Saturday, December 3, 2011

Christmas Tree Angst-Part One

Twelve years ago, when we first moved into this lovely old house, our very first house, with its long living room with high ceiling, I imagined a grand Christmas tree, the kind you see in old Hollywood films, placed perfectly so in front of the arch window.  My first baby was born just a few weeks before Christmas that year, so my nesting instincts were in full swing.  We did buy a gorgeous nine foot tall artificial tree that year.  It was expensive, but it was an investment in Family Christmas, and all the joyous family Christmases to come.  We had little furniture in the living room, at that point, as we had moved from an apartment to this bigger space.  So the tree was truly a grand focal point of the room.

Fast foward to present day, and my "baby" boy is twelve.  The living room seems to have shrunk.  I just realized that there's no longer space for the grand tree, not without blocking the projection screen TV and putting some of our accumulated possesions out on the lawn for a month or so.  Now I'm looking for a nook or cranny, anyplace, where I can stick a Charlie Brown size Christmas tree.  I feel sick.  Where did all this STUFF come from? We certainly aren't hoarders.  And yet we've managed to fill this place to the brim in a few years.  My grandparents lived in a much smaller house for sixty years.   Would anyone be able to walk through this house if we lived here another fifty years??

The Christmas Tree Dilemma has me noticing just what we have accumulated over the past dozen years.  I look around our home, and I see my the rocking chair in which my mother rocked me, the pine needle baskets my mother-in-law wove, the cedar chest in which my grandmother stored her trousseau, the mantle clock my grandfather wound nightly, the church doors from my beloved friend's home, the Quan Yin statue that sat in our now-closed store, the dioramas my children made ~ and even the stash of materials for projects not yet created. 

Seen this way, this stuff no longer feels like "stuff," as in the dictionary definition of "worthless things or matter."  These are venerable old friends that reverberate with the spirit of our loved ones, near and far, living and passed ~ and even our past and future selves.  They remind me of the Velveteen Rabbit.  They have been loved enough to become Real.  So what's a moment of high maintenance grandeur compared to living, day in and day out, with the furniture Sages, the living Memories, and the Portent of that which is yet to be created?

I Held my Mother's Hand Today

I was enjoying a rousing conversation in my head today, when I realized it was just the sort of conversation I would have had with my mother before she passed.  Contemplating the various merits of "shopping local" and creating community versus internet deals and making efficient use of precious land resources...it's just the sort of thing we could have sorted out together, collaboratively and enjoyably.  Only she wasn't in the car with me, nor will she be again, not in the physical, anyway. 

Or was she?  It occurred to me that this thought didn't come out of "nowhere," and it could well have been Divine Inspiration.  My mother loved nothing more than a good conversation,  so I decided to include her in this one.  I reached over to "her" side of the car, and held her hand.  And I began to talk.  Just like old times.  And I knew I wasn't alone.   

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Ode to Nate

I opened the door to find a smiling, bright young man who introduced himself as Nate.  I am ashamed to say that I cringed.  I do admire these young people, putting themselves out there, selling door-to-door in jaded, cynical, fearful Los Angeles.  It must be so scary! I barely made it around to the neighbors I knew well when I was selling Girl Scout cookies, Watkins vanilla, and some kind of greeting cards.  Truth is, I cringe because I don't want any newspapers or magazines or candy ~ and I am a softie that hates to say no.

Nate was as personable and charming as any of them.  I liked him instantly.  He made a good pitch for the magazines. "You can even donate a subscription to your favorite charity," he explained.  Quickly, before I caved, I explained about how I buy all the magazines I want from the kids' school fundraiser and about how I love trees, and how it pains me that so few mags are printed on recycled paper, and I don't want any more trees killed for glossy, slick pages....I literally saw Nate deflate as I spoke.  His chest caved in and the corners of his eyes turned down. 

I felt horrible. I am committed to the upliftment and empowerment of human consciousness, after all, and here I dashed the dreams of this beautiful young spirit.  Then again, I am also committed to respectful and sustainable use of Earth's resources.   How can I honor both?

As soon as I closed the door, and Nate walked out of sight, I asked myself, "why didn't I talk to Nate about joining me in one of my business ventures, one that honors the Earth, empowers people, and engages the Spirit?"  I considered chasing him down the street.  Instead, I prayed for another chance with Nate, if it was in our best interest. 

And that's when I realized the Truth:  Nate doesn't need me to save him, nor will he perish if I don't chase him down.  Nate is on his journey, and I am on mine.  Our paths crossed for a moment, and I learned something.  I'm grateful to Nate for this.  I hope he's grateful, in some small way, that he met me.

Monday, November 28, 2011

The Eyes Behind the Lies

I'm telling myself some truly outrageous lies today.  Like about how it's somebody else's fault , and that I can't be happy until somebody else does something they aren't doing.  In my heart of hearts, I know none of it is true.  My solemn intention for some time has been to release blame because, well, it's like that saying about resentment: it's like swallowing poison and hoping someone else will die. 

I know it's hopeless, useless, and, let's not forget, unkind, to blame other people for my own angry thoughts.  Happiness is an inside job, I tell my children.  It's all "my movie," as my friend Loren would say.  Still, the old habits can be so seductive.  I find myself savoring this trip down Blame-and-Complain Lane. 

And yet, even as I hear my words, I can feel the Presence peering in on me.  It looks like a pair of Eyes behind my physical eyes ~ Eyes that see the Truth ~ looking at me from the inside. The "Eyes behind the lies" I call it. 

"Are you done yet?"
"Nope, but thanks for asking."
"Are you believing any of what you're saying?"
"Not a word.  But I'm enjoying this moment immensely."
"Really?"
"Actually, I'm miserable.  But still not ready."

As miserable as it feels to hang onto being miserable, I take a perverse pleasure in choosing it.  And yet my conversation with the Eyes reminds me that I don't have to stay here.  And I can choose ~ and I always have the choice ~ to let it all go.  If I really want to.  Now that's the key.