You don’t wanna be bamboozled. You don’t wanna be led down the primrose path. You don’t wanna be conned or duped, have the wool pulled over your eyes. Hoodwinked. You don’t wanna be taken for a ride, railroaded. Seeing is believing. Am I right?
I have absolutely no sense of direction, and it doesn’t help that Lola, my GPS, has a wicked case of dementia setting in. Left turns where there are none, straight ahead when there isn’t a road to cross. Like us all, age has set in. Lola isn’t immune just because she’s a machine.
I think that Santa is having a fling with Lola, because he’s lost his way.
Or maybe it’s that I have lost mine. It seems to be more difficult to uncover the spirit of Christmas. I find myself digging in furry red stockings, sifting through the embers in the hearth, reaching beyond the tinsel and glittering lights to see if there’s something hidden in the branches of my tree. Something that will bring me healing for the year that leads up to the most magical night; Christmas Eve. All I’ve been finding is Santa’s other boot – the one that falls out of the sleigh to kick me in the head.
Every December, I spend countless hours using my reflections to seek understanding of where my life has brought me. A year ago, I was preparing for an ending. To my life? I still don’t know. To a chapter? Don’t know that either. Like the countdown on New Year’s Eve that dictates we take stock of our lives, that’s just what I’ve been doing. Trying to make each day one that if it were my last, I’d be okay with it. I’ve done well with the bigger picture, but the small setbacks often get in the way of feeling accomplished.
I’ve struggled in trying to find ways to deal with my losses. There have been many falling out of my life at an alarming pace. I now get how a bowling pin feels, set up just to be knocked right over again. Then last week I listened to one of my oldest friends cry over the loss of her sister. Through her, I could feel grief – so why can’t I feel it on my own? So many expectations are put upon us from others, it becomes problematic to justify our own timelines, our own depths. Losing a sister is worse than losing a friend or an arm’s-length relative, right?
Except that family is where we make it.
At one time most of my friends could hear the bell, but as years passed it fell silent for all of them. They could no longer hear its sweet sound. Though I've grown old the bell still rings for me, as it does for all who truly believe.
We’re all aging, and as we do, Santa becomes more distant in our hearts. We no longer carry the hope that goodwill comes wrapped in a ribbon. We watch the people in our lives wither and die, and it’s harder to refill them. If Dasher fell out into the sky one night, could he be so easily replaced? Sadness settles in like the winter snow, and the ringing of the spirit goes unheard more than before. We lose faith more easily.
Life becomes a journey on a train, destination unknown. Every year now, I’m wondering if it will be my last ride.
The gifts that arrive carry more weight, because the lessons included are heavier with each passing season. Live life to the fullest. Look for the rainbows in the rain. Always appreciate our loved ones, we don’t know when they’ll be gone. Just remember, the true spirit of Christmas lies in your heart. All of the platitudes that lose their luster in the January quiet.
I like to look inward on the traditions of others in my loneliest moments. Brad, a friend I “met” this year on Facebook, posts photos of his brilliantly colored ornaments, and I messaged him the other day that I was living vicariously through him because with our two rambunctious felines, we no longer get to hang such things on our tree. He told me about his holiday. “I was not a happy kid growing up, but I loved the holidays. Everybody was a little nicer, and it was a time I could dream about what awesome gifts I might get or what my future would be like. I’d leave my tree up all year round if it wouldn’t make me the eccentric goofball in the neighborhood. It symbolizes peace for me in an otherwise chaotic world.”
Danny just told me about a new ritual he is considering. “My wife and I want to try to start a new Christmas tradition: Forgiveness Friday. It will be the week after Black Friday every year. It is a day to forgive anyone you are angry with, so you can start the Christmas season with an open heart.”
Yes, Danny, there is a Santa Claus. He exists as certainly as love and generosity and devotion exist.
Whenever Lola throws a wrong turn at me, I can look to the star at the top of my tree to guide me home. In it, I see how others shine, and it fills the dark spaces behind the lights.
One cliché remains true; home is in our hearts.
And our hearts are filled with the love we open them to.
The thing about trains is.. it doesn’t matter where they’re going. What matters is deciding to get on.
© Kymberlie Ingalls, December 3, 2014
Quotes: The Polar Express