The Cloak of Christmas, Unexpected
by Christine Ford
The Christmas lights are twinkling on the homes we pass in the evenings as we take David out for his “ride” each night. Adam and I take turns running the Boss to the store or to pick up prescriptions after we get home from work in the evenings. As he judiciously limits his driving to a couple days a week when he feels that his body is responding accurately enough to sit behind the wheel and direct a car, these evenings trips have become an event for us all. As the sun goes down David is usually feeling quite “house-bound”, and a sure cure for his cabin fever is a drive through the streets of town.
Often times all three of us pile into a vehicle and just drive as he engages us in dialogue and leads us along routes of discovery that just don’t happen in quite the same way while seated in his living room. I used to chuckle (to myself) when he said that the physical act of driving occupies our conscious mind and gets it out of the way so he can speak to that which is REALLY there. Note that I said I USED to chuckle. I have come to find that he is absolutely correct in the validity of this process, as usually proves out in most cases regarding the “method to his madness”, to borrow a phrase. So we, Adam and I, have come to cherish the evening ritual sojourns and vehicular lessons which have become so much a part of our lives.
During the holiday time of year, however, our rides have been beautifully different. We have learned over the years that David takes almost childlike joy in the luminescent, electrical fireworks of the Season. Our journeys become adventurous and take varying routes, looking down side streets and watching for that particular glow of an especially unique display, as we mark it in our minds for part of the journey in nights to follow.
These holiday trips have delighted me as well, as the glistening lights and silent beauty of the holiday season has always evoked a magical, almost surreal, quality that has been consistent with my experience of the Season through all of the years of my life. Whether that moment be in Bedford, Ohio as a child and young adult, in Naples, Florida as a mother and wife, and now in Phoenix, Arizona, as a “maturing” solitary traveler on the Spiritual Path, this deep down inside feeling has been a mixture of joy, tranquility and peace.
This almost magical texture of the Season had carried over into my evening holiday rides with David since arriving in Phoenix up until this year. Instead of inspiring awe and wonder as in the past, I find myself still waiting for that moment of beauty to set in. I am admittedly somewhat perplexed, pondering the seeming flatness and absence of serenity, awe and splendor that I have felt so strongly before, which is notably absent to my perception this year. What I find replacing it is the nagging sense that it cannot possibly be Christmas yet, that I must have nodded out like Rip VanWinkle along about the middle of October and awakened… oopppss!.. There it is!
Though I have gone through the traditional actions in the automaton mode like a robot, such as Christmas programs at school, Christmas shopping, and sending off packages, I have not yet experienced my usual, familiar surge of awe, peace and wonder. Instead this year there is an indescribable emptiness, a void that vacillates between a numbness of emotion on one extreme, and on the other, an overwhelming sensation of loss and sorrow that can bring me to tears in an instant. Now, depending upon the person you talk to, tears may not seem like such an out-of-the-ordinary state for me. These tears are different though and spring from a place I have never consciously touched into before. This is a new and extremely different reaction to my usual blissful state of holiday oooo-ing and aahhing while humming Christmas Carols.
I have given my new, seemingly strange state of being considerable thought and contemplation, and have gone down a few roads of possibilities. The first was just that I might be becoming an old fart and turning into Scrooge! After all, the words, “Bah! Humbug!” have come to mind with greater frequency this year while navigating the throngs of more so than usual rude shoppers so intent upon parting with their money as they volley for the quickest checkout line in the store. I find myself making up renditions of the traditional Christmas Carols “Weird Al Yankovic style” and singing them under my breath as I move along, for example:
“Bells are ringing, children singing, all is merry and bright”
has been changed to
“Registers ringing, children clinging, all is scary and trite”
But, alas, I dismissed the Scrooge theory. After all, Scrooge was that way for a long time, all of his life and it was only towards the end that the visitations were made upon him! This is “sudden onset Bah! Humbug” and I don’t think that Scrooge-dom happens that way, it is more of an ingrained repeated pattern, so I kissed Scrooge good-bye.
My next exploration was that, being a spoiled teacher, I usually have lots of time off before the “big day” arrives. This year with Christmas coming on a Monday, our break is back-loaded and we have school right up until December 22. To add insult to injury, Progress Reports, AIMS-A and Regression Data fall due (otherwise known as massive but necessary documentation and paperwork bullshit) and must be finished before I lock that door the evening of December 22. I’ve come to befriend that professional side of me that works myself up into a frantic whirlwind of productivity when deadlines are almost overwhelming, but I still haven’t gotten her completely harnessed. After putting in ten-hour days as the deadline approaches, while still having to deal with eight Autistic kids for five of those ten hours each day, I considered that perhaps the “poor-me” syndrome was creeping in. Could the martyr and perfectionist who must have each “i” meticulously dotted and every “t” precisely crossed be rearing her ugly head just when I thought she had been laid to rest, or at least securely shackled in a back room somewhere? This contemplation was considerably more tempting than Scrooge, after all I could put the “blame” on circumstances as well as that petulant part of my ego which LOVES to suffer, but the answer was not that easy. I had been under similar time and deadline constraints before, and had not had this type of reaction, so the exploration went on. Let’s see, where to go next?
There were several other brief scenarios that were given consideration, but the most painful I kept in abeyance, denying and looking in all other directions first, before tenderly pulling this one out and taking a gentle look. This year I will not be spending Christmas in Florida with my children. Because of a multitude of scheduling conflicts, my trip for the holidays has been shifted to the New Year week this year. I will be in Phoenix for that dawning of First Light, with Dianne, David, Wendy, Glen, and Adam for the first time, which I am very much looking forward to, but I will not physically be with my cherished children and granddaughter.
The fact is that for me there will be no annual Christmas Eve Party with my kid’s friends from all the way back to elementary school stopping in for an evening of reunion and reminiscing. I will not be there for the unveiling of “THE GAME” the kids traditionally play that evening while laughing and renewing acquaintances that have been silent for a year. I will miss the opening of the traditional goofy Christmas socks, the frantic shuffle of wrapping and placing presents under the tree Christmas Eve. The annual “walk” on Christmas morning when my kids shut their eyes, lines up from shortest to tallest, hands on each other’s shoulders and march in with eyes closed and then open them all at once in (now) mock astonishment at the beauty they behold will take place without me. (Side note: My kids humor me a lot but I think they secretly love these traditions)
The list of traditions we have built up over the years, carrying them with me from my childhood and passing them down to my children, is endless. Right down to the Bailey’s in coffee and Polish Sausage for breakfast Christmas morning and sitting around, laughing and crying in pajamas all day soaking in the presence of love and the “meaning” of the day. This year it will all take place without me. Fact of the matter is, it may or may NOT take place. I am unsure as to what Christmas will bring for my children this year, as I am unsure of what it will bring for me, but there is one thing that I am sure of, and that is that new traditions will be formed and honored in years to come.
In all my pondering and contemplation as to the different quality of the feeling of the Season this year, I must admit that my not going back to Florida to share this time with my children is a factor. It is, however, merely the emotional response of my ego and personality to the memories and patterns of what has always been. While it is contributory, that is not the entire answer to the lack of luster and beauty, the emptiness and void that I am experiencing this year.
As I journey upon the Path of Return, I have found it to be an increasingly inward and solitary movement. Personal experiences, changes within my psyche, and communication with my Soul are taking place that have no meaning to anyone but myself, that I am unable to verbally express or share, and I find I am often silenced by a hand that I cannot see but can only sense. Right now I am attempting to convey one of those knowings to you, the Readers of Spiritual Climate, and I find myself struggling with words, but I will continue and hope that it will have meaning for you.
The beauty and spirit of the First Light of the dawning of Christmas Day is a miracle gifted upon the entire manifest universe by the One. It is given freely, it is limitless, abundant, and infinite, and it resonates WITHIN each and every one of us to whatever capacity we are able to perceive it and make it our own. Christmas is an inward motion of beauty and grace, a sojourn in the darkest season of the year to the brilliance of the interior light that is the Birth Right of each individual. This is in stark opposition to the holiday frenzy we have bastardized it into, even though the celebration rings of home, hearth and family. From a purely Spiritual aspect, the true gift of Christmas is to be experienced internally on a level far removed from the trappings of the commercial landslide that it has become. I find myself this year standing on a narrow ledge between the two polar opposites, and that, my friends, is where I believe my feelings of “Non-Christmas” are coming from.
And so, this year I will be in my Spiritual home with those whom I have been blessed to have share this part of my journey with. There will be new traditions, quiet times and introspection. This does not mean that I do not love my children and the old traditions, it only means that I am growing and moving into yet another deeper aspect of the beauty, awe, and wonder of the renewing of the First Light that birthed us all.
May your Christmas and Holy-Day Season gift you with an awareness of the interior luminosity of your true being, Soul and Spirit that is ever present within the deepest recesses of your heart.