Easy Christmas To Us All!
Dear Nicholas, Tomorrow at about 3 p.m. is the one-year anniversary of the moment when a Duke aorta surgeon came out to the waiting room and told me that Bob was alive but he didn’t know if he was going to wake up. Bob did wake up. Though he tires a lot more easily than he did a year ago, he’s in good health. That may be why I don’t feel pressed this year to “get Christmas done.” I’m not worried about getting the right thing for everybody or about whether packages I mail will arrive in time. Christmas this year feels easy, not something I have to be sure to get right.
Last year, eleven days after this health crisis, Christmas slipped by with barely any notice at our house. We were happily home from the hospital, figuring out the details of recovery.
Those who devoutly celebrate the meaning of Christmas might have paid special attention to the day then and celebrated with gratitude. At the time, I was feeling grateful and tremendously relieved every day, no more on that day than on others. What I did realize was that my inattention to the usual rituals of the holiday made no difference to anybody’s happiness. The world continued to turn. I delivered a few presents by some time in February, and all was well.
This year is when I notice a change in my attitude to the complex annual project of Christmas. I’m not anxious about running out of time to get things done. I’m enjoying what preparations I’m making, and as a devoted non-cook, I’ve never done all that much anyway.
Mainly I just decorate and shop and wrap, and those activities are for me innately fun as long as they’re not done under pressure. I’ve never objected to the commercial hoop-la of Christmas. My parents were retailers and my Christmas nostalgia was never about stringing cranberries and lighting candles, it was about the excitement of working as a clerk with my family in the Christmas rush. I even wrote a piece long ago (1979) in The New York Times to that effect, “Commercialism, Yea,” suggesting nostalgia for one’s real experience rather than the snowy Currier and Ives version that so often seems pressed upon us.
I’ve also written rather grumpily on the subject, “How to Have a Stressful Christmas.”
Mainly Christmas seems to me a festival. While I do view myself as religious, I don’t find holidays to be a religious celebration for me. Instead, I feel a surge of faith at odd moments, the strongest I ever experienced was while driving (for safety’s sake, I did pull off the road.) These also have come at times in meditation and perhaps most of all while writing or reading. Like comparative mythologist Joseph Campbell, my trustiest spiritual practice is underlining.
This year, however, in my new state of greater relaxation, I’m not sure what to expect. I only know that I’m glad Bob (and a number of others) are alive and well. That is surely celebration enough.
Wishing you an easy and joyous holiday, celebrated whenever you like. As my brother Franc advised me in the midst of one year’s holiday frenzy, “Don’t let the calendar kick you around.”
Tags: arrive in time, devoutly celebrate, feel pressed, get Christmas done, getting the right thing, greater relaxation, health crisis, Joseph Campbell, joyous holiday, meaning of Christmas, nostalgia, rituals, running out of time, spiritual practice, stressful Christmas, under pressure