some passing stranger who is also out walking with a comment and a chuckle about Diva.  You see Diva is a whippet, long slender legs, a big chest, a narrow waist and eyes that look like shes mastered eyeliner application. The introductory comment usually goes like this, (initiated first by some polite laughing) "Are her nails really painted?" Embarrassingly we respond, "Well her name IS Diva", which hardly justifies the insanity of actually painting them, but nevertheless it introduces the story of how when you raise two daughters who love aesthetics and cosmetology and you have a dog named Diva they eventually get the idea to paint her nails, it's usually pink as that seems to be her signature colour.  So three or four or more times a year they get the polish, fronts and backs. We make an exception at Christmas though. At Christmas its always bright red...and wow, do those red nails ever show up in the snow.

 

Painting Diva's nails at Christmas has become an established tradition at our house. Crazy as it is, it seems to have found it's place among our other time honored traditions of the season.  And as much as we try to preserve certain things year after year as you may have discovered yourself it's quite impossible as each year brings a host of fresh new joys, challenges and disappointments. Personally I don't find myself waiting for New Year's Eve to start reflecting on the promises I made to myself last year and whether or not they were ever fulfilled.  The day after Christmas I'm already thinking about the new year that's knocking on my door and questioning me as to what I will attempt to make of it.

This year Christmas presented us with more than it's regular expected challenges. We all knew we would need to deal with horrendous lines at the credit card terminal, traffic crawling though insanely timed road construction and a snow blizzard or two, but NOTHING like the ice storm much of our great country has endured over the past couple of weeks.

 

The little street that we take our walks on looks like a war zone.  More that any other street I've seen this street has suffered the most damage. Virtually every tree was devastated. Ash trees that were already weakened during the summer by some kind of a boar bug, these thirty year old trees split down the middle or collapsed entirely completely blocking the road, trees from sidewalk to sidewalk. My wife Bonnie cried as we walked it for the first time. It brought back a searing memory of loss that I felt when a few years ago we visited the Fallen Veterans Wall in Washington, DC dedicated to all the men and boys who died in the Viet Nam war. I remember us walking hand in hand along that long, too long, black wall with the names of men we never knew endlessly engraved into the marble. Hand written notes were scrawled on little pieces of paper and jammed into the cracks between the marble slabs written by children, mothers and fathers, brothers and sisters and strangers. The incredible weight of the loss of life was too much to bare and in silence our tears flowed void of even the meekest suggestion of resistance.

 

But today, for us, and I know for most of us it was the loss or damage to our beautiful trees. In addition to the crisis outside was the crisis of light and heat on the inside.  Tens of thousands of homes suffered through Christmas with no heat, no light and no Christmas turkey. Hundreds of families missed loved ones who couldn't make it back home due to flight cancellations and icy road conditions.  Without question the Christmas of 2013 will hold some very unique memories for most of us.

 

So now the new year approaches. Like the bull who charges the matador, there is nothing that is going to stop it.  Whether we are ready for it or not, whether we are finished with 2013 or not the new year is still coming. Some of us have spent the whole of 2013 trying desperately to cling to 2012 or the better days of some past year, but have failed. Some of us resist the tide of 2014 that is about to sweep over us, but if that is our mentality that effort too will fail, for the new year comes with it's joys, challenges, successes and disappointments.

 

I remember in the summer of 2012 writing about how we hoped that our Jesse would be yelling "Ning, Ning, Ning"  by the summer of 2013 as he used to do before his accident. Those words never came, but Jesse wrote a new script and shouted out "HUG!" instead. You know what...as much as we loved the ning ning, the hug made much more sense and was a much more intelligent request :)  Whether 2012, 2013, or 2014 it is a daily temptation for our family to want to drop this whole time continuum thing into reverse and go back to any day prior to May 17th , 2012 for that was the day that Jesse drowned in our back yard pond and instantly changed our entire outlook on the future. Then to the shock and unbelief of many he survived the experience and changed our whole future outlook again.

 

Jesse just like every other one of us has the potential to impact the lives of many others.  Be it through tragedy or success or inspiration, or love or simply finding simple ways to help others who are struggling a little more than we are. There are both the less fortunate and the more fortunate among us.  Which one are you? Which one am I?  Or maybe the more important question is, does it really matter? Everyone can, and does make an impact on the lives we touch, whether for good or for evil. We have the ever beckoning choice to put down those individuals our lives touch or lift them up.

 

I would like to carry a new personal challenge into the new year. The challenge is simple.  It is this, to realize that I have a choice in each hour of every day. What kind of man will I be in 2014?  What part of the man that I was in 2013 will I leave behind? It is said that there are three kinds of people in world...those who MAKE it happen, those who WATCH it happen and those who stand in a state of eternal surprise and say, "WHAT HAPPENED?" Back in the early 90's Anthony Robbins called it Personal Power.  As he put it, it was the power to choose. I believe that as we mature we eventually realize that not everyone will agree with what you do or say, and I know that not everyone will agree with me. It seems we all have those times when we feel especially timid to act or speak.  But C.S. Lewis said, "The very man who has argued you down, will sometimes be found, years later, to have been influenced by what you said."

 
So let us all go bravely into the new year!

 

We might as well, as I get the sense that 2014 is going to demand it. Lets not stand with our backs against the wall safely watching life pass like it was someone else's parade. Lets choose to do the right thing and not the wrong, not to be indifferent or complacent or even neutral about what is ailing us and let the healing begin, not to curse others but to be a blessing to them.  Lets take the next turn, off the low and easy road of personal indulgence and just satisfying our own pleasures and turn north onto the road of greater personal self sacrificial effort by stretching our talents to a greater degree than we ever have in the past. Let's be a positive influence on others and live courageously enough that ALL OF OUR LIVES become inspirational as we learn to BE MORE in 2014 than we were in 2013.

 

Bob Arrigo

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