It’s been years – eons, it seems – since I felt anything resembling Christmas spirit. Every year I make half-hearted attempts to try to figure out why, but I mostly just keet putting one foot in front of the other to get through, pasting on that smile and doing what I think will make everybody else happy. This year, though, I feel an ole’ familiar flutter, a stirring, a quickening that I vaguely recognize from many years ago. I pass a mirror and am surprised to see myself smiling. I play and dance and I even sing Christmas carols.
I feel peace and I feel contentment, and I’ll take those two things over happiness any day of the week. On the way home from a glorious day spent in Asheville with my husband and our children and their friends, I think about that, pondering what’s the difference. Wondering what magic ingredient is here this year that’s been absent the past umpteen years. What’s different? Maybe it’s an age thing – there’s no doubt my clock is ticking – but I think it’s mostly something else.
This past year, you see, I kicked the shutters off my heart, opening up to the sorrow I’ve long been trying to outrun or shove aside or leave on the side of the road. I sat with the sorrow. I went to bed with it and I woke up with it; I spoke to it and I listened to it. I stitched it and wrote it and invited it to tea. I grieved, and I grieved long. And hard. And deeply. It was a generalized grief and a broad grief, a mourning for those lost, for time wasted, for loss of my space, both physical and personal. I missed my daddy, my Aunt Rene, and my children, Alison and Kipp. There was a deep well of unspent grief for me to draw from, and though I did keep functioning (on most days, anyway), I didn’t rush my way through it, and you know . . . I think it’s that opening to sorrow that has made all the difference.
Oh don’t get me wrong, sorrow is still with me, quietly accompanying me, popping up when I hear Silent Night (the song we sang as we exited Daddy’s funeral) and when I realize that I’ve lived over half the Christmases I will ever know. Tears are precariously near the surface as I hear my children poking and kidding each other and laughing with their friends; when they stop what they’re doing and walk over to give me an unsolicited hug; when they ask to do something the way we’ve always done it. I think about how they are young adults living their own independent lives now, and I’m touched by their willingness to leave some of the burdens of adulthood at the door and come into the world of being a child again. I see them looking at me through different eyes, and I imagine them being impressed even if just a wee little bit to now see their mother as an independent woman who devoted a big chunk of her life to them and did so willingly and lovingly. Their dad comes over in the midst of the delightful hubbub to kiss me, and we linger in the embrace, knowing that we brought these two amazing people into the world. Satisfaction. It wasn’t always easy, and it still isn’t, but we did good. There’s a sorrow there, and there’s a gladness there. Both.
I can’t explain it, and maybe I don’t need to. Maybe it’s enough just to enjoy and appreciate the peace and contentment that swaddles me. Maybe there doesn’t need to be a reason, and maybe I couldn’t articulate it even if I knew perfectly well what it is that caused the shift. But my bones say it has something to do with opening the shutters to sorrow, that somehow in opening to grief, I also opened to peace. That in giving space to the sorrow, I laid down the notion that I’m somehow defective or broken or less than because I feel sorrow.
However it happened, I feel Whole and Genuine and more Right than I’ve felt in an awfully long time.
I don’t know how you always read my heart–I have Christmas spirit this year too-for the first time in many years and although this has been a sad week ( lost two cousins and a friend) I still feel happy and my Christmas tree will be even more beautiful tomorrow night and Tuesday morning when my daughters and their families are here–On Tuesday my heart will ache for my Mama, but I will look at my Daddy and be so very happy that he is at my table and we are all together for another family Christmas. I sometimes think when we are younger we expect it to be “more”, then as we age we see the really important things, a smile, laughter, a kiss and a good hug from that spouse we have loved so many years, and for me a grandchild’s smile and a sweet voice saying, “for me”!! Merry Christmas to you and yours Jeanne, you and your words mean ever so much to me!!
I feel like we’re holding hands, smiling and weeping as we walk along. Merry Christmas, my friend. XO
enjoy this beautiful life you are living. you deserve the happiness and the poignancy of understanding the vagaries of time and place, and their sudden shifts. happy holidays sweetpea.
there you go again – soothing my furrowed heart with your words, with your wisdom. thank you, sugar, for being such a balm to my soul . . . and for calling me sweetpea. what a treasure you are in my life.
This post reminds me of two important things I’ve learned. The first came years ago, from the book “Ordinary People”: “It’s hard to smile when you’re keeping a stiff upper lip.” That has helped me unstiffen my lip and let the tears out – only then can real smiles happen, too.
The other was recent, the result of how a friend introduced me to someone, saying that I come to visit their farm to get healing. At first I bristled, even though it is one of the reasons I visit. I noticed myself bristling, and thought, “A wound is not a flaw. It is just a wound.” And stopped bristling. And let the healing continue.
So I agree, and cheer! You are not defective or broken or less than because you feel sorrow. Only when we don’t let ourselves feel the sorrow – or the peace or contentment or joy – are we less than. And even then only less than we could be. Not less than anyone else.