Not that I mind saying "Happy Holidays" -- I'm not one of those Christians! I can very happily live in a world with religious and non-religious people of "all flavors." My bumper sticker is this one:
But for me, of course, it's all about Christmas. Ever since Advent started, I've felt as though I'm dancing as fast as I can and still not getting enough done. But the Christmas Calm has settled in a little early this year.
And my mood is better: I'm off the sofa and back into life. I'm still not at 100% (but then, when I stop to self-evaluate, I'm never at 100%), and my heart is still very tender from all those broken hearts on the eastern coast of the US. If grief could cause literal seismic shifts, it would be Connecticut that would just break off and fall into Long Island Sound.
But you know what has helped me? People. People. When things are going well, I just get myself so terribly isolated, humming happily along here on the Plateau, doing my thing, everything running smoothly. Yes, I have people all around me, some of whom love me fiercely, I know, and most of whom wish me well -- but it's not the same, working in a parish of loving, generous folks, and having that tight circle of intimates who can help make everything better. And who are the people who help me?
Well, there are my two best friends, Cheryl and Jack. They've been in touch mostly by facebook and by commenting on this blog, also by email -- but they remind me there are people who know me, warts and all, and still love me. That has been important in this time of self-doubt, self-castigation, and never-getting-enough-done.
I also work with a coach, Will, who has been, for several weeks, encouraging me to be gentle with myself in this post-sabbatical season of darkness. I do tend to need reminding to settle down and relax with myself.
I have my parishioners, and the opportunity to open my own heart with my preaching. Wednesday as I knelt at the altar rail during our healing service, I found myself sobbing over Newtown and the pain I've also heard from those closer to me during this season when all is supposed to be "merry and bright." The weight of laid-on hands and the tears of my fellow-congregants reminded me that there are those who recognize my pain and who feel with me (com-passion).
Finally, I work with a lovely spiritual director, Pat, who holds what I tell her in her big, compassionate heart, who reminds me that my life this week, this month, this year, is one unique part of my own much larger life journey, and the journey of all creation. She helps me realize the value of my story when my life is going well, and when my life is painful.
So, as I said earlier, much of the turmoil, both without and within, has settled. My gifts for family and friends are most wrapped, and all my big mailing is done. Now I can write Christmas cards to a few people, light a few candles, and listen to some Christmas music. Now I can write my blog. Now I can begin to relax into the miracle that Christmas is every year for me.
Yes, I still have 3 sermons to write and deliver in the next 3 days. But I love writing and preaching sermons. It's a great privilege to feel as though I'm in direct communication with the Holy Spirit when I receive the words I'll write and preach on any particular occasion.
And tomorrow evening is Lessons & Carols, a service we did last for Advent, 2006. Services that don't happen often are pretty nerve-wracking; and the choir (and guest musicians and a guest conductor brought in for the occasion by our organist) have been laboring long and hard to make beautiful music that will help to glorify the occasion, and most of all to glorify the Incarnation of Christ. We're not grand, we're not a cathedral, but it will be beautiful, nevertheless, and part of our small offering of ourselves to God. And liturgy means "work of the people," and this particular liturgy has been and will be work. Joyful work, sometimes tearful work -- but I recognize the work it takes.
So here I am, settling into the poignancy of a holiday away from my best friends and family. I will be well-loved, and I actually enjoy the solitude. I'll be having dinner with parishioners who are also good friends, and there will be lots of journal-writing time, time to reflect on my life at the end of this most amazing year. I honestly don't mind the shape of my Christmas holiday -- but I will be thinking of my loved ones, living and dead, with a full heart, even as I relish the restful hours alone.