Love is what’s in the room with you at Christmas if you stop opening presents and listen. ~Author unknown, attributed to a 7-year-old named Bobby
home has taken on a new identity for me over the last few years. in 2004 i found myself back in colorado after having crashed and burned in california. i was merely considering getting into recovery and i had an epiphany regarding home. i had always had an aversion to living here in the rockies because its pace is much much slower than my manic side- or the side that rules my impulses and my decisions. but i have always done better here- been more grounded here, and remained tethered to the earth here.
this year, i have felt like immersing myself in the holiday like not before. i put up a tree for the 1st time since i bought the house 2007. i put decorations on the outside of the house. i found gifts for friends instead of just cards. and i hosted a very small dinner on saturday night. i had tried entertaining at my house in 2009, but it didn’t go perfectly and i got frustrated. as a matter of fact, i yelled at a cousin at the end of thanksgiving dinner that year, and he and i haven’t spoken since then.
this year- 8 years into my drug free life, i have created a new home. i have tried – not with great ease- to entertain at that home and welcome others into my world. last night i had a small faction of my tribe over for a holiday dinner and movie. it was surprisingly easy and comfortable. it was quiet. it was sweet. it was intimate. and it was warm.
it was definitely home. i have a large extended family that remains distant. there were the years that i wasn’t able to be around alcohol followed by the years i chose not to be around it. just like many families, many of mine have its romance with booze and drugs. some seem enmeshed. it has been easier to stay aloof. unexpectedly, i got a card in the mail from that cousin i mentioned. he’s moved on to la and to the next phase of his life. i put one back in the mail immediately. i have sent one every year, but i can’t remember whether he has. he has been struggling with anger- probably disappointment, his mental health, and his drinking and pot smoking. i remain in no position to be judgmental about struggles of that kind.
at the hospital where i work, this is the 2nd year i have played santa at the women and family service’s party. this time, we laid out the event differently and the moments with santa were much more intimate. i met kids who were thrilled to list what they wanted for the holiday and proud to declare that they had been good. then there were the ones who screamed in my face when they realized they might leave the safety of mom’s arms and be put in my lap. it was the funniest thing i have seen in awhile. i think this might fill anyone with the spirit of the holidays. it certainly did me. but what got me more was the comradeship and the teamwork that my co-workers displayed for this whole thing. everyone pitched in and no one had to be asked to participate.
as the seasons go by, i find it easier to be present. there remain ancient guideposts and scars, but the newness of my awareness of them fades much of their strength. i am happy to be happy today.
To dispel darkness and usher in new day,To light up the path leading towards glow;There is celebration marked along the wayOf perfumed oils, lamps and delicacy stow.The Festival of Lights brightens the East,To reflect in jocund spirit Occident love;It symbolizes time for triumph and feast,Day by night that is blessed from above.Call it what you may or celebrate whenever,Give it form of will or meaning filled a-new,It epitomizes the victory of peace over sever,And regenerates space for all that is ever true.Spelling the onset of winter, frost and cold,Bringing on the warmth of glow and light,All festivities center on creating fresh mold,Awaiting with discrimination, end of night.Harkening the forces of prosperity and joy,Calling upon the auspiciousness of deed,Festivities strengthen deep faith to destroy,Forces of evil and hate, to harmony cede.Designed around the need to retrace intent,To question and analyze with mental rites,May the universe unfold in genuine assent,To spread felicity during the Festival of Lights.
after the tryptophan of the few days off in november wanes, the swing of the winter axis takes place. it is the celebration of lights that is my north american holiday. it coincides with the winter solstice which is the shortest day of the year and accordingly the longest night. the lights that symbolize this may very well be an attempt to light that darkest part of our year with the sunlight of spirit.
it occurred to me today in a meeting that the emotions that stir in me around the holidays are very much paralleled to the decorations that i unpack each year to adorn my mantle, windows, and doors. my memories are nudged from slumber as i dust off mementos from previous winters and i connect to a deeper part of self. the very fact that i have my own symbols of light and sparkle speak volumes to the idea that the energy that swirls at this time of year is very close to my center. and my culture has taught me to collect sparkle during the longest dark to remind me that there is light in the world.
“Shall we liken Christmas to the web in a loom? There are many weavers, who work into the pattern the experience of their lives. When one generation goes, another comes to take up the weft where it has been dropped. The pattern changes as the mind changes, yet never begins quite anew. At first, we are not sure that we discern the pattern, but at last we see that, unknown to the weavers themselves, something has taken shape before our eyes, and that they have made something
very beautiful, something which compels our understanding.”
– Earl W. Count, 4,000 Years of Christmas