... in the right way.
I started - as always - checking my buds on facebook to see how their day is going so far. I have facebook friends from all over the world: France, Australia, Netherlands, New Zealand, Japan as well as from several of the United States. Some are old (and treasured) friends and family, others are new (and treasured) friends and family.
This morning two had left gifts. The first is (I hope) posted below. Another number from the concert I attended on Sunday. Just before DS1 left for his permanent move to Japan we had a conversation about live music and how important it is to keep the relationship between performer and audience alive. I performed (as a dancer) for a short time in my life, but am still the mother (and daughter and sister, for that matter) of performing musicians. I have experienced the magical exchange of energy in this unique relationship many times. I even had the experience of watching the transformation of a major stage performance just because one teenage audience member - my son - couldn't keep his enthusiasm for a duo of Celtic fiddlers silent one more second. His shouted, one word compliment had an immediate effect on the performers, which translated into an awakening of the audience and a more enthusiastic performance for the rest of the show.
I took my conversation with DS1 seriously, and committed to supporting live music as much as possible. For years, I had been enjoying the Gay Men's Chorus of Los Angeles from their Christmas Eve performances at the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion that has been broadcast on PBS. It was not hard to decide to buy a season series last year. It was such as fabulous experience that I had promised myself the series again this year, with an extra $100 donation to the chorus. However, when I got the notice that season tickets were again available, they were doing a special promotion and I got a significant discount on the series. It was enough of a discount that for just a little more than what I was budgeting (with my donation), I could buy a second series and invite someone to share a concert with me. This time I invited an old and best friend, and she and I had a blast.
So, having started my morning with "Joyful, Joyful" I scrolled down a little further and was gifted with this:
Yes, I am richer. More fortunate. Luckier. More blessed.
I don't have much "Christmas Spirit" this year. Oh, I'm not feeling "Scrooge-y" or "Grinch-y." I'm feeling quite happy and am enjoying the elements of the season. DS2 and his GF put up a lovely light display. The Charlie Brown tree is in the kitchen this year and we may get some ornaments on it tonight. The Santas are in the hallway as usual. This year I hung a garland with colored lights in the window of The Sanctuary and am enjoying them as I write this. I've had some lovely shopping expeditions where shoppers and sellers alike were in happy spirits. Today I'll finish my own shopping (although if I stopped now, I think my recipients would be happy with their gifts), including a trip to Trader Joe's for eggnog and hot cocoa mix and frozen bread dough for Christmas morning cinnamon rolls.
But I've apparently abandoned my traditional holiday spirit. This is probably a good thing and just another symptom of The Transformation.
I am not who I was, and not yet who I am.
In December of 2009 I started down a path of change. In June of 2010 a friend recommended Julia Cameron's The Artist's Way. He told me it had transformed him. I smiled and replied that transformation was probably aiming a little high but that if I could find a couple of missing pieces I would be happy.
The next time I saw my friend, he said he'd been trying to come up with an analogy for me and remembered the old-fashioned Christmas lights. "Remember," he asked, "how when one would burn out, the whole string would go out? And how you had to unscrew each bulb and try a new one, one at a time? And then, when you found the right one, the whole string would light up?" That's how it will be for you, he said. Finding the missing pieces will transform you.
And he was right.
I'll never look at Christmas lights the same way again.
I worked that program, and it led me to others from whom I continue to learn. From Jonathan Haidt's Happiness Hypothesis into Sonja Lyubomirsky's terrific little "Live Happy" app for my ipod. To a writing class with Jack Grapes and some young people who continue to guide and support me. (I'm so grateful for you guys.) Joseph Campbell and Derek Sivers and Anne Lamott and Geneen Roth and Deepak Chopra. I'm soaking myself in Brene Brown now (multiple youtube presentations well worth the watch; second reading - with highlighter and sticky tabs - of The Gifts of Imperfection. I Thought It Was Just Me... is next on the book list). and from Brown I got the final shove into The Alchemist by Paolo Coelho and now The Happiness Project by Gretchen Rubin.
I am transformed - and happier than I ever remember being - and so my Christmas spirit is also transformed. For decades my Christmas spirit has been a wash of expectation and anticipation and eventual disappointment. I never thought I was asking a lot. Let me clean the house until it sparkled. Let me make cookies - chocolate chip and chocolate crinkles and peanut butter (with Kitchen Klatter flavorings) and snickerdoodles from Grandma's recipe and iced sugar cookies. Let me decorate every room (even the pig-themed bathroom) and let me create the annual magic with the Christmas tree. 1500 lights and almost four decades of collected ornaments including four dozen crystal icicles. Let me be finished with it all by the day before Christmas Eve - clean windows reflecting multi-colored lights, presents wrapped under the tree, a sugar cookie in one hand, cocoa in the other. Jimmy Joyce Singers singing Al Burt carols and a quiet Christmas Eve enjoying my own sense of anticipation, wondering what was in the gifts that had my name on them under the tree.
Someone was always right behind me to make a mess of what I'd cleaned. Need rain? Bring me to your neighborhood and let me wash your windows. Guaranteed rainmaking. The tree was always a love/hate project over which I usually became so frustrated and angry that when it was finally finished it would take me days to get past my resentment of the effort. There were never enough hours to do ALL the cookies. And my Santa had a different tradition than I. No gifts to wonder over in the days leading up to Christmas; they only appear on Christmas Eve.
This year - and I think it's a good thing - I don't have my usual "Christmas Spirit." Windows have not been washed. There are dust elephants (yellow lab) everywhere. Today there may be cookies. There may not. DH is expecting company Friday. He may do some cleaning (I will be at my mom's Thursday getting her house ready for the whole family on Christmas) or he may not.
I don't really have any expectations for The Day and am just enjoying each step toward The Event as best I can. Time with my mom (helped with a little decorating at her house last weekend). The SNC concert two weeks ago, GMCLA Sunday. Shopping has been delightful. For the most part everyone is in a holiday mood punctuated by patience and good will. I've been pretty lucky to find what I've been hoping to find as gifts. I'll get them wrapped and under the little Charlie Brown tree sitting on the kitchen cabinet.
So that my loved ones can wonder.
Meanwhile, the little sparkler that lives inside continues to twinkle.
Like the Christmas lights.