Sometimes You Have to Look Harder for the Joy, But It’s There

“It is December and we must be brave,” poet Natalie Diaz wrote in “Manhattan is a Lenape Word” in her book Postcolonial Love Poem. So, so true. (Lenape is the language of the Delaware Native American tribe)

In Kansas and nearby states, survivors gaze at the rubble where their homes used to be, where their neighbors died in tornadoes that swept through on Friday and wiped out homes, businesses, dreams, and lives. How do you bear such a tragedy? How do you attend so many funerals and not want to die yourself?

I guess you ask the people Out West whose lives were ravaged by wildfires, or the folks in the South clobbered by hurricanes. You keep going the best you can.

A mass shooting happened in Baytown, Texas yesterday. These shootings have become so routine that NPR didn’t even mention it on this morning’s news update, although it was on my Yahoo home page. One dead, 13 wounded at a vigil for a friend who had been killed two weeks earlier.

COVID is still raging. The omicron variant is said to be more contagious than the previous versions of the virus. In one week, we went from no cases in the U.S. to cases all over the country. Those of us who have had two vaccine shots and a booster still don’t feel safe, and it seems as if this will never end. A friend from my old church died of COVID last week. People are still disputing the need for masks while almost 50,000 new cases have been diagnosed in the U.S. in the last 30 days.

The economy is berserk. Some gas stations in the Bay Area are charging more than $5 a gallon. Prices for food and everything else are up, and yet you can’t get everything you need because the supply chain is broken and businesses can’t find people to fill jobs. There are no new cars in the Honda dealer’s parking lot because they can’t get the computer chips to make the cars. Crazy.

This weekend, high winds and rain hit the Oregon coast. I woke to find my patio table overturned, my garden statues knocked over, and a fallen tree across my fence. There are branches everywhere. My whole yard is so soggy I’m afraid my house is going to sink. But I suffered no real damage. I spent a few hours without Internet or TV, but that’s nothing. I’m back at my desk, writing, sipping English Breakfast Tea, and looking forward to Christmas cards coming in the mail.

I had tea and scones with a new friend last week. The next day, Annie and I had a nice visit with the neighbors, swapping stories by the fireplace. I sang at church on Saturday. My refrigerator is full of good food. I’m healthy. My life is good. We don’t get tornadoes here, but a disaster could change everything in a blink. All we can do is trust in God and each other to carry us when things get too hard.

The holidays can be torture for people who are already suffering from the loss of loved ones, natural and unnatural disasters, or physical or emotional problems. Please consider reaching out to friends who might be having a hard time. Even more than gifts and cards, they could use your company.

I hate that I won’t have any family around me at Christmas. At some point, I will cry hard over that. But then I will move on. There’s always something to look forward to, even if it’s just a turkey sandwich or a TV show or a walk with the dog. Last night while doing the dishes, I turned on some music and started dancing. The dog stared, confused. But if your feet still hold you up, why not dance?

It is December, and we must be brave. The month is only half over. There will be more storms, more tornados. There will be more COVID, more shortages, and more frustrations. But there will also be Christmas and New Year’s and another sunrise every day, each one a little different from the one before, and that first wonderful sip of coffee or tea in the morning. If you look for the joy, you can find it.

Happy holidays, I wish you warm scones, fuzzy slippers, and sloppy dog kisses.

I welcome your comments. Tell us how you’re doing this month.

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The best gifts may not be under the Christmas tree

I was going to write a whiny post about not having any Christmas presents. It would start, “The only gifts for me under my Christmas tree are the ones I bought and wrapped for myself.” I would explain that the main gift-givers in my family have all died, my remaining family lives far away, I have no kids, the younger folks in my family don’t seem moved to send presents to good old Aunt Sue, my friends are all traveling this Christmas, etc. Woe is me. While that’s all true, I have realized I’m an idiot.
I have so much, and I am so blessed. Grief over my late husband is hitting me like a sledgehammer this year, but I’m writing in a house filled with so much great stuff I can’t possibly need anymore. I want it, but I don’t need it. I have numerous musical instruments and piles of sheet music, books, food, clothes, computers, keepsakes, nice furniture, a car, a dog, work I love, enough money, and a healthy body.
It’s time I reached out to help other people instead of whining about myself. Know what I mean?
I was already beginning to see the light when I started reading a new book I downloaded yesterday with the help of a Christmas gift certificate. It’s called Not Fade Away: A Memoir of Senses Lost and Found and was written by Rebecca Alexander with Sasha Alper. Alexander is losing both her sight and her hearing, due to something called Usher’s Syndrome, a rare genetic glitch. She was a teenager when she was told she would eventually be both blind and deaf. It’s a great book, and Alexander doesn’t seem to feel the least bit sorry for herself. Imagine what it would be like not even being able to see the Christmas tree.
Look around. Listen. Thank God if you can see and hear.
Meanwhile, I might not have a lot of presents under the tree but I have presents everywhere else. You, my readers, are one of those gifts. Thank you and Merry Christmas to all.
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I am planning to move this blog to another site at the beginning of the year. I’m not sure if it will keep the same name, but it will go on with a new design and lots of fun additions.
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