Three days ago our favorite housemate announced the happy news that she is moving in with her new boyfriend by February. Wonderful for her, sucks for us. Living in a five person household has always been challenging in terms of finding a good fit for everyone. Tack on the addition of a three year old and parents in their 40s and the situation is not only challenging, but extremely destabilizing. Each time someone gives notice, we slam up against the reality of our lives which is that this situation truly does not suit us. Words like “lame” come to mind to describe our situation. Like our lives are just gimping along in this very unsustainable way.
Then yesterday, one of our reclusive housemates gave his 30 days. Now I have the pleasure of putting “New Housemate” at the top of my (already very long) holiday to-do list. I told Jeff this morning that I was canceling Christmas. Then Fern looked up at me with great big startled eyes.
Not an option.
It never really was anyway…I love the holidays like all the best glorious things in life. My spirit for this time of year is deep and true. I’m just pissed that a bunch of bullsh*t is yanking me away from my aspirations to keep that spirit at the helm. It does not escape me that these are First World problems. I also occurs to me that I can stop whinging and be a little more spiritually buff. I thought I was already in the hot seat, between dealing with 3 year old tantrums (that truly make her former fits pale in comparison) and reparenting myself in regards to my own impatience and temper. I thought I already was doing that full time job of trying to love myself at my worst (not to mention what can feel like pathetic attempts to work on my professional life). Turns out time is just an illusion that must stretch. Like my bandwidth.
When the airborne stress of the darkening year (combined with ramped expectations) starts crowding in, there is One Thing to Do.
Take it outside.
Back to Buena Vista Park. Where the Robins have returned to their wintry residence.
O Robin, sing ! for the secret of eternity is in song.
I wish I were as you, free from prisons and chains.
I wish I were as you; a soul flying over the valleys,
Sipping the light as wine is sipped from ethereal cups.
I wish I were as you, innocent, contented and happy
Ignoring the future and forgetting the past.
I wish I were as you in beauty, grace and elegance
With the wind spreading my wings for adornment by the dew.
I wish I were as you, a thought floating above the land
Pouring out my songs between the forest and the sky.
O Robin, sing ! and disperse my anxiety.
I listen to the voice within your voice that whispers in my inner ear.
The squirrels held witness. Not a step went unnoticed.
Why it’s just me and the sour grass, having a few puckery nibbles.
Well, alright then. But just a few.
Every step you take…
Fern was very concerned about the bees that we found last time, and when she saw a toppled tree from the recent storms, she cried out in alarm. But we arrived to their home to discover all was well.
How doth the little busy Bee
Improve each shining Hour,
And gather Honey all the day
From every opening Flower!
How skilfully she builds her Cell!
How neat she spreads the Wax!
And labours hard to store it well
With the sweet Food she makes.
In Works of Labour or of Skill
I would be busy too:
For Satan finds some Mischief still
For idle Hands to do.
In Books, or Work, or healthful Play
Let my first Years be past,
That I may give for every Day
Some good Account at last.
Isaac Watts (I recognized this poem, but in a different form from Alice in Wonderland)
This time of year is difficult for many of us. Pop culture is infused with the mandate of Merry and Bright, yet most folks I speak to are struggling in some way, be it with fatigue, financial woes, depression, or stress. We all know it, how the machinations of capitalism throw us onto the treadmill of consumption with little regard for the true meaning of the holiday. There are a million external fixes to this (consume less, forgo gift giving, donate to charity,
skip town without telling anyone, be a Martha Stewart wet dream and finish all your xmas shopping by July). Yet I find it difficult to wage a one woman battle with my own expectations of myself as well as the expectations of others (a certain three year old who wants her mommy to make her a Raggedy Ann Dolly). Often, the first and best thing to do is to recognize the clever way in which we are making ourselves crazy. And then choice comes in, as to what standard we want to do good by. I don’t want to disappoint others or myself, but perhaps I can switch the expectation so that I’m working towards a different outcome.
Still, even that last sentence feels pressurized. So I close my eyes and deepen in. Christ. Mass. Festival of Light. Nourishing hearth and heart during the darkening days. Nothing more is needed. Nothing more is required. North star, guide my steps toward salvation. The mother slows her steps at the end of gestation. In the stillness, she focuses all her efforts toward birth and lets the rest fall away. What wants to be born, and who will be the witness? We are already given what we truly need. If we go with a popular mythology of this time, we are put on to notice that some soft straw and the warmth of the human and animal family was all that was needed. A love is born that offers respite even in the darkest times. Each of us has been given this simple gift, the endless capacity of the open human heart. Light the candles, one by one, and offer this light to ourselves, our loved ones, our world.
Take that, Grinch.
I will be away from this space until next week sometime, to focus on finding a new housemate and other obligations. The first of which is Peace on Earth and Goodwill towards my screaming three year old.
P.S. Dear Santa, Maybe 2013 will be the year we find a new home?