Our tree, from the alleyIt's a cliche and not very merry, but do the holidays not feel like one's being is contained within the sleeve of a blood pressure cuff that's being steadily inflated? A hug that becomes far too tight, with big, blank, empty January as the only release valve? I like the holidays piece by piece. I take no issue with, for example, the eating of shortbread cookies, the loading of an evergreen tree, tacky with sap, through my car's hatch, sleeping in guest beds that do not sag dolefully in the center, beer that tastes like potpourri but in a good way, late night Scrabble games, spirited retellings of old stories. Somehow altogether, with the timetables and the rushing, it becomes far more overwhelming than the sum of its parts. Then there's the business of the sun setting offensively early.
The past few weeks have been stacked with holiday celebrations and preparations, but I've not had much to say. Do others who write about their lives find that the act of drawing out their thoughts into tidy phrases again and again makes them completely sick of themselves? Because I feel sick of myself. Introspection can be like a bit of unspooled thread that's hitched itself to your pant leg without your knowledge, and you're winding it around with you all day before you realize you've built quite a web, and oops, you've gone and caught yourself in it. How to unstick from your own small truths? Even sleep feels noisy.
I have been pushing a 40 pound flywheel around a lot lately in the evening. And as we slice through artificial hills, in loping group choreography, I find myself at last hearing nothing and thinking nothing. It is an unburdening trance. Maybe, I wonder as I dismount the funny immobile bike, this is how church feels for some people but never did for me. When I exit the Y into the bracing cold, steam floats off my bared arms and I feel briefly supernatural.
A thing carried with me from all that churchgoing is the phrase "...and those we now name silently in our hearts." Maybe you know the liturgy. As a kid, that line always snagged for me. I name shit silently in my heart all day!, I thought. At that age, my impression was that this was an essential human trait. Could it be that it is just a trait of being...myself? Oh. How lonely.
Maggie sent a holiday card with a Rilke verse on it:
"And now we welcome the new year, full of things that have never been."
I think this will make Maggie laugh: I opened it, and I honestly gasped and put my palm to my chest. (Documentary photography of weddings, both mine and others, has taught me that I favor this theatrical gesture quite a lot! I didn't know!) Things that have never been! It knocks the wind out of me, what we've been entrusted with in this new year. I am so glad to name that verse silently in my heart now, Maggie, with all the other things I carry with me. My thoughts are heavy and unrelenting but it would be rude, I think, after all this time, not to call them my companions.