Archive for the ‘Cheerful’ Tag

Surviving Christmas   2 comments

Every year Christmas is a cultural blitzkrieg of celebration, carrying many along in its triumphal sweep while capsizing in its wake those who cannot keep up with its jubilant spirit.  Be happy or be left out.  In our chipper American culture, that is the flavor of the year, as Ella Wheeler Wilcox so aptly described it:

Laugh, and the world laughs with you;
Weep, and you weep alone;
For the sad old earth must borrow its mirth,
But has trouble enough of its own.

Even those who are forgiven for a downcast spirit on an average day are expected to step up to the occasion when the band starts playing, which it does ceaselessly from Thanksgiving till the last relative shambles out the door and the long, bleak, cold winter blows inside.

I’m no sour-puss.  I like celebrating Christmas if I can bring all of myself to the party–the sad parts as well as the hopeful parts, the tears and smiles, winces and hugs, serious and silly words.  When my uncomfortable emotions are welcomed, my winsome emotions have room to express themselves genuinely rather than as a pretense.  Let me weep freely with you, and the laughter you hear will be deep-hearted as well.  My soul is chilled when I’m pressured to be false to myself, to express inflated or deflated feelings to please others who care more for an acceptable presence than a true presence.  Of course some contexts call for safe, superficial connections, and in that sense every office party is a masked ball, but then everyone enjoys it for what it is–play acting–and does not confuse it for genuine connection.

But even “genuine” can be a canny facade.  Many folks who think they are being real are so cut off from their own heart that they are simply reacting, sharing the surface emotions they feel in the moment that serve to disguise–even to themselves–the deeper underlying emotional currents, the submerged rip-tides that are too threatening to acknowledge.  Under the intense pressure of Christmas conformity, these can burst out suddenly and without warning.  Anger can cover for shame, tears can hide anger, cheerfulness can mask fear.  The underlying emotions which are unacceptable or painful are transmuted into acceptable or comfortable feelings. The intensity of those feelings may wake us to some deep lying issues but will fog up our skills for interpreting them.

The inflated expectations of the holidays is not a safe harbor to dry-dock the soul and begin to scrape away decades of clinging barnacles.  Sometimes the best any of us can do is try to ride out the storm of cross-current conflicts that arise.  But these family gatherings are rich with telltale signs of underlying issues, and once we get enough distance to look back with compassion and insight, we may be filled with fresh personal discovery.  Next year we can bring more of our true selves to the party and welcome the true selves of others as we grow into the grace of understanding and accepting ourselves and others more fully.


Posted December 18, 2014 by janathangrace in thoughts

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The 12th Day of Christmas   2 comments

Today is epiphany, when the Eastern church once originally celebrated Jesus’ birth.  So we might say it is second Christmas.  Our lights are still up inside and out.  And our tree’s up.  We are still munching seasonal chocolates.  I continue to play Christmas music in my car.  I’m not ready yet to bid these days adieu, especially in place of the dark, cold months of winter that stifle the year’s last hurrah.  I want to hold onto some of the good this holiday brings: a cheerfulness and warmth toward strangers, a celebratory cadence in my steps, a lift in my heart’s song above the daily drudge.

Why does the mundane always drag us back from our festivals, tugging like gravity till our balloons lie all deflated and cheerless.  How might I bring some of this rhythm and light, some of this forgetfulness and memory back with me into the daily round of chores and schedules?  I don’t want or need more obligation by adding to my diligence an imposed cheerfulness, a forced smile, and so make my grinding tasks even more burdensome.  No, I rather want to lighten the driving duties of the day, bring some sunlight into the shadowed spaces.  Any thoughts my friends?

Posted January 7, 2014 by janathangrace in thoughts

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