[This post is dedicated to Daryl Krech (90, 5/25/2009), Sandy Parker (55, 12/6/2012), Rjay Price Spoon (30, 12/16/2012), Kathleen Krech (68, 1/18/2013), Paul Samuel Krech (70, 4/23/2015)…fathers, mothers, friends and dearly departed.]
Most appropriate soundtrack for this read: Rjay singing Grown Up Christmas List and Little Drummer Boy from a rough studio cut he did in 2004 as an audition for a television program.
The holidays are an evocative time for everyone. For me, they’ve almost been my end.
The holidays are unlike more individual and personal milestones like my birthday, (god willing) my anniversary, or the days my loved ones have come and gone. For these more personal milestones, I call the majority of the shots: are these dates where I reflect, celebrate, ignore, self-medicate..or…?
Birthdays and such are confined to a day’s length, only known by those we share with, and as anyone’s Facebook wall on their birthday will show, more pro forma acknowledgement. Intent good, but as I would say in Japanese, 意味不明.
The holidays are different and have a power greater than the milestones I just mentioned. They amplify the best, invigorate compassion and charity, and also remind some of us of our isolation and can make the pain we feel more acute. They can both remind us to connect and also reinforce the reasons we are not connected. It’s all a matter of perspective.
What isn’t a matter of perspective is the sheer intensity of it all — everything from our normal environment to our eating habits to our sleep habits to the twinkling lights in our homes changes.
Poor people feel more poor, yet receive charity. Sad people can feel more isolated from the happiness around them. Those who pretend continue to do so and put on their show. Those who have slipped below the radar can feel singled out to attend social gatherings and functions.
Four times this week I was asked if I was bringing a spouse to functions — I don’t have a fucking spouse. (Well, perhaps I have a “fucking spouse” but that’s a different post.)
I have several friends who like to experience the joy of their birthday all month long (all year, if they could). I have friends who haven’t stopped being sad over their last relationship and just as many who, like Charlotte York, end their sadness after exactly one-half the amount of time the relationship lasted. I know those that make the most out of the New Year’s reset.
For me, I tend to isolate on my birthday and would characterize the time I spend as both solemn and reflective. It has at times been destructive. I vacillate year to year as to whether I want to commemorate it in any way at all – but not at all out of avoidance.
I’ve learned through a fortunate number of wonderful happy moments and a great number of unexpected soul-crushing moments that pain, happiness, and in fact all emotions cannot be confined to time or space.
I wrote a bit about this as I reflected on Father’s day after my father’s death.
It’s impossible to say, “I’m sad about this now, but I’m done with it as of this day, and will no longer anguish.” Spouses who have lost someone tragically can attest to this.
It’s equally impossible to experience every joy of a magical moment in life. Ask any mother – the happiest day was the day their child was born…and every day since. Wouldn’t it be depressing if the joy of the magic moments of our life were confined?
So I’m not of the opinion that it’s possible to isolate or confine all the goodwill, joy, pain, or discomfort of life in to moments we can define.
Three years ago, I isolated myself when three people in my life died within weeks of each other and my father (who would die a year later) was also very ill. On some days I couldn’t breath, on others, I felt I was going crazy…on most days, all I did was sleep.
I was trying to confine all of my sadness and pain, helplessness and hopelessness, in to a set of weeks after which I could be free from the anguish. It led to my involuntary hospitalization.
I know why I have held back in the past and not shared – I was afraid of what would happen if I did share. There is risk in me sharing this story, but my hope that in sharing it someone else sees a path through the fog overrides that. Vulnerable has become an okay steady state for me.
This experience became the impetus which has become more of a mission since my father’s death:
- Treat each moment as sacred, including those that come after the worst moments where we must say “I’m sorry.”
- Make kindness and generosity “involuntary” approaches and recognize and minimize the moments where they aren’t.
- Recognize and embrace common ground with those around you…with the unsung, those that are different than you, those that have less, those that have different points of view.
- Give responsibly so all ships can rise from higher waters.
Matthew 10:8 should be tattooed across my chest because it is how I aspire to live; it is what my faith tells me is possible. I’ll paraphrase:
Protect, heal, cure and defend your life and that of mankind — you’ve been given life, capability, and talent; use them for the betterment of man.
The moment I stopped living in full-force sadness and depression in hopes that I could shorten its duration and then “move on” was the most liberating moment of my life.
I finally realized then that we can’t confine our story, our emotions, our experience. To do so leads to disaster. But we can liberate and accept it. We can feel the comfort of its familiarity each day. All these experiences then become the wisdom which helps us move forward.
This makes the energy of the best birthday, the most joyous holiday, the saddest loss, and every other experience of our lives the dynamo which will one day carry us to God and in the meantime help us give more to others.