I had the opportunity to travel to Guatemala for a quick weekend recently. What was so fun for me was that I had come down to explore the country and learn the language 20 years ago. To be able to return made me curious how I would find the country to have changed and also how I myself, would have changed and what would be the same. What struck me was that the country was still much the same- the people and the beauty of the land was just as striking and also poor. And while I interacted with a very different group of people than those of my backpacking days, they were still kind and generous and eager to make my experience special. As I thought about how I had changed it was similar - much was the same. I was drawn to the same places and being outdoors, I was curious about the food and submersing myself in the culture. And yet I was different too - older, wiser (hopefully!) and more settled in myself.
This "same but different" experience reminds me of the work I do in my office each week. As I sit with my clients we look at the same issues/problems/frustrations that they have often been dealing with for years. They wish they could just be done with a problem or never have to address a particular issue again. But what I encourage them to understand is that each time a recurring issue enters back into their life, they are different and so their ability to deal with it will be different. And that is where hope and the process of transformation come in. Its not a new brilliant idea that finally solves a problem. It is a slightly different perspective, or a small increase in being able to tolerate an uncomfortable feeling. These incremental shifts allow for big changes in our collection of issues over time. I find this hopeful - as its less about finding the panacea - and more about coming back around to a familiar place in the cycle with a better ability to navigate through it. Sometimes my husband and I would both wish for our familiar and tired issues to go away even if we had to replace them with a new set. But we both would admit that although they are still the same, when they come back up we suffer less, we listen better and we move through more quickly.
As we come to the beginning of this Christmas season and all of the joy and consternation it often brings, maybe try noticing yourself navigating through the challenging parts in a slightly different way than last year. And maybe being able to be present just a little longer than you have in the past. Knowing that next year as the circle comes around again, you'll have another opportunity to shift.
Kimberly Simpson, a native of New Jersey, graduate of Wheaton College and resident of Nashville. Married and mother of three children. Lover of the ocean, gardens, yoga, cooking and travel.