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It’s amazing to me how every year around this time we start hearing words that either are rarely used during the remainder of the year or take on new significance during the holidays.  Words like “hope” and “joy” take on a life of their own during this time of year and suddenly even the most cynical of us, and I would be a finalist for that prize, feel a certain freedom in our souls that just isn’t there most of the time.

As I considered this phenomenon, my mind caught on one of these words in particular.  I picked it up and turned it over and over, examining it from every angle, and I was fascinated by the strange complexity of it.

The word was “peace.”

Words like “joy” are simple.  We can connect with them and the burst of happiness and warmth they entail.  But, “peace” is harder, it is a nuanced word that has meanings within meanings.  And every person defines and experiences peace in a different way, entirely dependant upon their situation and life experiences.

In short, peace is complicated.

There’s the big definition of peace that we all pray for.  The cessation of violence and the descent of brotherhood throughout the world.  A state where instead of guns and tanks we greet each other with embraces and words of fellowship.  I, like everyone, have always wished for such a thing.  But, this past year brought it much closer to home as I watched a close friend put in harm’s way for the lack of such peace.  It was a lesson that will stick with me throughout my remaining days.

Then there’s the smaller versions of peace.  Perhaps defined as a tranquility in which we can allow ourselves to relax completely and allow the stresses and anxieties of our lives to melt away for a time.  Or, maybe it is the feeling of security we feel when we are snug in our homes on a winter’s night, knowing our loved ones are safe and secure.

But, I think perhaps the reason my brain tripped over this one word of the season among the others was different from these things.  I think it is this concept of peace which has been so very difficult for me to truly grab onto and make mine which has haunted me over the last year or so.  It is that place where we find true acceptance, not only from others but also from ourselves. 

I have always had difficulties fitting in.  Most of my life I have felt much like a peg cut just slightly off the shape needed to truly fit into the world around me.  In recent years, I have found a certain level of acceptance among a group of friends who are truly some of the best people I have been blessed to have enter my life.  I have also been blessed with a soulmate who not only accepts me for who I am, but also encourages me to be that person. 

But, even in those circumstances, I often find myself feeling out of place at times.  And, it has become clear to me that the chaos that is causing that lack of peace is not coming from the people who have welcomed me as one of their own, whether family or friends, but from my own soul.  And, thus, I have learned the a truism of life.  It is often much easier to be forgiven by others than to forgive yourself.

As all of these things have passed through my mind I find myself thinking about a song by Tim McGraw.  And, I realize if I want to find peace, if I truly want to leave the chaos behind, I need to embrace these words to one extent or another.

Today I’m gonna keep on walking.

I’m gonna leave the past behind, I have no more tears to cry.

Today, I’m gonna stand out in the rain.

Let it wash it all away, wash it all away.

I’m gonna let it go.

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