What’s in a Look?

It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas.” Is it though? I don’t know about you, but every single Christmas, though blanketed in tradition, has been markedly different. Not better or worse, but different.

I have done as much shopping and preparing as I am going to do this year. A lot less than last year, so Christmas is definitely looking different. I am not apologizing this year for feeling less than joyous; that’s a big change. I’m not taking blame for raining on anyone’s parade either. That’s a biggie, too. So, is it really looking like Christmas? Yep, I think it is. It finally is.

My gifts this year to you, to those whom I love and show up for each day, and to myself (for whom I’m only beginning to show up) are grace and forgiveness. They go hand-in-hand. I’m learning. Grace isn’t about being gracious or delicate. Grace is bold and tough as nails. In fact, this year, I’ve learned that grace often cloaks itself in armor – not an armor that protects me from others, but an armor that protects me from myself. Grace allows me to rise. Grace permits me the space I need mentally and physically to breathe and make it through the day. Grace empowers me. It restores my faith in a humanity that often seems to be disappearing before my very eyes. That’s a new look for Christmas, wouldn’t you say? Attempting to reconcile living in a world where our lens has become focused on self-interest and disrespect rather than tolerance, acceptance, and pursuit of the greater good? Now, that requires grace and invites forgiveness, wouldn’t you say?

The look of Christmas? Learning to forgive is a big part of it. Forgiveness changes the landscape.  Forgiveness for me this year means letting go. It is not for me to judge and absolve anyone else of egregious sins or hurtful behaviors. I’ve committed plenty of both, I’m sure. I’m human after all. What Christmas looks like in terms of forgiveness for me this year is completely different than it was last year, the year before, or even ten or fifty years ago. As we lose those who shaped us and gain others who help us find new ground, forgiveness changes. It moves from perfunctory to profound, in hindsight, of course.

At ten, I feared lumps of coal because of spats with my siblings or falling short in school or fleeting bad feelings about my parents. In my twenties, requests for forgiveness involved momentary lapses in judgment related to indiscretions, promiscuity,  and discovery as well as not measuring up to the community in which I was educated. Thirties? I didn’t forgive myself…ever. I never asked for absolution, cleansing, or forgiveness because I didn’t deserve it. I didn’t think I did anyway. I had a child and a husband and a home. Forgiveness was a luxury. I got exactly what I deserved, good or bad. Forties? Forgivable forties? Fuck that. I was too busy. I didn’t think about grace or forgiveness. Life in auto-pilot when your spouse decides his pursuits are more meaningful and you’ve a child to launch and parents to honor. My 40s gave me nothing and everything. They taught me the most, punished me the most, and rewarded me the most. Irony, indeed.

And here I am, on the cusp of my 58th Christmas (actually 59th) “celebrating” the look of Christmas and I’m talking about and reconciling everything, particularly grace and forgiveness. They go hand-in-hand, I think. This year they do anyway. Next year, who knows?

“It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas.” Christmas is the life we celebrate on one day and should fete all year long!

Grace & Forgiveness look differently on everyone!

Stake a Claim

“Hitting Black Friday sales today, Sylvia?” Erma asks her friend, even though she already knows that the two of them made a pact long ago to swear off malls, grocery stores, and shopping of any kind the day after Thanksgiving.

Sylvia, almost choking on her coffee as she entertains the gruesome thought and visualizes the throngs of overzealous consumers, replies, “I stand by the agreement we made long ago, Erma. No shopping on this day. Not even online. I’m offline and out-of-network. Simply being is more than enough today.”

“Just wondering if you needed me to remind you that it will all be there tomorrow. I’ll save you a place in line then if you wish,” Erma assures her.

“Don’t bother. Not this year. Hopefully, you’ll never have to wait and hold my place for me again. I’ll always accompany you, walk alongside you, and then commiserate with you ad nauseum about how stupid we are leaving holiday shopping until December, but you’ll not need to hold a place for me. I’m claiming my own space. Wherever I go, Whatever I do, and whenever I need to remind myself of where and to whom I belong — I’m on my way home and making my own space for anything and everything along the way.”

Erma, beaming at Sylvia’s words of confidence and tone of determination, declares in an equally committed voice, “No sales ever. You own your space, and you paid full-price. So worth it, Syl. So worth it.”

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The world belongs to you as much as it does to anyone else. Claim your space.

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I am my home

The Forager

Sylvia is sitting watching the seagulls forage and beg for scraps. She too finds herself begging for scraps this last Saturday in August. Just one more minute. A second even. She doesn’t want to turn back the clock; she simply wants another tick or two, a second during which she can walk into his room, say his name, and see him light up. And then maybe another second or two to watch her finish the crossword while her fourth cup of coffee grows cold. Those momentary looks of contentment and satisfaction that she remembers on both of their faces, yes, those are the scraps she desires right now to fill the emptiness, the perfect ointment to salve the wounds of self-doubt, longing, and melancholy.

The seagulls in the distance appear to be fighting over something they have come upon, and Sylvia wonders, “Are they truly hungry or do they just want more?” There is a difference she realizes. Knowing the difference at this very moment somehow assuages the useless and often crippling feelings she harbors of not having done enough or been enough.

“See, Sylvia. Sometimes wanting more makes you feel you are less. Be grateful for what you’ve had. It must be enough or contentment and peace will forever elude you.”
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“I don’t know if I told you enough, loved you enough, did enough of anything to show you how important you were to the world – my world. I was never ready to let you go, and I think you knew it.”

Dad and Mom, scraps will have to do. I’ll piece them together and wrap myself in them until I’m whole again. I am so relieved that you are not here to witness the chaos, the meanness, and the intolerance of this time. But then again, knowing both of you, you’d find light and hope and contentment as you would watch the waves lap upon the shore, sitting on the seawall drinking your Dunkin after checking on the parks.
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Weekend wisdom : Even foragers must know when they have enough to sustain themselves.

Glory in the Mirror

Thursday thought: If someone else draws it well, writes it better, or captures the essence of what you are striving to explain, let that person help you lift your voice. And then, give her or him a nod, credit because it is due, and a big thank-you.

Today, Sylvia and Erma found the precise words. Thank you, Ms. Angelou.


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I don’t know if I continue, even today, always liking myself. But what I learned to do many years ago was to forgive myself. It is very important for every human being to forgive herself or himself because if you live, you will make mistakes- it is inevitable. But once you do and you see the mistake, then you forgive yourself and say, ‘Well, if I’d known better I’d have done better,’ that’s all. So you say to people who you think you may have injured, ‘I’m sorry,’ and then you say to yourself, ‘I’m sorry.’ If we all hold on to the mistake, we can’t see our own glory in the mirror because we have the mistake between our faces and the mirror; we can’t see what we’re capable of being. You can ask forgiveness of others, but in the end the real forgiveness is in one’s own self. I think that young men and women are so caught by the way they see themselves. Now mind you. When a larger society sees them as unattractive, as threats, as too black or too white or too poor or too fat or too thin or too sexual or too asexual, that’s rough. But you can overcome that. The real difficulty is to overcome how you think about yourself. If we don’t have that we never grow, we never learn, and sure as hell we should never teach.
~Maya Angelou

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Glory
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