This is a tough season. Christmas, the turn of the year, the holidays; this time of this year in particular drags at me. Not just me. Many of my friends are struggling especially now, as well. When I was young this was the best time. When I was younger I felt the excitement and goodwill in my bones. It resonated and was reflected in the faces and attitudes of all the people I met. Not just as a child but in my teens and twenties and even into my thirties I looked forward to Christmas from the ending of the last one. It was a time of unity and togetherness and purpose and hope. The older I get, though, the more loss enters my life. The losses are more poignant during this season because they contrast even more against the brilliance and hope of the time. It’s easier to ignore the things that aren’t there, until I get to the time when those lost connections would normally have been most joyfully felt. I probably notice similar feelings in my friends because we’re all getting older and as we do we naturally experience loss in our lives. Loved ones die, or leave us, or those we love don’t return the feeling, or friends drift away, or…unnumbered things go missing from our lives. Those things are so much more visible when contrasted against the feelings this time of year evokes in our hearts. It’s like those optical illusions where you’re looking at the silhouette of a lovely lady and the perspective shifts and suddenly you’re looking at the profile silhouette of an old crone. This writing is to remind me, and all my friends like me, not to focus on the old crone. See the other picture. The hope is still in this time of year. The renewal, the joy, the blessings, all those things are still in front of us. For Christians (and for non-Christians) this is a reminder of the turning point, the rise of promise. I’m going to try not to let the things I’ve lost blind me to the things I have and, more importantly, to the things I might have. To those friends like me, I hope you do the same.
As I sit in the car
My eye is caught by the flutter
Of a torn piece of insulating tape
At the back of an air conditioner,
Like the wing of a trapped bird
Beating frantically for freedom.
The sky is a mass of ash colored clouds,
The dust raised from the battle boots of battalions of angels,
Marching to war.
Bare branched trees
Stretch and sway against the smoky sky.
(strangely reminiscent of peacock crests)
Whip in the freshening breeze.
Lonely leaves dance across rain-soaked asphalt
As the few remaining golden holdouts,
Still clinging to their branchy homes,
Wave like Fairie war-banners.
The wind races up to a swifter speed.
My mind’s ear can hear the howl it hasn’t reached yet.
I can taste the copper tang of the lightning
Still held behind the clouds.
In the west, light from the unseen setting sun
Makes a mosaic where the clouds break.
I can feel change riding on the air.
It is certainly needed and
Is not really reality.
It’s how I perceive
Through the imperfect lenses of my own eyes,
The dusty filters of my own mind.
My world needs a sweeping out.
Change is coming,
A change in my perception,
A war in the heavenly realms
That will bring a different view of things,
A victorious view
(I’ve been defeated in my mind for far too long).
Victory is made meaningful in the fight for it.
I’m ready for this fight.
I spent most of the afternoon in the worst possible company. I’ve heard it said of people; bad people, infamous people, that they fell under the wrong influences; that they fell in with the wrong crowd. Sometimes it’s true that other people can help reinforce the worst parts of a person. If you surround yourself with people that have too much in common with the worst parts of yourself it will make you worse than you were. The thing is, I’m the person that has the very most in common with the worst parts of me. The worst influence for me is me. I get mired in my own head, thoughts reinforcing thoughts, fears reinforcing fears, spiraling down into a darker version of myself. I have a lot of fears but most of them, all of them that I can think of really, live in me. I’m not really afraid of things in the world. I’m afraid of the things in my own heart and mind. I spent the afternoon keeping myself distracted but that’s not a good solution for me. It’s a habit but not a good one. I began to feel closed in, like a mental claustrophobia. I decided to go out for a bit. I went and sat on the steps of my porch. I didn’t know I needed it but I did. Under the wide gray sky with the trees as slender silver and black lines in the dark, it was like I let out the breath I’d been holding. Had I actually been holding my breath it would have been well past the point of passing out. It reminded me of the world apart from myself. It reminded me how small I am and how small my problems are and how temporary each moment is. It’s good to be reminded of that. It’s good to be reminded that, no matter how it may seem, I’m not the center of creation. Other people do that for me too. Other people are my checks and balances. Other people remind me to be the better part of myself. It’s been said that Hell is other people. I think Hell is just the opposite. Hell is having no one else and nothing else beyond myself, locked in the worst of me.
The path from the foot of the steps to the place where I park is made of fifty three raw granite stones. It’s haphazard and lopsided and uneven and doesn’t even reach all the way to the car. I built it, little bits at a time, lazily. That’s not the best of me. I can, however, rebuild it any time I choose. I can do it better, taking the time to level the ground and match the rocks and pour the concrete. I can do better. Doing better makes me better. Being better allows me to be better still. An upward spiral. I’ve been working on that new path for a while now. It’s not done. Sitting on the steps I saw the shadows of each crack and lump in the path. I also saw the stones themselves shimmer in the darkness. The pieces are there. The path reaches out into the world. If I keep building it out into the world I’ll be ok.