It’s the wee hours of Christmas morning.
A couple hours ago, I played Santa for the Munchkin. I snuck upstairs and retrieved the differently-wrapped gifts. I filled stockings. I emptied the milk glass, left a half-eaten cookie on the plate, opened the fireplace doors, and placed a note on the hearth. I photographed my late-night Yuletide caper, just as I have done for years so that my child’s morning excitement is unhampered by waiting for Mom to get the camera, turned out the lights, tucked the pug in with the bulldog and the kiddo, and came to bed.
But here I sit… sipping a glass of Roscato and pondering life. This existential disquietude has become a mainstay of my Christmas Eves since leaving my home parish a dozen years ago.
I’m thinking about the profoundly meaningful rituals that used to define my Advent seasons.
I’m thinking about my grandmothers – both of them – and how good they were at making the holidays magical.
I’m wondering if either of them ever felt as exhausted and disconnected from that magic as I have the last several years.
I’m fretting over Munchkin’s stronger-than-ever belief in Santa Claus, wondering if it’s mentally healthy to let him believe just a tiny bit longer.
I’m thinking about my bank account, worrying over how empty it is and yet chiding myself for feeling poor when I have so very much.
I’m missing my pilot, in Miami, and my daddy and sister, in Denver, and wondering how people handle for years the emptiness of not being with those they love at the holidays.
I’m trying very hard to not think about the political state of the world, and the fear and depression I’ve been fighting to choke back since November 9th. I know that in the weeks and months ahead, there will be plenty of time to stew over, be frustrated with, and rage against the hatred, bigotry, and violence permeating the nation. But that is not for tonight.
Here in this quiet, in the midst of a world gone crazy, I recall the Christmas Truce of 1914… the amazing story of how, during World War I, opposing sides at the Western Front voluntarily put down their weapons and met each other in between their trenches to share a few moments of peace and fraternity on Christmas Day.
My own personal story may not be one of armed conflict (thank goodness), but for a while now, it has felt like a bit of a battle zone. The consistent barrage of challenges to my peace of mind – from school/work and my “baby”‘s march toward adolescence, from finance juggling and fibro managing, from custody fights and adjusting to life as an “airline widow”, to trying to strike a balance between being informed and involved in what’s going on in the world and not letting the insanity of the world drive me mad – is enough to drive anyone to emotional exhaustion.
I know, deep in my heart of hearts, how lucky I am.
I may struggle with illness, but I have access to healthcare. It may not always be the best, because the system is so broken, but it is there.
My child may have challenges, but he is happy and healthy, and is slowly maturing into a funny, creative, compassionate young man with his own thoughts and ideas and feelings… the core of what I believe most parents hope for their children.
The world may be chaotic. But in those moments that threaten to overwhelm me, I pick up a tiny handheld computer and, with just a swipe of my finger, I command a signal to soar invisibily through the air to connect me with my mom across town, my friends down the road, my boyfriend wherever he may be that day, my dad and sister in Colorado, my cousin in Oklahoma, or friends who live in the farthest reaches of the globe. Friends and family who, like me, are open, loving people who I have to believe will stand up for what is right if and when the moment arises. I have people to whom I can turn when the darkness threatens to drown my hope… people who help me keep the fire within my heart burning, even if there are moments where it is more embers than flames.
In that way, in this day, I see the sacred. I feel that connection to the Divine Something that is so much bigger than I. And in that, my heart, too, understands the immense power of the Christmas Truce.
So today, dear friends, rest. Join me in a truce… a day to cease fretting over politics and war and the weight of the world. Let’s take a breather to connect with the sacred in whatever way is meaningful to you, be it through worship, family, friends, or relaxation. Let your souls rest. If you are reading this, you are among some of the wealthiest people on the planet, and that alone is reason to celebrate. Take joy in this moment.
For tomorrow, we fight.