She was an Italian immigrant in New Jersey, a hard-working, frugal, Catholic single mother who lost her husband in WWII. She spent most days of her life as a “spooler” in a thread factory, retiring just before her job was automated. Her English was good, but she didn’t always catch the finer points. She sang Italian opera arias just for pleasure.
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One Christmas in the mid 1950’s, the local tree lot advertised a new “miracle preservative” that would keep the needles on the (fresh-cut) tree, and keep it green. She paid extra for a small apartment-sized one, took it home and decorated it. When Christmas was over, the tree still looked good. So, she wrapped it up in newspaper, fully decorated, and put it away. The next year, she unwrapped it to find the paper full of needles. The tree was just a pathetic stick, with most of the decorations still on it. She was my aunt Elsie, and I know this story because she told this joke on herself year after year, and everyone would laugh. She lived every day with hope and a sense of humor.
Now, when I look back from the perspective of my own life, I see this as a metaphor for how she used humor to ease all the disappointments and losses of life. Every year brings new wonders, new achievements, and also loss. If we can view the losses with a sense of humor, pick ourselves up and hope again, we will also be more present when the gifts are revealed.
Richard and I enjoy doing this ceremony on New Year’s Eve and on our anniversary. You may want to make it an ongoing part of your relationship, too. I’m sending this January newsletter a bit early, so you can join us in spirit.
You’ll need paper and pencils. If you have a fireplace, get two small paper bags—if not, a large ashtray and some matches, and a new calendar that includes December 31, 2004.
Make two separate lists. On the first, list what you’d like to eliminate from your life—hassles, difficulties, deprivations, disappointments, worries—this is the “release list.”
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The second list is the “creation list”—what you’d like to bring into or create in your life and relationship to replace what you’re releasing.
Once you’ve written and shared your lists, crumple up the "elimination" list. If you have a fire in a fireplace, get your paper bag, put the list in it, blow in some air, twist the top tight and toss it in the fire. It will “pouf” into flame and be consumed. Or, simply light your list with a match or from a candle and place it in the big ashtray. As it does this, say out loud, “I release this energy into the universe to be transformed into something more useful.”
Do this as ceremoniously as you like. If you like tradition and ritual, have music, candles, incense, etc. Make your lists as simple or as fancy and artistic as you wish. If you’re religious, include a reference to your God or goddess. For example, you can turn your “release” list over to a saint, to Jesus to Gaia or to your Higher Power and ask for your "creations" from the same source.