Monday, November 18, 2013


I got down the Christmas dishes this morning, put them on the lower shelves where they can be easily reached, put the every-day dishes up on the high shelves you can’t reach without a ladder. Yesterday I played a new Christmas CD. The day before I practiced some of the Christmas songs that never become listenable unless I practice them for several weeks—the songs I didn’t practice at all last year. Christmas, in my world it seems, is arriving early. Last year I didn’t prepare for Christmas. Well, I suppose I prepared, in the way a sleep-walker or a robot might prepare. I didn’t anticipate. I didn’t feel Christmas. Christmas came last year. It came without my help though I did whatever it was that I had to do. One day, very close to Christmas, I got a ladder and brought the dishes down. One day, I think it was boxing Day, I played a few Christmas CD’s. Baby Ben made his grand entry into the world on new Year’s eve and, as he pulled us forward into the future, I observed with relief that the whole business of holidays was finally over. I hated last November. Last November we were closing down my beloved programs at Hope foundation. I was saying good-bye to clients. I was mourning the loss of my colleagues. We were making adjustments to accommodate david’s changing health. We were paying daily hospital visits to our frail and cherished Gramma. Last November was a lousy month. December was just as bad. Last November I didn’t want to do the things I like to do. If something came up that might be fun, I did it reluctantly. I caught myself hoping I wouldn’t get any Christmas presents. It was a very strange time. But I guess I learned something a long the way, something practical and useful. A good thing it is too, for this November finds me doing painful work--hope work with groups of people who have recently lost a colleague to suicide. “what do we do,” they ask, “after we accept that it is normal to feel guilt and anger?” The answer to this question is not clear to me. I suppose there really are no rules to govern it. But I have, with the memory of last November fixed firmly in mind, approached these workshops with the conviction that there is no moral reason why we can’t consider the possibility of seeking out positive emotions like joy, awe, interest, inspiration, amusement, contentment, pride, gratitude, love and hope. There is no moral reason not to pursue things that delight us, things that fascinate us, things that refresh us, work that really matters. Circumstances may rob us of the desire for these things, but there is no moral reason why we must deny them to ourselves. Perhaps this conviction is helpful to others as well. My email contains a thank-you note: “Thank you so much for your wisdom, encouragement and hope on Friday. They meant a lot to us and to me personally. I had not realized that I had started to give up some of the things that I love to do until you brought it to my attention. I now know that I need to once again do the things that refresh and delight me.” When I read that note, it occurred to me that I had already started looking forward to Christmas this year. But it was the note that woke me to the realization that I hadn’t noticed the change.

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