The holidays scuttle and clamber into our otherwise scheduled, predictable lives. We embrace the customs and traditions with a blend of innocent joy mixed with recoiled distress, envisioning the ensuing stress and demands that, we have all learned, are unavoidable, along with an arousing anticipation for the exquisite taste of sugary magic that is inexplicably captured… in a gift or a song… seen in a child’s fascinated face or felt in a warm embrace.
Reasons abound to be festive…
When else can red and green be considered fashionable together? From cookies and candies to stationary and ribbons, even ties and socks turn up in bright, bold ebullient colors.
One might never see their extended family if holidays were not considered an obligatory appointment to eat and be merry. Great uncle Lester and Cousin Irene with her puffy white terrier, Snuggles, may never have the opportunity to share a meal together if not for the yearly gathering.
Evergreen and pine trees would hardly get noticed if we were not, once a year, converging under one that has been unabashedly over decorated, and bottom-stuffed with oddly-shaped wrapped offerings. Our enamored affection for the tree lasts all of a month, after which we look at its parched branches with a poker face- contemplating its impending exodus from our living room and our life. There is the very real threat of becoming kindling or being haphazardly tossed curbside like an outdated sofa left over at the neighborhood garage sale, plainly unwanted.
Having memorized the first chorus of no less than twenty holiday songs, it would be shameful to not make use of that much memory skill in an annual sing along with the radio station’s “Christmas songs commercial free, all day and all night-a-thon”.
Cards. More importantly, the all mighty card recipient list. Deciding who stays on the list and singling out the unfortunate ones who get tossed off speaks volumes to the kind of year a person has just gone through. Trash bin contenders: ex-lovers, that “immediate supervisor” from your last job whose most apparent talent was in drafting useless interoffice memos, a work associate fired after he was arrested for something that involved more than a handful of “counts”, and the neighbor who did not invite you to their summer backyard bash where you spied, from your roof top perch, at least ten other neighborhood couples gaily eating kabobs and drinking homemade margaritas.
Wrapping presents. Ahhh… the joy of cutting, then neatly covering your gifts in artfully designed, incredibly thin, multi-hued paper in a manner which demonstrates your flair and adeptness, or at minimum prevents all out comical laughter at your expense. When one’s forte is not found in gift wrapping… the event itself- the wrapping of gifts… is painfully arduous and often requires significant consumption of liquid spirits to diminish the angst!
And so it goes… the world shall shop, decorate, bake, celebrate, toast, travel, dance, and delight in the season of love, joy, and giving thanks. Often, too, we reflect. Saying goodbye to a year brings stirring rumination and provokes melancholy emotions. We search for meaning and purpose, we laugh remembering the slapstick scenarios, and we feel our pride for those triumphant feats, as our mind races to recapture the moments of glory and glee.
But then our eyes close as we stumble upon the hurt… the events of tender sorrow… when we lost… caused grief… disappointed… neglected… or when we failed to stand up for our virtue. The experience of letting go… the desolation of losing your heart. The fear of pain… the panic that arises from grave illness. Some of us made our way through the four seasons with only minor scars; others withstood life-changing tragedy that left deep, aching wounds.
Life shoulders far more than just normalcy. Among the daily routines and weekly regimens that we regularly undertake, amid the conceded claims to our time, in between the leisure and the work, putting aside the duties and demands… one must have taken a daring leap into the unknown… pushed open the door of discovery… endeavored to touch the sun or to become lost in the darkness. One must take a chance… if to have lived at all.
And so here I sit on this rare occasion of quietness, in that place of year-end contemplation. I finish a year chock full of exploration and exploits, and also enmeshed in heartache and internal anguish. Looking back, I know just this…
I have everything left to learn.
My knowledge and understanding are minute. I am, admittedly, far less aware and informed than I once believed. Wisdom may appear broad and all inclusive, but it is really only a tentative plateau on which we stand momentarily as we prepare to take life’s next untried step.
I have learned that the search is never ending… one does not reach a point of adequate awareness. The quest is uncontainable… no matter how much one tries to predict, command, and map it. Ultimately the journey will move in illogical and maybe even unwelcome directions… but in those instances, we must not take down our sail… for there is purpose in the way the ocean moves. I have come to believe that the only experiences that really matter are the journey itself, perspective and insight gained, bonds that are cultivated, and the love we share along the way.
My beloved pup, Coza, is curled up on the carpet next to me. On most days she is in a constant mode of PLAY- a nonstop combustion of puppy bounciness. Today she seems to have taken her cue from gray-clad Mother Nature… her energy bar zeal has given way to blissful sleep.
Now Coza may believe that life is all about chasing squirrels, digging holes, puddle jumping, and eating Alpo… but I know that it is really about loving her as she chases, digs, jumps, and eats.
And while I may believe that I failed in my marriage, let down friends and family, sacrificed too much, and obsessed over unimportant matters, I know that it is really about loving those who care and support me… whenever I fail, let down, sacrifice, and obsess.
Love others despite themselves. And you, too, shall have the warmest and sweetest of holiday moments, tinsel tinged and evergreen scented.