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Friday, December 25, 2009

Eating My Words for Christmas...

I awoke this morning with the usual “holiday dread” that I have felt for many years on Christmas day, anticipating the usual tension of being together with my family, celebrating a Holiday I no longer believe in, with people who often feel more like strangers. And in a sense we are: my mother the pious Christian, my sister the Wiccan, and me – the Meandering Mystic with Buddhist/Vedanta leanings… We all share different beliefs about “The Holiday.” My sister and I basically celebrate Christmas *for* my mother. The one thing we have in common is the over stuffed emotional baggage that we all carry and pass back and forth from one year to the next - re-gifting you might say. Each year it seems like there are more and more emotional items stuffed in our stockings, hung by the chimney with care, so that they won’t overflow and spill out, causing a scene… But try as we may to stuff those little pieces of coal deep into the toe of each stocking, those dark emotions somehow overflow into the experience. And often the tension is so thick you can cut it with a knife. Last year in particular was that way. We had all decided not to give gifts because we were all feeling the pinch financially. We rationalized that “we are all adults now” and don’t need to do the “gift thing.” But despite my mother’s claims that “it was being all together that mattered,” she pouted the entire time because there were no gifts… And - *she* gave gifts *despite* our previous agreement not to do so. It was clear that for my mother it *is* about the gifts. So – despite being in the same financial situation this year, we made sure there were gifts…

My sister picked me up this morning on her broom. (My husband is in New Mexico spending the Holiday with his mother, sister and brother-in-law – who all share their own emotional baggage as well – so tension abounds on both sides. His mother has moderate to severe Alzheimer’s, and is deteriorating quickly, so he wanted to spend Christmas with her before she gets to the point where she forgets who he is.) Anyway, my sister arrived on her broom and we headed over the river and through the woods to mother’s house… :)

Upon entering the highly decorated replica of Santa’s Workshop that doubles as my mother’s home, there were a few moments of the usual tension, and I felt myself brace. Despite my “spiritual path”, despite intending to be present, despite deciding that I would consciously step back and just be “aware”, “in the moment” and so forth, I could feel the tension arise in my body, my mind went foggy, a veil came down over my eyes, and I thought – here we go again…

And then something quite magical happened when we all sat down and started the gift exchange. The tension left and we all began to actually enjoy the day – and - one another… I have no clue really why this happened, as it hasn’t happened in previous years. Was it the magic in the giving of the gifts, I don’t think so – although it did serve as a distraction - but something shifted, something “new” unfolded. There was a sense of ease and comfort with one another, genuine laughter and conversation that I do not remember experiencing before. Now I can’t say that my heart opened and suddenly all the emotional baggage dissolved, but…

So here is where I get to eat my words, and maybe some sweet eggnog to wash them down, and take a fresh look at this “Holiday” thing, this “family” thing… Despite the usual family tensions, despite my mother/daughter issues, despite all my negative anticipations, despite my scroogeness about “The Holiday”, wonder of wonders it actually *felt* like we were a “real family” today: People who actually trust and enjoy one another. It was strange yet comforting, like maybe there *is* a “real family” hidden in all that baggage somewhere – stuffed into the tippity tip of that stocking behind the coal – not just the “Rockwellian image” that we have tried to create over the years.

It felt as if a flicker of light was rekindled today. Both my sister and I felt it. It was totally unexpected and unanticipated! *I* did not *do* anything to create it: I wasn’t particularly present, or aware, or trying to be in the moment. But there it was - the experience of “family”, gift giving and the celebration of a holiday unfolding in its own way. I relaxed into it and moved with it as it unfolded itself – like receiving an unexpected gift with a sense of amazement. I came away changed by this experience in some way – wanting more – wanting to open myself more, and see what reveals itself…



2 comments:

  1. My Zen teacher would always say "this is the fruit of your training" when I would describe this kind of transformed and unexpected experience. The energy does shift and change as we do our spiritual work and here is the proof, in the Christmas pudding! How delicious! And what a well deserved treat! Merry broomstick!

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  2. Indeed! Although I am very aware of how the experience just unfolded in its own way. Maybe that was the "magic" of it - just watching Life unfold with no sense of "me" having done anything to make it happen. As if it happened in spite of "me"! :) C

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