Hmm. Made it. All the kerfuffle and swallowed anticipation and sugar. It was okay. Maybe one of the best in a very long time. Lovely things happened, perhaps not so much because of Christmas as because of the movements and configurations of people that come with it. A moment of glory singing with my son at a Christian potluck, and another baking with him, making bread for Communion. Who could ever, possibly, ask for better. Discovering myself as a baker, which is very surprising, making mince tarts and puff pastry turnovers with Brie, white chocolate fudge and sausage rolls, Baguettes (they worked) and Norfolk treacle tart with clotted cream.
My body’s shot. Eating is anywhere from a challenge to a curse. Nothing’s working so well, but hey, I tell myself, it’s gotta come. And either it stays this way, gets better, or gets worse. No big surprises there.
I think maybe I really did let go. I don’t know if I can remember, ever in my life, a Christmas so free of expectation, so open to happiness. The Blue Meanies (not to speak of the Black ones) have shown up, and I’ve spent a modicum of time at the bottom of the pain and depression well, but I do that anyhow. No point attributing it to anything much. It’s the Bill walk.
Alongside of all this I’ve been working with a realization that’s been developing for a long time. It’s not news, not even to me, but the depth and extent of its applications are busy coming clear right now.
It’s not what we do that counts; it’s what we are. I’ve done some stupid things, some really sad ones, some that have done significant damage to other people. At the same time I was always doing the best I could. The things I did can’t be seen as things in themselves; they’re extensions/projections of what I am, my history, my DNA, my ancestral history. It doesn’t let me off the hook. I remain responsible for what I did and do, but it shows me integrated into a larger story. And recovery isn’t so much about forgiveness as it is about grief. God forgave me long ago, and Jesus came to bring me home. It takes away the guilt, but not the grief.
Today I was talking with my friend Abegael about novels we have shared. I am also collaborating with a fifteen-year-old friend on a piece of fiction, and wrote to him today discussing character. All these paths lead to the same conclusion. It’s not what our characters do, it’s who they are. As we write, or read, or live, the plot details are always interesting, but the main thing is discovering a living person there. As I write this, I am reading “The Brothers Karamazov”. It hardly has what we Western novel-readers would recognize as plot. It’s absolutely about the three brothers and their father, and very much about how they carry their inheritance, the different parts of him that each has embodied, and try to heal it.
Maybe as I release myself at Christmas, allowing it to be whatever it wants, not to be whatever it doesn’t want, and not judge my happiness or success by how shiny and good it is, I also in some way set myself free Maybe by cleaving with a little less desperation to the falala’s and the boughs of holly, I’ve allowed myself to experience, just a bit more, Jesus born out there on a cold winter’s night, born to set me free.
“Oh my love, oh my love, my love, my love
This have I done for my true love.”
(“My Dancing Day” – old English carol)