I have been home a few hours now. Tonight was the evening version of Saturday Morning Coffee with the Chickies. My friends. My pilgrimage buddies and then coffee friends and then hang-on-for-dear-life friends. We do this each year near Christmas. It is great and some of us give presents and some of do not and no one ever seems to notice who is giving or not, much less care about it.
It is a nearly perfect of manifestation of what true giving and gifts are about. No expectations to be dashed, no weirdness about what is received or given or anything. It is as pure and unselfish an experience as any of us have and one would hope that all such exchanges could be. It is a pretty fucking amazing thing. Just amazing. One friend gave me three...count 'em...Anna Lee mice. Two kind of Christmasy, and one Halloween little mouse witch with a sweet, tiny broom. Another friend gave sweet little things and a gift card for a book store. I gave my ornaments and chocolate gelt, which I adore, not only for the chocolate, but for the whole historical aspect and have been doing so for, gosh, this old babe has been giving gelt for nearly forty years and not a single one of them spent as anything other than the pagan girl that I am, and Christian that I was. Maybe I was a Hasmonean-wanna-be in a former life.
Last weekend, or the weekend before that, I simply cannot keep any of this straight anymore, just four of us got together for dinner at the apartment of one of the sisters. I met both of them, the sisters, on a pilgrimage to Ireland. One of them, the apartment one, had been warned about me by one of the other travelers, that I was a witch. I may very well be a witch of the rude, nasty and despicable kind, but she did not understand that the other person was telling her about my spiritual path. She, the apartment Chickie, much later, told me that it was near the half-way point in the trip that she realized what she had been told and found, much to her surprise, by the way, that she liked me as a person. Cool. Groovy.
Anyway, back here in the States, she was part of the original coffee women and over the years, other people have come; some stayed, others left, not finding us to their particular liking, which is fine, truly, because that is the process by which we find the people who are essential parts of our lives.
I have become particularly close the the apartment Chickie. I like her sister a lot, too. In fact, we were friends first. Anyway, the apartment Chickie does not drive, never has, does not want to, and, frankly, she is unsuited to being behind the wheel of several tons of metal and other assorted parts and bits and pieces. We often go on to do something else with the day after the coffee group breaks up and wanders off to do whatever it is that they do.
So, anyway, at the whenever-weekend dinner, it was, hell, I will just use their initials. Sheesh. There we are, at M's apartment, with her sister D and her husband and our other friend S and her husband. S's husband is recovering from a stunningly serious heart problem, which nearly took his life a couple of months ago. He is not recovering well, but that is for later. D is our friend who is dying of ovarian cancer. She had had a big transfusion on that weekend and was able to stay for a nice, long time and when she left, the rest of us left, too, because it was just so sad to know that that night was likely to be the last time that we would all be together.
D and her husband did not attend this evenings lovely thing with all of us friends because she is too ill to leave her house. Her sister, M, does not talk about D very much. She gives the occasional update, but her heart really is not in it, you know? I worry about both of them, but M does not talk about any of this with anyone and whilst it is her journey and I would never interfere, beyond what I have done to make sure that she knows that I am available to her 'round the clock, it is her journey and she gets to travel it in exactly the way she prefers. I truly do my best to not worry about this, but it just does not seem like a good plan on her part. Truly. Sometimes it is so difficult to keep my thoughts about this to myself. Seriously.
Anyway, it is time to write how I feel and say my goodbyes, whilst I still can. Even if I do not make this happen in time, D already knows how much I love her and that all of us will be here for her husband. A kind of goofy, but altogether lovely man he is, who lost both of his closest relatives in the past year, his mother and his only auntie. He is the kind of husband that all of us would love to have. Interesting in a not too painful way, a person with wide and varied interests, and, most importantly, a man who pulled up his big boy panties and was there for his wife in every single way that truly matters.
And, then we have S's husband (the one with the miserable heart issues), who is not behaving well. He has always been a joking and intellectually lively person, but two weeks ago found him taking a serious fall in his driveway, from which he is still sporting a black eye. Tonight it was the worse that I have seen. He kept repeating himself, over and over and some of it was inappropriate for general conversation and we all tried to make light of it, but it was so disturbing. S talked about it when he left the room, and one of us is a nurse, the big-hot-shot kind and the two of them discussed what S needs to discuss at this week's visit with her husband's neurologist and cardiologist.
Things here, at the old homestead, are going from bad to more bad and I simply cannot muster any energy to deal with any of it because, in the scheme of things, like in life in general and the issues with which the people around me are struggling, my crap barely registers on any level of importance that anyone could devise. My stuff is lacking in significance in the face of everything else and I am not able to cope with any of it.
There is great suffering in my town, many people who do not have the means to take care of the basics, much less anything extra. I see them in my work and whilst I am working my ass off to help where I can and to find additional resources and connect people with them, it is just endless and I wonder how much good I am doing or if it is possible to do good at all.
I still cannot be holiday anything, and this evening's thing is the exception (the one and only, single thing I have done for months), because to not go and do and eat and share would have brought too much attention to myself, the feeling and being apart from everything that everyone else holds dear right now. Pretending that I am cheerful and happy to be around people is so exhausting. I am doing lots of volunteering, zoning in on something besides myself and it does fill the time. I guess that it does do some good in town and I am, gosh, just so grateful that I have the resources to help, but I need this fallow time, some time to try to heal and maybe come back to who I was or who I want to be, yeah, who I want to be. I am not empty, in any sense, but I am weary and exhausted to the bones, the ones that bedevil me and for which there is not adequate pain relief.
I cannot be the only person who feels adrift in all of this holiday stuff. It is difficult to hold my tongue when I hear or read about how someone is stressed about not giving the exactly perfect gift or receiving some longed-for ideal present. Or is distressed because other people do not have the same beliefs about how they feel holidays should be celebrated. I weary of listening to the sadness someone feels because not everyone else, Christians or not, prefer to wish one another a happy holiday instead of merry Christmas. I mean, seriously, Christmas is ruined because everyone else is not Christian or refuses to lock-step with their personal beliefs? And, I just keep struggling with my own judgments about how others judge all those other people. It is a vicious and pointless exercise and I just feel nauseated about it. I do not want to be perfect or any such damn thing, but I would so love to not give a crap about how miserably some people are treated or judged. Just pointless.
Frankly, if I hear or read about one more person bemoaning the commercialization or the Americanization or the Disney-izaion of the holiday I am going to scream or hurt myself. I swear. I really do. If you are doing exactly what you want to do in your life, whether or not is it a holiday, then why do you give a rat's ass about what someone, anyone, else is doing? If you have that much time in your life, to waste it worrying and fretting and judging other people, there is a possibility that you are not actively doing enough for other people or your neighborhood or your community or working to make your little part of the world a better place for everyone, every group, every creature, every issue.
I think that I must no longer be fit for being around other people. If I start talking about any of this with other people, it might not even be a personal choice, as those other people might be very happy to kick my sorry ass right out of polite society, which, in itself, is kind of an oxymoron these days. Crap, there I go judging again. I am hopeless and best find a cave in which to live. Posthaste. I am not fit company.
O.K., I thought that I was finished, but I am not. One thoughtful, tender and well-intentioned thought stream.
Do your own thing. I will do my own thing. Leave my thing alone and I will offer and extend the same courtesy to you. If you do not like my thing, please keep your opinions (to which you are entirely entitled to hold) to yourself. Please, I am begging you, do not concern yourself or fuss about how I shop, what is in my grocery basket or shopping cart, how, or if, I cook, how many convenience products I use, what cleaning products I use, how I do the laundry, what I drive or do not drive, how I dress, whether or not I make all my own personal crap, how I garden or do not garden, how I educate my children, where I work or how I spend my money. Please do not worry your pretty, little head about what I read, where I go, how I vacation, how organic my food supply or lifestyle is, where I live or how many utilities and services I use, what my belief system or spiritual path might be, or how I manifest, or do not, what those beliefs may be. If I have forgotten anything, please add it to the list of things about me which should not have to bother you.
I will do exactly those things, and more, for you.
Oh, one more thing. I have, for as long as I can remember, said Happy Holidays instead of Merry Christmas. I did this even when I was a serious and dedicated and faithful Christian, because I always recognized that my religion, spiritual practice and faith community was not the only one in the world, and because I did not want to marginalize anyone with whom I came into contact should they have beliefs different from my own. It always seemed like, plain, simple and ordinary courtesy. Just saying.
Besides, the winter holiday season is chock-full of some of the most interesting practices, both spiritual and secular. Many of them are fun, but all of them are informative to anyone who desires to be a well-rounded, educated and interesting person. Open your heart and be a part of some of them.
The more you learn about other people, how they live, what they practice, the less fearful you will be about those who seem to be different than you. Educate yourself, inform yourself, move beyond only what you have been taught or experienced. Yeah, just open your heart...if you are brave enough. Courage, baby.