It happens every year, so I don’t know why it shocks me when it happens again. As the days grow shorter and the holidays grow closer…the darkness seems to close in like a fog. Somewhere amidst the twinkling lights and joyful carols you can feel it.
Sometimes the sadness lurks inside the song itself. One of my favorite Christmas songs is “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas,” but I don’t like just any version of the song. I only like the version that includes the line “…but until then we’ll have to muddle through somehow.” Because, for me at least, the holidays are filled joy and tradition and family and friends…and more than a wee amount of muddling.
I juggle bills and obligations. I work around traditions and expectations. I try not to let my mental picture of “The Holidays!” take away from the reality and true meaning of the holy day. Most days I fall short.
The house is starting to look plenty festive. I have a bit of gluten free cookie dough in the refrigerator waiting for a free evening. There is wood piled up. I even have a big bag of marshmallows just waiting to be lit aflame and then quickly blown out and consumed in all of their charred and gooey glory.
There is a new bottle of Glenfiddich tucked between the Laphroaig and Glenmorangie, and I am eager to make another whisky cake. And the fog that seems to have encompassed my city the past few days makes it feel like the perfect time to fire up the oven and fill the house with the strong smell of some Christmas spirits. And, last night, I quite nearly did just that.
Only I didn’t. Instead, I helped my kiddos clean up their rooms. We tucked things away and found places for things that had been underfoot too long. We talked about school, and life, and friends who are hurting. We talked about rumors and small towns and loyalty. We talked about friends in need. The talk lasted long into the night and left me with a lingering sense of unease. Often midnight revelations are poor bedtime companions.
So today I find myself preoccupied. I can’t focus on the Christmas list, or the fact that I haven’t bought Christmas cards (let alone signed or mailed any). If truth be told, I have not bought any Christmas gifts yet. And yet I do not doubt that my Christmas is already more festive than many of those around me.
A co-worker’s home burned down last night. From all appearances, it is a total loss. A friend of mine lost her brother just before Thanksgiving. A family we know had to deal with a suicide attempt.
Yes, these short days bring darkness closer around us.
I was talking to a dear friend the other day about space and deep seas and voids…and the fear which such immense caverns of nothingness can evoke. She told me that the cold continuum of unending space terrified her, and I agreed. I thought it funny at the time that darkness can feel both too vast and too confining at the same time. It pushes in on you and stretches out around you until there is nothing left but you and the dark. That is when you either surrender to it, or you hold out hope for a spark…a sliver of illumination, or possibility. You try to wait out the ebb and flow and pray for the darkness to recede.
There are a lot of sparks that illuminate my life. I have been blessed with love, and friends, and family. I have enough: enough food and clothing. I have a warm home and things to do each day which give me purpose. I am forty-two years old, but none the worse for wear. Most days, I like who I see in the mirror. Not a bad thing, that. These are what makes the long nights bearable.
GLOIR DON ATHAIR
Gloir don Athair,
agus don Mhac,
agus don Spiorad Naomh.
Mar a bha, ‘s mar a tha, ‘s mar a bhitheas,
fad shaoghal nan saoghal. Amen.