I have been a bit silent as a blogger over this past month. I have a list of To Do’s regarding topics I want to get to, but my mojo isn’t flowing. It could be the general busyness of this time of year – more work to do as I wind up the semester as an educator. More social events in the form of holiday parties and get togethers. More errands to run, more planning and preparation to do for guests arriving from afar (No not the Three Kings!). It could be due to the need to be present for the many plot twists affecting myself, family and friends lately. Health issues put a crimp in my creativity wiring, whether they are mine or those of a loved one.
But despite the hustle and bustle and items added to my plate, I have been making time every day to enjoy the spirit of the holidays. It is the simple stuff really – taking a moment to enjoy the Christmas lights in the city – having holiday tea with a dear friend – buying a gingerbread house in an old time bakery in Brooklyn – enjoying a rare treat of fattening eggnog – inhaling that wonderful pine scent as I walk past sidewalk Christmas Tree vendors – Stopping to hear a high school brass band play Silver Bells on East 86th Street on the longest day of the year – Watching holiday movies on TV and attending a college production of a favorite Christmas opera Amahl and the Night Visitors.
Strangely, these are the same things that cause my eyes to sting as I blink back tears. The joy is laced with the sorrow of worries and losses that intrude their way into the joy. But there is another odd twist here. As much as my enjoyment can be tinged with some sadness, joy also pushes its way into the most painful moments. It is there as I listen to my students share how they will spend their holidays (many of them visiting and caring for people suffering loss). It is there as I see a group of friends weave a web of support around a single parent coping with a lengthy hospitalization. It is there in my friends’ use of humor as they cope with illness and loss in their lives. It is there in the strength and calm I see modeled by my parents. It is there in the presence of longtime friends who travel far to spend time with us, even as they miss their mom and wife who died way too early at this time of year. It is there in listening to a friend who is a round-the-clock caregiver tell me about unexpected holiday outreach from neighbors. It is there in sitting with the extended family of a friend as they fill the waiting room with laughter and stories while their wife/daughter/sister/ is in surgery for cancer. It is there in missing my close friend who has been busy caring for her partner who survived a life threatening illness. It is there in my own neighbor who offers to walk my dog when she herself just survived a heart attack. It is there in knowing that there are people like the White Helmets, risking their own lives to rescue others buried in bomb induced rubble.
So I say let the tears and laughter flow together. Don’t try to parse it out – there is no need. As long as you have some tissues handy, feel all of your feelings of desperation and hope — share them with others so that they may know they are not alone. Light those candles. This is what it means to be human.