December 24, 2016. Christmas Eve. Alone in the house. Both housemates off visiting family. Me and puppy Shadow and kitty Persephone holding space for the new year to come.
What I notice: how happy I am, either alone or together with others. How this Christmas season is not filled with angst, the way it used to be. “Angst.” Is that the word I need here? Not really. It doesn’t penetrate to the core of what used to happen every year, like clockwork, during this traditional season of celebration. Rather, something like this: a deep feeling of ickiness, sludge, yuckiness, a sense of being dragged down into a toxic cesspool of unresolved “issues” (read: feelings) from the past.
Each Christmas, I would think of how this year reminds me of last year, and the year before that. How that one year, back in my late 40s, I fell and twisted my foot just prior to my now deceased husband Jeff and I were to drive from Jackson Wyoming to Seattle to be with my family during the Christmas season. We still drove there, though I sensed that my “accident” had changed everything. I felt crippled. My physical condition had plunged me underneath any kind of surface seasonal frivolity into grief. Deep grief. Core grief. A grief carried through lifetimes.
When we arrived, I couldn’t even go to the family reunion. In fact, I never even let anyone in my family know that we were in town! Instead, we holed up at an old friend’s house, and she was very accommodating of me, who basically, just remained immobilized, in bed, for the entire week we were there. Not sick. But as if dead. Dead to the world. Dead to all but the frozen feelings that had suddenly, if sludgingly, had surfaced when I twisted my foot.
That Christmas season was probably the worst. Over 30 years ago, now. Even then, I was thinking back on the excitement of Christmas when I was a kid. How I would always mark the progress of each year by how soon Christmas would arrive. In March, nine months to go; in July, six months; in September, three months, etc. Christmas was the high point; not so much the “presents,” which in a family of eight children, meant one small pile for each, but the intoxicating piney scent of the tree inside the house, set with twinkling lights and ornaments from years past. And the beautiful Christmas carols; the cards arriving in the mail; the special Christmas meal. And the feeling in the air, so unlike the remainder of the year. Everybody caught up in something magical and alive. The atmosphere of Christmas truly did engender its own frequency.
Then I grew up, and as I did, I didn’t notice at the time, but the materialism that has since devoured America grew more and more pronounced. Christmas, the season, became, for merchants, the time they looked forward to, because it hopefully, would save their business for the year. Christmas, for middle-class parents, became the time when they would flood their children with ghastly plastic, primary colored “toys” that squeeked, talked like robots, belled and whistled. Walking through the living room of my son Sean’s house mid-morning on Christmas day, I would wade through this stuff, all this new stuff, which would be somehow added to all the old stuff from years past, very little of which was actually “played with.”
Even then, I noticed that my grandkids would rather play with pots and pans in the kitchen. What was all this godawful garishly colored stuff for? So gaudy, so over-stimulating! Leaving no room for the imagination!
When I was in my twenties, and sons Sean and Colin were small, I would try like hell to conjure up the spirit of Christmas for our little family; we’d have the tree, the presents, the special Christmas meal. But all the while I knew I was doing it for the kids; and it was accomplished with great effort, since I felt like such a fake the entire time.
And now, of course, when Colin and I visited Sean’s house in Massachusetts this Thanksgiving, I couldn’t help but notice, as usual, that the house is filled with screens: iphones, ipads, computers, an even larger T.V. for Netflix and Amazon.
Not that I don’t indulge myself! I too own an iphone, ipad and computer, and large TV.
So, here we are, at Christmastime, once again, and mirable dictu, this year I have absolutely no sense of the ickiness that used to pull me under. Partly this is because I have managed in the past 20 years or so, to “switch” from Christmas to Solstice, from the Christian scrim over the original pagan recognition of the Sun’s Winter Solstice pause in the southern sky, its turn, it’s procession north over the next six months. Since the Solstice comes only two days past my December 19th birthday, over these 20 years I have folded these special occasions into one another, dubbing that fusion, “the holiest time of the year.” A time when, usually, I descend into silence, solitude, letting the world go for that liminal period when all possibilities abound, and none of them yet realized.
That is, until this year. This year, I happen to be purchasing a third contiguous house for our Green Acres Village, to close on December 28th. And so you can imagine how my own sense of ceremony and celebration, except for our beautiful community celebration on Solstice itself, has been curtailed by all the details attendant to a house purchase that, for various tax reasons, must be completed by the end of the year.
Son Colin and I will walk nearby McCormick Creek’s State Park paths tomorrow morning, and then indulge our special Christmas dinner at the Canyon Inn there, 2 p.m. Looking forward.