1 December 2015
The existence of parallel truths is what gives our world its tremendous richness, and the grand scheme of things is far grander than our minds habitually imagine. ~Maria Popova, NY Times review of Dark Matter and The Dinosaurs by Lisa Randall
Fall is clearly moving on. The days shorten, the nights mantle my yard in silver white frost, the fragrances of simmering stews and baked goods delight me. I love fall’s exuberance. The pomegranates and pumpkins, the deer fattening up on acorns, the warbles of the Sandhill Cranes lilting in the sky as the birds arrive for the winter, the cheer of pulling off coats as friends gather. It’s easy to lean into the celebration of gratitude and joy and the culminating hurrah of Thanksgiving that unites loved ones in a day of feasting. What’s not to like?
December is when I unravel, the specter of Christmas flipping me over to the dark side. As an adult, I’ve never been at ease with this month. The bustle overwhelms me. The consumerism that equates and quantifies love with material goods unsettles me. The pressure of the media and the dominant cultural models to conform and buy! create a debilitating tug-of-war within me. I try to reason myself into a better, lighter place. But as the traffic snarls the exit ramps at the mall and my mail boxes, actual and virtual, are filled with ads and deals and cyber sales, my mind fumes with internal tussles and my heart sinks.
Over the last few years, I’ve begun looking at all this head-on with the intention of changing my attitude.
After all, Christmas is the holiday of love. It is a celebration of our caring and being cared for. It honors the flow of life that fundamentally relies on both giving and receiving. It venerates the great gift that is birth; that of being given life and the opportunity within it to learn to love.
I want to make my peace with this holiday. So, I’m tackling my attitude—exploring it, delving into the core of Christmas, and hoping to let it teach me to expand my capacity for compassion.
My negative feelings about Christmas have a long history. They have a place in me, for better or worse, that I need to honor.
I worry for the future. I am concerned that my own family of man is not wise enough to look ahead and provide for the basic needs of our offspring and that instead we will consume our earth into a dirty, dusty desert. Some days, I fear that the fundamentalism driving extremes of thought and action will pound wedges in the world that disastrously divide it into tribes of ‘us’ and ‘them’.
The gifts I would most love to give my nieces and nephews are the opportunity to enjoy good air and safe water, brilliant clown fish swimming in a healthy ocean, a global community with forward-minded objectives. These would be the gifts of my heart. And probably, of everyone’s hearts. And yet the time of giving in this country that I’m graced to live in, in affluent, free-enterprise America, seems directly at odds with these heart-felt desires.
For decades I’ve struggled, unable to find my place to stand, wobbling between trying to fit in and throwing a hissy fit, and finding no comfort in either. Now, I’m focusing on the season’s crux – compassion. Compassion for the hard scrabble fight I’ve put up when really I only wanted to express my deepest caring and be cared for. Compassion for my family of humanity that is equally conflicted and confused, pulled in multiple directions by numerous perspectives, but also ultimately wanting the gift of being heard, known, respected.
I have feasted on the gratitude and plenty of November. December is its own feast. Of love and kindness. The Dalai Lama, a man who has lost much, claims that his religion is kindness. For what could be more profoundly sacred, a greater gift than the extension of a heart in an act of kindness?
I am trying to accept myself enough to give up on ‘doing’ Christmas ‘properly’, and instead turning inward, trusting a desire to calibrate joyful loving in my own way, listening to the guidance of my own heart and mind.
I’ll be listening in for the questions. What gifts lift the wings of my heart? Where are the moments, simple and small though they may be, where I can offer caring? How can I increase my capacity for love and understanding this month?
No act of kindness, no matter how small, is ever wasted. ~ Aesop