Tis the season for pondering…

Peace. Greenlights. The metaphor of the open hands.

These ideas have played leading roles in the story of my life this past year (2023). They have been the signposts along a walk through some of the rockier stretches of road I’ve travelled on my journey, and I am grateful for each of them.

So much so, that as the season of reflecting has arrived in these quiet days before the New Year begins, I feel moved to share my pondering in case these thoughts resonate with friends walking down similar stretches of the path we’re all navigating. Today, I’ll share a few thoughts on my quest for peace and tackle the others soon.

Pondering Peace

Peace. It is such a simple and powerful word. It isn’t one that I’ve thought deeply about much in my life, until this year. It always seemed like a technical term, most frequently appearing in the context of my long-ago studies of International Relations at UVA, on the news and at church. Of course, I always liked the idea of peace (who doesn’t?), but it existed in my world as an abstract concept and defined as the antidote to all the overwhelming, war-torn, world news situations that cause so many to suffer so much. Fortunately for me, I have lived a life where those frightening environments have been far away and peace is something I’ve had the great fortune to take for granted. Maybe we’ll call this peace “Peace” with a capital P. The absence of suffering is Peace, right? That kind of Peace is a very tall order and generally seems too big, hard, complicated to ever (?) achieve at scale. This year, with the violence and loss we’ve witnessed in the Ukraine, Israel and Gaza, it’s a word we’re hearing all the time, because our world is so sorely missing it. So, really, who goes out seeking Peace? Sounds like Don Quijote tilting after a windmill. Personally, I think us “achiever types” tend to pick more winnable objectives. Anyone else feel this way? I direct my energies at making the world a better place through the butterfly effect, hoping that each small act might one day have a big impact. More on that later.

2023: The year That Peace got personal (for me).

So, how on earth did peace make its way into my “top three” themes of the year? Heck if I know, but as my year has unfolded, I found that peace can also be very personal and its absence can have an almost physical, heavy presence (certainly an emotional one). Is there a word for “not at peace”? I guess there are many… and we all know it when we see it or feel it, even if we don’t know what to call it. Whatever that is, it is pretty powerful too. It can settle in and undermine an otherwise “perfectly fine” set of circumstances. And it is hard to spot with the naked eye. I’d compare living without peace like building a house on quicksand. While it may look fine on the surface, you’re putting all the things in your house at risk at any moment… and it’s really unsettling, because there isn’t anything “there” to point to.

This summer I was given a clear message to “find peace” through the words of two special souls who crossed my path on a day when all the cracks were showing in my “house on quicksand”. It was August 24th and, without getting into all the details, I was a hot mess. On paper I was doing all the normal things, running around doing errands, seeing many friends at the racetrack and around town, basking in the glow of a great TRF BBQ at the Barn, but for whatever reason… I literally couldn’t stop crying (#notagreatlook). Fortunately for me, all my running hither and yon, put me in the presence of two wise women (who don’t know each other at all). Their names are Annie and Karen, and I love them very much.

Each of these beautiful, intuitive souls took one look at me, saw the invisible cracks, and said/did the exact same things:

  • “Kim, take a seat. Take a breath. Tell me what’s going on.” (Cue tears)
  • After a kind measure of listening to a bunch of incoherent babbling, they each said.
  • “Kim, I just hope that you can find peace. It is important. You deserve it. And you have to make an effort to find it.“(And Karen offered a very lovely prayer)

Well, OK… wow. It hit me like a ton of bricks. I had a bad case of the “absence of peace”. How grateful am I to have had this diagnosis handed to me by such amazing humans who helped remove the gauze from my eyes (yes, Universe, I see you doing your thing. Thank you!) In this moment, I learned that peace (lower case peace) can be a very personal thing and its absence can take a toll. As obvious as this sounds, it sure proves that the only way to learn it is to live it. It felt like a lightening bolt. So, THAT, was the problem! Like so many things, identifying the problem was the most important first step toward figuring out the solution. But now, where to find it? As someone who’d never really even thought about this idea in such a “micro” way, I wasn’t at all sure how to even begin. The gift that Annie and Karen gave me was simply the word “peace”. We all know it’s hard to find something when you don’t know what you’re looking for, and they gave me a word for what was missing. Thank you Annie and Karen!

starting on the Path to Peace

At the National Museum of Racing and Hall of Fame, there is an absolutely fabulous movie called “What it takes” which is a beautiful telling of the story of what it takes to get into the Hall of Fame. Personally, I like to call the movie a love letter to the Thoroughbred and I think every single person who visits Saratoga Springs should see it. I bring this up because there’s one really great line that always sticks in my ear (I think it’s Carl Nafzger), he is speaking about a really good racehorse and he says:

“You can’t buy one. You can’t breed one. You can’t even steal one. Then one day you wake up, and there’s one in your barn”. I love this. It probably applies to countless things, but I think he could also be speaking about peace. It’s hard to make it happen, but one day (if you’re really lucky) it might just “show up”.

Spoiler Alert: One of my favorite “Kim-isms” is Nothing. Just. Happens.

This is the mantra of the hustler. It takes a million little “behind the scenes” things for something to one day “just happen”. Malcolm Gladwell backs this up very well in his awesome book “Outliers” – which I highly recommend.

Turns out, you can’s just “Go Find Peace”… bummer! It is as elusive as a unicorn, but happily, like a unicorn, once it shows up you sure do know it has arrived. The story of my Fall of 2023, my search for peace, was much like walking into a field of horses hoping to find a connection. Much to my dismay, I couldn’t just march out and grab it. I had to do a whole lot of looking, listening, waiting, thinking, sitting, feeling (and quite a bit of walking & talking too)… and then, one day, so very, very gratefully…. it showed up! Actually it kind of emerged, like a flower that finally bloomed. Not to say that it arrived in a tidy little package with a bow “ta da”, but more like a faint, but glowing light at the end of the tunnel. A sense of “oh, there you are… have you been standing there all this time?” Once I sensed its presence, it got easier to walk toward it and in doing so many of the bumps and ruts in the road of this year started to fade away (and the tears stopped falling).

Looking back on the year, I realize that it is more likely that the road didn’t change at all, but because I wasn’t fighting each bump and bracing against each one, the jarring didn’t hurt so much. Peace is the thing or the space that makes it all less hard. This reminds me of sitting the trot. When sitting the trot, the worst thing you can do is stiffen up and brace for impact… and the best thing you can do is breathe, relax and accept the motion (dare I say “go with the flow”) and things go so, so much better. Note: I’m fully aware of how incredibly obvious this sounds. Call me a walking cliché, I accept it because I’m living it.

It appears that there’s a lot one can say about Peace/ peace (libraries and universities are full of the topic), and I am certain that there’s not one single original thing in this post. I appreciate your patience in reading this anyway.

Nevertheless, for no reason other than my itch to write and share, I’m hoping to carve out time to write a bit more over the coming days. For now, I’m going to wrap up with a couple quotes to consider (which I hope are properly attributed) and a video to watch. Consider them as tools in a toolkit to help us all find a little more each day. Peace be with you!

Finding Peace Behind Bars: Joan Peralta by Corrie McCroskey
“Do not let the behavior of others destroy your inner peace” – Dalai Lama
“Nobody can bring you peace but yourself.” – Ralph Waldo Emerson

View from La Jolla Shores Beach, La Jolla, CA (Dec 23, 2023)

Yoga Mandali Studio in Saratoga Springs, NY (Jan 1, 2024)