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Shadow and Reflection

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Of course I am vain, and perhaps no more so than when dressed for a run in the park on a warm day. I catch a quick but thorough look at my reflection in a full-length mirror in the lobby just before hitting the pavement. Not bad, but I'll have to keep up this exercise thing the rest of my life. Its midday and midsummer and the sun is high. While running, I see my shadow and wonder - is that what I really look like?

Within a short period of time, I saw reflection and shadow, differing images of how I see myself. Was I the slender me in the mirror? Or was I that oddly shaped, almost pear-like shadow figure emanating from my feet?

I have spent weeks thinking about these two words - their similarities and differences. Wondering how we see reality, in reflections or shadows, and the shades of truth between them.

This has certainly been the year to think about change. In addition to the expected and unplanned events that occur - including love, war, sickness, work, birth, and death - the massive economic tsunami of 08/09 left an unusual imprint on all our lives.

It is traditional on the eve of the New Year to pause, look back, evaluate and look ahead. Reflections - not only what we see in the mirror, but how we look inside. What do we see after this difficult year? 'Things were worse this time last year' or 'Next year will be better'. I hear attempts at optimism, and in some cases, intimations of concern and fear: 'It will be a harder year' and I know that the uncertainty of what lies ahead leaves us all on edge, grateful for what we have yet anxious for the future.

Our reflections - our attempts to look at our image, who we think we are, who we see in the mirror, how we want to be seen by others - and draw conclusions. Our best hopes, thoughtful self-images and contemplation: Are we kind, thin, considerate, smart, loving, sensitive, funny, charitable, unique, attractive, considerate, valuable. Or, selfish, ugly, fat, imperfect, rude, ostentatious, mean, stupid, unloved. How do we see ourselves and what do we want to do better in the New Year? What is on your list of New Year's Resolutions? This is purposeful reflection on our inner selves.

Then, there are the shadows. Unemployment at 10%, or higher depending on where you look. Americans using food stamps is at record levels. Food pantries reporting unprecedented demand for supplies and services. Is this our ugly side that we prefer not to see? This is the silhouette of our society - in the shadows, hungry or homeless, or just wondering how to survive the next round of job cuts, salary cuts, benefit cuts or other catastrophe. And when I hear that sigh of relief saying things aren't so bad, I say - maybe not for us. We have our jobs and homes and something to fall back on. What about those who don't?

I am going out the door - not for a run but into the New Year. I see my reflection, and as tough as the year has been, I am okay. My family is okay. My business has struggled but is fine. As I walk down the street, out comes my shadow, slightly distorted and disturbing, but also a part of me. Only now do I understand both images and why they have been rattling in my mind for months. I am also the hungry, the cold, the less privileged and the vulnerable.

We will have to work harder, longer and smarter. We will innovate, recreate, rejuvenate and reinvent. We will need to be lucky, have Mazel as I like to say. We will survive. But our resolution - or reflection - will be to look into the darkness of the shadows and bring light.

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