Sunday, December 17, 2017

PRACTICAL MAGIC



(I can't come up with a better title, and elves are supposed to be magic anyway, right?  So that's that.)

Now.

If you're going to be in public dressed as an elf, you'd best be prepared to smile and wave, don't ya think?  Seems practical enough.  Seems like something you'd anticipate, prepare for, consider thoroughly as you decide whether or not going into public as an elf is even a good idea.

Well!



I'm sometimes impulsive.  Sometimes, I make decisions without thorough consideration.  Sometimes, without even a little common sense, it seems.

This doesn't always matter (to me) or bother me once I'm pumping gas in front of Walmart dressed as an elf.

But this year.
This year is different.

I recently had this really bright idea to start my very own hashtag for the 25 days of Christmas.  It's been easy enough to have a post for every day so far.  ...but every day, we get closer...

Christmas-time is a thing for me.  I don't know if I know very many people ~ I know a few ~ who move through this season unaffected.  Excepting the few, it seems to me that people either love the Christmas holiday or they're miserable and just praying to get through it.  (I suppose there's a whole third group of folks who are just stressed to hair-loss about buying gifts and time with family and cooking, etc. ~ but that's a whole other post that somebody else can/will write.)

It hasn't always been this way, but if I'm going to tic toc, it's likely going to happen during the end of each year.  I've lost a lot of folks during this season ~ literally, figuratively ~ and then, concerning some folks ~ my dad, for instance ~ it doesn't matter when they left, their absence is always a heavy mantle this time of year.

*Important note:  so far, what I've written looks and feels like a heavy mantle!  Who would want to read this, and especially at Christmas?  I promise, though, that I set out with a positive notion, and I intend for this to be a tapestry in the end - one that evokes positivity, willful endurance, hope.  If you've made it this far, then please bear with me.  It really does get darkest just before the dawn!

Last Christmas Eve was the first anniversary of my sister's going home.

(That's enough, really.  I could stop right here, save this as a draft, and walk away.)

But.

It's probably only been within the last decade that I've found zeal, joy, and a celebratory mood for this season.  Certain life events, having grandkids ~ experience has taught me:  appreciate every single moment.

Last Christmas Eve was important.  This one, even more so.  And Christmas Day ... this is all I have to say about that.

So.

Some of my favorite bloggers write very practical bullet lists ~ "do and don't", "how and why", "who and who not" ~ and I've learned from and been inspired by many such posts.  So much that I thought writing one here and now was the most appropriate approach to making my desired point(s).

However, in discussion with a very important friend the other day, speaking about loss and grief, she said, "You really and truly can't tell people how to get through it.  People just have to do it their own way."

Yep.

And so, I'm not going to write a "This Is How To Get Through This Season If You're Grieving Or If You Just Plain Hate Christmas," bullet list.  What I'm going to do instead is share my personal experience and manner of coping through this season.

There are things that I do that are critical to my... well, plain out surviving this time of year.  This will not be an inclusive list (remember, it's actually not a list at all), but following are some of my most important practices to maintaining health and sanity, especially right now.

I burn incense.  I said that to someone recently, and she responded that she "went through that phase."  It continues to baffle the dickens out of me what she meant by "that phase"!  Pish tosh.  Burning incense is serious business, more crucial than that whole transcendental meditation stuff that I learned in 3rd grade.  For one thing, my dad did it ~ had all these special little dishes for his cones.  I use sticks, but still have a thing for the groovy burners.  Obviously, it reminds me of my dad in the most positive way, but it really is also part of my meditation practice.  Meditation, for me, is quiet contemplation.  Prayer.  Being still and listening for the quiet voice.

I make myself go into public places.  (*There are times, as aforementioned, that I need to be alone, and that is OKAY.)  Going into public is a little more necessary now that I have a job away from home, so what I mean is that I don't just go out.  I also mix in.  I intentionally interact with people, and most especially with people who are my friends.  Many years ago now, after one of my most traumatic experiences, I had a period of time in the desert.  It was ten years later that I lost my dad, and even having learned the danger of withdrawing, I descended for about three years into one of the darkest periods of my life.  It still scares me when I read journal entries from that time.  Now, whenever I want most to crawl into a hole, I try my hardest to be present with people.  Friends, especially, can draw you out, distract you with joy (in spite of circumstance, and that is OKAY), and hold you up when you feel like sinking.  Remember, talking with a friend is why this is not a bullet point post, thank Jesus!

I believe in Jesus.  I find my hope and greatest sustenance in my relationship with him.  Sometimes, I wonder if people wonder how it is that I can go into public dressed as an elf these few short months after losing my grandbaby.  I sometimes wonder about it my own self.  But the answer is simply and always Jesus.  I know that some folks don't believe.  I know that some folks don't believe it can possibly be enough.  But this is my experience.  Jesus sustains me.  He is my truest friend and he holds me up when I feel like sinking.

The last months of the year can be a really tough time for a whole lot of people.  I am among them.  One way or another way, you'll likely see a number of articles, bullet point lists, whatevers about how to cope or how to help someone else cope through this season.  I've told you just a few of the ways that I get through.  I pray that each of you will find your way and/or help someone else to do the same.

I have eight days left to finish what I started. 
As I draw closer, I wonder more about how I'll do it. 
But I know I'll do it. 
I'll do it even if it's awful. 
And it won't be magic. 

In spite of circumstance, in spite of loss and grief, Christmas is still about the birth of Jesus.  I pray to be neither trivial nor trite about the hardships and hurt that other people are experiencing, and pray, sincerely, fervently, that we can all see through it all the way through.

Tuesday, December 5, 2017

Antithesis


This
is about to be
awful.

Probably
dumb even,
as my nearly five-year-old grandson would say.



(Nearly five years old.
Lord, have mercy!)

This is a step, though,
and one that I must take in order to take the next step forward.
(Don't ask me which step it is, though,
as it's been some time since I studied on all that.)

The thing about this is that before I can go any further forward,
I must go back a few.
I must review.
I must confront.
I must acknowledge.
And then maybe I can deal.
Deal like a real person, and not like some character in a play.



That tree has been up for four days without lights.
There's a scattering of other Christmas decor just beyond view.
There are groceries on the counter, and yes, even some frozen ones that should have been put away minutes and minutes ago.

But I have reached critical mass.
I must either do this or crack open like a wasted acorn* and lie forgotten and decaying in the moss.

(I've read some stuff this last couple of years.  Like, REAL stuff, and it's left in me a deep and mournful yearning to say beautiful, painful things that might cause your bones to ache.)

(first pang.)

(This is going to be more for my own sake, apparently.)



"Walk through these gray days oneself as an announcing messenger.  So many need their courage strengthened, so many are in despair and in need of consolation, there is so much harshness that needs a gentle hand and an illuminating word, so much loneliness crying out for a word of release, so much loss and pain in search of inner meaning.  God’s messengers know of the blessing that the Lord has cast like seed into these hours of history." Father Alfred Delp

I saw this posted in my ig feed this morning along with, 


"Words matter.  Especially now." Kimberly Coyle

People keep telling me to write.
They say that I should, that I can, that I underestimate my ability.
Again, though, I've read some STUFF, and it's left me feeling smallish.
I must acknowledge, though,
that feeling smallish is an affect of my affliction.



Sometime this year, I was diagnosed with poly-inflammatory arthritis.  I remember how confused my doctor looked when I kept saying, "oh, thank goodness."  I was really just glad to know that something real and not imagined was happening, grateful that I had not accidentally written a chronic illness into my story.  (You ever done that?)  I wonder now if that initial reaction might have affected some of his choices regarding my treatment plan.  (No need to elaborate.)

I guess this turns out to be not a great thing to have since every time I tell someone older than me that I have it, they give me the sad and sympathetic groan, as if my entire future will be dimmed in comparison to the role that this thing will play.

Right now, I'm getting it.  Like, I get it.  I'm having a flare-up.

[(Look, right here, what I want to do is insert 
some kind of frou-frou text image 
and maybe a swollen middle finger, 
but I'm supposed to be better than that.)  
(I'd probably do it anyway if I had time.
Just to be entirely honest about it.)]

The arthritis thing is real, and it's coloring the background of everything else.
Until it takes its place, center stage.

Truth is, it's been easy to ignore, to do what they say, to take what they prescribe.
There's been So Much else to think about...

This is my story, and no-one else's, so who even should remember all the other things?
Like, do you remember that I used to write a Christmas post which included a family picture?
After that very first year, I knew that taking the picture of my family all together on Christmas morning would be a long-standing and severely important tradition.

Truth is, I wondered that very first year about who would and who would not be in the next year's picture.


On Christmas Eve of 2015, my mom and I sat with my little sister, my only sibling, as she left this world.  I drove home that night, made breakfast the next morning, and took a picture.

Last year, I did not travel, but stayed quiet through the holidays.

(first tears.)

On Christmas morning, I made breakfast for my family, and I took the picture.
I could not write the post, though I've mental-ed it out all through this year.


(now I've lost it.)

I feel bad for all your sakes for what I'm about to write, but I can't not do it.
[(A part of me is hoping nobody reads this.)  (Not a first.)]
I feel especially for those of my family who will feel this all so fully,
like an ache down deep in the bones.

I wish
Lord
I wish I could skip this, but I've held in so much.  I've kept so many words for so long that I have to wonder if I really have some diagnose-able, tangible, recognizable condition, or if this pain is really just the essence of words not said.



I lost a nearly four-year-old grandson this year in a tragic accident.
God bless his daddy and his momma and his cousins and all his other grandmas and grandpas, all his other family, all those who knew him and know the void he's left behind.

God help me, how will I take a picture this year?

I just will.

God help me, I will do it.
I will do it for those of us still here.
I will do it for Joshua.
I will do it for Jenny.
I will do it because it's Christmas.
We're celebrating the birth of Jesus.
And it is because of Jesus that I will see them again.

⇱⇲

Their lives, our lives, these words ... matter.  Especially now.

[going to put away my (wasted) groceries now.]


*As I proofed this, the analogy of the cracked seed came alive for me.  Cracking open, of course, is not the worst thing that can happen to an acorn.  No need to elaborate.