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LIFE WITH CYNTHIA: May you find calm among chaos in 2024

Columnist sees coffee spill as one of many metaphors for life

January 2024. I am stunned at this date. I remember well the turn of Y2K and its baggage and concerns. I remember the ’90s with the padded shoulders and the ’80s with the hair beginning to grow bigger. My little Honda Civic that was so cute and my very first new car. And I remember my behaviours.

Today, I woke up to the sun shining. It seems like forever since we saw the sun. My sister just wrote me an email and in it she asked me, “What is that big yellow thing in the sky?” I laughed because we do not realize until it is not there how much we miss it. The old, old saying, “You don’t miss anything until it is gone.” That said, the sun is never truly gone. It is just behind the clouds. That, too, is a metaphor for life. What clouds cover the sunshine in your life?

I was making a coffee and, unlike most people in the year 2024, I use an old, small, cone-style filter. I boil water in the kettle, put the ground coffee into a white paper filter and then pour the water over into a stainless steel ‘go’ cup. I have done this for years. One of those things one begins doing and, before you know it, it is a tradition or a habit. It sits precariously there as I pour. Soothing, actually, watching the water slowly go down and the grounds sticking to the sides of the filter.

My friend does pour-over as well. She likes to be sure to pour the water around in a circle to push all the grounds down to the bottom of the cone. I like to pour into the middle and let the grounds float and land wherever they want, leaving them high on the sides. My friend and I have different ways of completing the same task. Yet another metaphor for life. What do you do differently from another to achieve the same goal? What makes anything the ‘right’ way to do it?

I digress. Anyway, I went to turn, and you guessed it. The precarious cone full of water and coffee grounds was knocked off its perch and spilled all over the counter, the floor and the face of the kitchen cabinets. This is a scene I replay in my mind most mornings. I look at that cone and think, “I must be careful, mindful I don’t send it flying, as it would be a terrible mess.” Yet another metaphor for life. What is going on right now, every day, that perches precariously, with you knowing one wrong move and you would have a mess?

January is a time when many of us set goals, resolutions and quests for the upcoming year. These precarious cones of mess we have traditionally created are perched delicately, waiting for us to make the wrong move. Do we continue this way of life? Or do we begin to make changes to create a more solid platform for our actions?

As I looked at the mess, I turned to the sink and got the dish cloth. I began wiping up the grounds, the water and my precious coffee. Most of the coffee was still protected and standing tall in the stainless-steel, double-walled cup. I took a moment and realized, like this coffee, I felt safe and protected. While I might have a spill around me, some chaos and a bit of a mess, most of me is calm and just standing by.

That is most people’s January wish: to feel safe, calm and to settle the chaos. How much chaos is in your life? We all need a little to keep us on our toes. The Buddhists would say life is nothing but chaos and that nothing is solid. I agree to a certain degree. I agree life is never certain. What is certain is our reaction to it all.

As I wiped up the spillage, I smiled and noticed the sun shining in the window, showing the dust on the tables. I felt the calm in my soul knowing this mess can be cleaned up. I witnessed my healthy heart, never skipping a beat at the mess. I felt glory in the way I simply realized the mess and began the task of sorting it all out. A few years ago, this kind of moment would send me to the bottle, not the coffee, and create tears and spillage of my soul.

January may be a time to assess our lives because it is the beginning of a new year. To continue this assessment and make meaningful changes takes stamina and inner strength. Willpower will come to visit and then leave again the first of February, but fear not. Each time you work at it, you are building your own strength.

In this new year, may you find your own spillage to be the realizing calm in your storm. May you know the sun is never gone; it is only behind the clouds and will return. You can do it. Take yourself to task and spill away.

Cynthia Breadner is a teacher, author, grief specialist and bereavement counsellor, a soul-care worker who offers specialized care in spiritually integrated therapies. She lives and works in the Bradford West Gwillimbury area, as a long-term care chaplain assisting with end-of-life care for client and family. She is the mother part of the #DanCynAdventures duo and practises fitness, health and wellness. Her book, In Stillness: Short Stories from a Life Well Lived, is a compilation of her work and available from Nancy’s Nifty Nook and Health Food Store in downtown Bradford. She is available remotely by safe and secure video connections. If you have any questions, contact her today via [email protected] or

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Cynthia Breadner

About the Author: Cynthia Breadner

Writer Cynthia Breadner is a grief specialist and bereavement counsellor, a soul care worker providing one-on-one support at
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