In case you lost track: four more days until Christmas Eve. Of course I want to write something thoughtful, moving and richly authentic, but what I think of this moment is the shopping. I know there is nothing I purchase that will provide true contentment, reasonable internal and external security and well-seeded joy. And yet I joined the hoards and covered a few miles in search of a delightful/useful/curious/unique something or other for each one of 14 people for whom I will wrap gifts. And the average number of gifts per person is about 4. I admit that if I had more money, I’d be in far greater trouble, though I do mind my spending.
I do get a bit tired from preparations even though I’m fortunate to have a lot of energy. I keep saying: this is it, next year I am going to the mountains, I will reserve a remote chalet really early (turns out lots of others like to do the same) and then we’re gone. If any adult children and grandchildren wanted to follow, they’d have to bring sleeping bags and agree to only nature’s or other handmade presents, no television or other technological downfalls. My husband and I might end up alone…
So long ago I faced the truth: I love the Christmas season, even a little hullabaloo, decorating and spit shining the place and then hanging out with all. I do wish we still had a larger home so we could stuff everyone in longer for more fun and food. Because we return to productive, hectic lives fast. This year things will be different as some folks have other places to be this time, too. It may feel more like an “open house.” I need one of those revolving doors so they’ll keep coming and going.
But at least I have the gifts. Mostly. They’re snugged up to one another in bags on the biggest bedroom’s carpeted floor, which now barely peeks out at me. At some point they will be attractively wrapped (well, hastily covered up with appropriate paper). And I have to bake–my yearly Russian teacakes. That’s it this year, if my schedule holds.
While out there spending money on my family, I wondered how we can be so enthralled with objects; people seemed to move at times as if in an agitated trance. Others fawned over something with an excitement one might ascribe to discovering the one’s grandest desire. Often people trod streets and stores with a stalwart resignation, as if they’d tried their best yet nothing could be done about it. I half-want to sit them down, offer them Epson salts foot soaks and rubs and then a cup of tea as we have a chat. If it is no fun and there is little joy, why overexert yourself?
Clearly, I am not adept at rising above all this. I want to be spiritually minded at all times. I treasure my faith, am possessed by an ineffable love for God. But I have to admit to just enjoying shopping for family and friends, no matter the occasion. It feels good to give, even materially. There were a few times, however, when I had fleeting out-of-body experiences as I looked about and then at myself, whereupon I mused: What is all this? Why? For there is not one item I bought that’s not replaceable or irrelevant in the end. I have no illusions yet still ponder each purchase as if it matters deeply to the recipient. I sometimes think I want to give out happiness.
I know what counts amid all the fuss and anticipation. I am certain that we all do, whether or not our primary consideration is to offer up hallelujahs of praise for Jesus’ birth. Or to support youngsters’ wonderment and the hope in Santa Claus’ dedication to their dearest wants. Or to just pause and take a holiday break on ski runs with friends we’re fortunate to know. For some, it’s just a couple of days off from demanding employment–isn’t all work tiring by end of December?–and a chance to recover a greater sense of wellness. Heart.
Little things count for much. Lighting a candle in memory of those who have left this realm. Reading a good book by the heater or a snapping fire. Immersing one’s self in the melodic swell and decrescendo of favorite music. Holding closer a beloved child, a partner, a best friend. Looking above at vast and brilliant scatterings of stars in the sheer navy-to-black cosmos–where things are happening right now that we do not even know about. (I recently learned that seven newly discovered planets about the size of earth in a nearby solar system may have water.)
How much emphasis can we place on a simple act of tenderness? How many miracles exist in forests, valleys, mountains and deserts; in an operating room where one more life is snatched back to life? At a corner cafe where food is given away and within reaches of an infant’s newly arrived intellect and imagination? One only needs to consider for a moment. And it’s all happening despite the commercial call to us each Christmas and New Year’s.
I don’t know about you, but this life is devastatingly, mindbogglingly breathtaking to me even at 67. I now that’s two long adverbs and a fancy adjective, but really. I don’t need a special season to remind me of my place in the fullness of this universe as we know it. It’s a minuscule spot but still, a good seat. I want it so I claim it. I open my arms to it, embrace the relentless absurdities and suffering, the epiphanies, the rewards.
So I do my Christmas shopping and my whole system responds: very soon, celebratory days will be here. But I also wait on angels who have their own agendas –to some an odd thing to say–but they are patient enough with us to just realize they are near. They often spur me with good impulses, so I can do what is better, not easier or self-serving. (Read orthopedic surgeon Mary C. Neal’s experience of dying on a kayaking trip and what she learned in To Heaven and Back, for one example; or look for angels in my blog tags. It is not unusual in all cultures to acknowledge angelic presences.) They have their jobs, too, after all; life isn’t just busy for us. Or are we so egocentric to imagine we’re the only effectively operant beings around? Maybe we should look again at the news–then at ancient wisdom of the ages.
So speaking of angels, there was Gabriel’s message and the others’. Those who’ve followed my blog awhile know that I thank God for Christ’s message of unbreakable, endless love. For love was never meant to turn from those in need; he told all that it works to heal torment and deep rifts of all sorts; it does not deny people dignity and welcomes all with a transformative mercy and care. Jesus’ story is largely about liberation through persevering care and kindness, about the strength and courage needed to walk such a path.
We can be that person who loves one another, that person who mines for goodness and generosity despite the prurience and paucity of our times. But this requires that we step forward and offer aid or a true act of acceptance, that second or third or fourth chance at reconciliation, especially when it seems unreasonable.
There is joy on this often reviled, worn down world. I strive to write from the places inside me that, like many rivers converging, often crest and overflow with grateful astonishment; the part of me that yet knows little but, regardless, wants to give much. It is that powerhouse of luminosity that moves and remakes me just as when I was a small child–as we all were and likely felt similar things–its boundless beauty filling me up.
And I see it in you and you and you, adding to this powerful energy we can utilize on our earth. It is a wonder when it is harnessed and we choose to deliver what helps and heals.
So I hope that you will have a great time giving out even a few small gifts and sharing a table and singing familiar tunes. Whoever you will be beside and even if alone, experience the time with a whole heart, with soul. Break out the cookies, the tasty drinks or gather at the hilltop campfire and look long about you. Receive the Light; send it out again. It’s what fuels all the good that is still, yes, yet to come. Take a leap and believe in hope, for that is just a beginning.
So, my many WordPress companions, may blessings beckon and follow your every footstep. No matter how taxing it is to keep on, please just keep on. I thank you for visiting my writing one more year. It has been the finest gift to me that you still bother to read what I work hard at creating, spurred on by a lifelong passion to share stories that arise.
Merry Christmas! Be safe ringing in a Happy New Year.
Below: An example of a truly good present. I was born very near sighted, but those foggy, annoying glasses didn’t keep me from hitting the ice at the outdoor rink almost daily each winter, so getting new skate blade guards (at 9) elicited jubilation! And lastly, I am wishing the best to you and yours!
PS: I am taking a blogging break until January 3, 2018. Then I’ll share what my new posting schedule will be and why I am making changes. Stay tuned.