My Slow Appreciation Project: Reconciling Family, Love and Life Passages

On the last day of 2016, I reviewed and revised my intentions for the New Year. They had been brewing all year, but presented themselves with sharper focus when I allowed myself to slow down and listen to my clear inner voice — one that I have been turning to with greater trust and confidence as the years go by. The year was defined by multiple family and career transitions: one son’s graduation from art school; another’s college semester in Chile; my intentional departure from NC Theatre after nearly 14 years and that which prompted my literary journey of reconciliation: the death of my father last December. I turned to writing to process the death of my mother in 2014 and built a network of women who lost their mothers in various stages of their lives. Our collaboration culminated in an article that was published as a Mother’s Day article in the May issue of Walter Magazine.

The life passage of being parentless was an urgent call to cultivate and nurture more appreciation for my vast community of family and friends, both living and dead. After my formal announcement about leaving NC Theatre, I was overwhelmed by the outpouring of appreciation that I received: emails, cards, offers for lunch, parties and gifts. These messages and displays of support and gratitude created powerful moments of well-being and I thought to myself, “What didn’t they say this earlier?” or “Why didn’t I ask for this sooner?” or “Maybe they were telling me all along, but I was too busy “doing” to fully receive the messages?” I can honestly say that I balanced my relentless career pursuits with time and space for myself and family, but my work style has a decided “bias for action” and I moved with alacrity to accomplish as much as possible every day — perhaps I was moving too quickly?

Slow appreciation is my commitment to an intentional year of personal reflection and outreach by writing a letter each day to people in my life who have shaped and inspired me.

“I write to make sense of my life,” is my favorite quote from John Cheever. I am a lifelong keeper of journals. This dates back to writing and saving handwritten notes to and from friends; pasting ticket stubs and postcards and squashed corsages into oversized books; and finally pouring out my heart and soul onto the page then in the digital realm. This act of writing letters with intentional gratitude and no expectation has provided more meaning and structure to my days and has resulted in some incredible reconnections and discoveries. I am now two-thirds of the way through my project and I feel my heart opening up a bit wider each time I reach out, reflect and reconcile memories from the past that have been tucked away. My goal is to create a ripple effect of well-being at a time of tumultuous transition in the world. Moving from cynicism to reverence has been one of the joyful outcomes of the journey.And it’s not over yet.