Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Repeat the Sounding Joy

Usually, I become a deep thinker at Christmas time. A ponderer. A sponge for the lovely, bittersweet, joyous and sometimes maudlin emotions winging out from most December souls. I can't help it: I'm a born empathizer. But at times, I even annoy myself.

This December, the season has been especially busy. I realize that I alone am not suffering under the hectic pace of the holidays, but for some reason I'm feeling it this year a bit more than usual. I've been trying to kick the feeling, and it's beginning to budge.

Last night, after my husband had returned from work and taken over toddler duty, I made a trip out for last-minute teacher gifts and groceries. My town was fairly empty, and the white lights lacing the trees on Main Street, the huge Christmas tree at the courthouse, the snowflakes on the power poles, they all glowed, dripping with rain. The grocery store was fairly calm, and I moved beneath the florescent lights from aisle to aisle in a bit of an exhausted trance. I didn't see anyone I knew, and this was a bit of a gift. It was nice to be alone.

On my way home, I couldn't help but drive slowly down my street, looking at the lights. Candles lit the windows of so many houses, and it seemed like even the most humble of apartment-dwellers had given in to the season, stringing a lone strand of fat colored bulbs up one railing. It made me smile. The glowing Santa statuette on my neighbor's lawn, these lights, my own, seemed suddenly a small reach for joy.

Yesterday before the evening store run, I'd put my toddler down for a nap like I always do, and had collapsed on the couch, quite literally unable to keep my eyes open. My limbs felt heavy, and welcoming blackness engulfed me. I may not have emerged for hours later, save for the incessent ringing of my cell phone and my daughter's wails over the monitor. I woke groggy, still caught by sleep, and stumbled to her room. It had been as if my body and my brain shook on it, and decided to take me by force.

My husband insists that this was my stress--work, home, motherhood, impending trip, Christmas business--having its way with me. He may be right, but it still feels strange. Stress? I have a great family, a home, an avocation, my health, and a Christmas tree. What do I truly have to be stressed about?

I think I just needed a nap. This is odd for me, as I'm a pretty peppy person. But I believe if I lie down, even now, I might sleep until Spring.

So, no nap. A shift, refocus. On Christmas--that most mysterious time, that awakening. Here's my recipe, if you will, for a return to Christmas cheer. (I cannot guaruntee this will work for you, should you be filled with Christmas ennui... but it does for me):

1. Throw off plans. If you need to order out for supper, do it. Ask for the Christmas burrito.

2. Sit in front of the fireplace until your back burns.

3. Read Christmas stories, to your kid(s), your significant other, your friends, heck--even the dog. I suggest Van Allsburg's The Polar Express. It doesn't get more magical than train of children chugging through a snow-filled forest, wolves pacing beneath the Christmas moon.

4. Eavesdrop at a small-town post office. Standing in line earlier this week I heard lovely Christmas greetings between friends old and new. There's nothing like a big, fat smile on a wrinkled face. Pure magic.

5. Watch Christmas movies, lots of them, whenever you can. Even if it's after midnight. I suggest: White Christmas, The Grinch Who Stole Christmas, The Family Stone, Love Actually, and, of course, It's a Wonderful Life. Forgo any sarcastic thought, any lingering of cheese. It's Christmas.

6. Step outside. Breathe deeply. Consider the sky: starry or dark, it's the same sky looked upon by the ancients, the holy, the sinner and the saint. It is full of Mystery. And that's okay.

Wishing all of you joy in this season of Light,