Monday, December 15, 2008

The Migration of Joy

It’s been hard for my wife and myself to keep the joyful spirit of Christmas this year; seeing my friend’s family soldier on through his onerous cancer treatment, my wife keeping a watchful eye on her far-away friend as he deals with his wife’s worrisome health decline, the despair of my retired colleague slowly losing his eyesight, the haunting memory of my co-worker who committed suicide, another co-worker fearing her father’s stay in the hospital this month will likely be his Final Visit, our grief in recently losing our old dog to old age… all this avalanche of bad news has made it a struggle to keep finding reasons to be happy, and I find myself challenged indeed to feel “merry” this Christmas.

Christmas time seemed so much simpler, when I was a child. The anticipation triggered by waking up to the first snowfall of the season, the thrill of shopping for The Right Gift for my parents and each new sibling as they were introduced to their first Christmas with our growing family, and especially the delight of waking up to a sea of presents under the tree on Christmas morning. Those were the days…

The childhood innocence that accompanied the narrow joys of Christmas Past must today co-exist with the adult awareness of the bigger picture within which these tableaux take place, in Christmas Present. It seems such a petty thing to shed a tear over, what with each day’s new horrors to contend with, but the passing of our dog has really hit me hard, and I miss my little buddy terribly.

How to live in hope for good times ahead, when the world gives us every reason to abandon such ideals, when each day seems to take away far more joy than it provides? The Christmas season carries the whispered answer, half-hidden but nevertheless visible, if we but have the insight to perceive it: the lesson that joy is a gift that we can give to ourselves, anew. As every thing changes, some things must never change, they must be re-embraced, they must be re-created, so that there may be a re-joicing… the experiencing of a renewed joy.

We change as we live, as our lives change us; we gain and we lose, often both at the same time, in a way that the child with his nose pressed against the frosty window, gazing expectedly at the freshly-set white blanket of snow in his front yard, could never have foreseen, or understood.
The objects, the places, even the people, that bring us joy are ever-changing as well... not always changing for the better. And maybe this is the hardest lesson to learn of all; that it is not the material present that brought us joy, but the spiritual love that inspired the initiative to give the gift in the first place. The source of that love is as ever-changing as life itself, as new friendships are made, new families are formed... new pets are found to replace the old.

In the blizzard of life’s constant change it’s hard to see the snowflake that remains unchanged: the lifelong ability to migrate from a focus on the decay of the physical, towards that which can’t truly be seen or touched, only felt; as real as a promise is real, actual in the way an imagined hope may be actual. It’s hard to act on the faith that, despite everything we learn about life as we live it, life includes the possibility for rejoicing. Renewed joy is out there, somewhere, waiting for us to move on, and find it again. Like a fresh snow blanketing the neighborhood, each one is different, however much they are similar to the ones that came before. Each one is special, however much it stirs memories of the past. Like snowflakes: countless in the ways in which they are unique.

Pressing my nose against the window and seeing the first snowfall this weekend, this older child now with white in his hair as well as his front yard looked into his past to see his future, and hopes that by this post he will commit to keep working on that act of faith required to rejoice in time for Christmas.


Anonymous said...

While I hardly agree with many of your positions Truepeers, for whatever it’s worth, here wishing you a very Merry Christmas from the left-of-center.

And as far as despair, and while I’m not sure if this may offend, there was some advice from North Africa that one can take to heart - Our hearts are restless until they rest in Thee, O Lord

truepeers said...


this is Charles' post!!

But fear not, a Merry Christmas is wished to all. Merry Christmas to you.


I think you have found the key to defeating despair: after the necessary time of mourning,dwell not on the problems of life, but think about what we here can do next. A child is born... there is a lesson there for the supposedly "mature".

Anonymous said...

Charles: another heartfelt post, and thank you for it.

I'm finding myself rather fascinated lately with the way that we can have a direct impact on the things which naturally direct our lives. Such as time, or the path that our life takes. Time does what it does to us regardless of our wish for it to do so or not, but at the same time, we can choose how the effects of time are felt, or how they impact us, or how our life is changed by it - to an extent, of course, bound by reason.

And the best thing about time is that it allows for second chances, should we take them, and it also allows for the healing of wounds, and a chance to start afresh.

And with that, I'll bid you a Merry Christmas, because I don't really have anything more to add.

So: merry Christmas!

Eowyn said...

Our lord Jesus Christ -- and the Torah from which he was raised and trained --

only asked of us to love one another.

A simple -- but tall -- order.

The simplest, and the tallest -- and the base on which we are asked to live our lives.

For my part, I very much love all of the Covenant Zone, and everything you three do. I feel I know you very well.

And, just based on that, I give much love. I can't "direct" love, per se -- all I can do is just love, which, as I read it, is what our loving God has asked us to do. And I do it happily :)

(If I throw in a few curve balls along the way, I don't think the Almighty minds too much :)

Charles Henry said...

Truepeers, I have noticed in myself the tendency in recent years, to pay very close attention to children whenever I have to attend a funeral.
They are too young to understand what is going on, so in the reception that follows the funeral itself, they run around and play as if it's just another family gathering. Just another day out.

The parents can't afford to rest or decline, they must be on their guard, committed to the future. They must return to being the person they were before their loss, for their children's sake.

In this way both are dependant upon each other, because if there were no children needing their immediate attention, how long would they let themselves be paralyzed with grief?

Charles Henry said...

Walker, I agree with you, that so much about our life is choice.

Happiness is always a choice. Rarely an easy one but always always one of the options.

I heard an expression years ago, about time, that has stuck with me in my recent capacity as a busy, busy manager: "if you want something done, give it to the busy man."

Time can be a very malleable clay in our hands, if we choose it to be.

Charles Henry said...

You always know how to make a guy blush..! Thanks for the kind words.