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Born in the US, raised on the Mediterranean island of Cyprus, lived in Italy, the US, and Canada. Lover of language, travel, colour, and the natural world.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Reverb10, Day 20: Christmas disclaimer from the only unlit house on the street

Prompt: Beyond avoidance. What should you have done this year but didn't because you were too scared, worried, unsure, busy or otherwise deterred from doing? (Bonus: Will you do it?)

The author of this prompt is Jake Nickell:
The Threadless Book

This prompt is remarkably like the prompt from two days ago. The only thing that is different between the two, from my perspective, is the use of the word "should," which to me implies regrets. This year has been amazing, as I expressed in my post on December 18th, Nowhere I'd rather be. When I look back over the year, I feel content and happy with the choices that I have made. Knowing that I have tried my hardest this last year to live life to the fullest, to let go of things that are no longer serving me, and to pursue my dreams, I feel confident that while there are things that I am working towards that I did not actually accomplish this year, I know that I am exactly where I need to be right now. I am looking forward to the next year, and everything that it holds.

Speaking of next year, I have been thinking a lot about Christmas and new year's eve. As we head into the week of December 25th, I have been watching all of the homes on our street be transformed into flashing, glow-in-the-dark works of modern art. Ropes of red, green, white, purple, and blue lights adorn windows, rooftops, pillars, light-posts and even the giant oaks that line the street. Front lawns have exploded with mushroom like blowup Santas, reindeer and elves that glow. Windows are haloed with a the warm light emanating from beautifully decorated Christmas trees. Some houses have Christmas carols playing over loud speakers. Whereas before the beginning of December, I often drove past our driveway, our house blending in seamlessly with all the other brick homes on the street, I can now clearly identify where I turn in by the black gap that interrupts the long, winding chain of cheerfully lit up homes. Concerned that we might offend our new neighbours in this upscale neighbourhood by our blatant lack of festive spirit, I mentioned to my mother the other day that perhaps we should at least put some lights in the windows, just to blend in, and maybe make ourselves ever so slightly less conspicuous. Less Ebenezer Scrooge-like. I came home a few days ago to find my mother hanging a beautiful Mexican-inspired wreath made of red chillies triumphantly, albeit practically invisibly, on the red front door. Ah well. Scrooge it is! (or maybe, this being California, the neighbours will just assume that we are being over zealously environmentally friendly?) 

Being a Baha'i, I have always struggled with Christmas. As a child, I asked my mother if we could buy a Christmas tree just so that there would not be yet another thing that distinguished me from my friends. I think she obliged for a few years, but instead of purchasing ornaments, she insisted that we make virtues cards to hang on it instead. As an adult I have made some peace with the fact that my own family does not celebrate Christmas. I am usually invited to the homes of friends who do celebrate Christmas, and I am more than happy to join in their festivities. But there is still this odd sense in the days that lead up to Christmas day that I am not quite sure what to do with myself. I am not shopping for presents. I am not expecting to receive any presents. I am a bystander watching a whirlwind of activities happening around me, feeling slightly awkward as to where to place myself in relationship to it all. I feel slightly guilty having so much time on my hands in the name of Christmas when I am not actually celebrating Christmas. Most of my extended family is Christian, and since my family moved back to the US, we have often spent the holidays with family, which provided an easy and natural way to spend the holiday. When we are with family we get them presents, and write them cards. But when we are not, which is the case this year, there is a sense that everyone is sort of holding their breath. I notice on such years that there is a palpable sense of relief in our house on December 26th, when we no longer have to try to figure out what to do with all the extra time that we have been given anymore, and can just enjoy the time off work!

I was listening to the radio show of my friend, Ahava Shira, called Love in the Afternoon, today. In it she was discussing this very issue, but from the perspective of a woman who was raised in the Jewish tradition and whose partner is Christian. Listening to her share her experience with trying to find a balance between holding onto her beliefs and honouring her partner's beliefs during Christmas time made me smile, because I could relate to everything that she was describing. The balance between wanting unity in a relationship, and recognizing the vital importance of following the spiritual path that is most true to your heart is a delicate one indeed, and as I listened to her it made me think of a line from a Baha'i prayer that I have always found interesting: "He hath let loose the two seas, that they meet each other: Between them is a barrier which they overpass not. Which then of the bounties of your Lord will ye deny? From each He bringeth up greater and lesser pearls." The quote comes from a verse in the Koran. My understanding of this quote is that it is referring to this very idea -- that in relationships we must find union, but within this union there must be a recognition of the fact that there are two separate people with two distinct spiritual lives. They may share these lives, and stimulate each others spiritual growth, but there is a line there that has to be respected. Having the courage and the openness of heart to explore and celebrate the differences within a relationship makes for a rich experience, but it also challenges both people to overcome their own prejudices and fears, as Ahava explained in her show today.

There is no official way that Baha'is celebrate Christmas. I am finding that this year I am finding grace and peace by focusing on gratitude; on expressing my thanks for all of the amazing relationships that I have in my life. My relationship with God. My relationship with the Manifestations of God, like Christ. My relationships with family and friends. I may not be giving material gifts this season, but I am trying to take the opportunity to express my love to everyone in my life. I am also giving thanks for my current circumstances. For the roof over my head. For healthy, fresh food to cook. For the luxury of being able to take this time to explore and develop ideas for a new business. For the much needed, refreshing rain showers that have been sweeping over the valley for the last few days. For the lunar eclipse that I am hoping the storm clouds will part long enough for me to see in 45 minutes when I go outside and look up. For the hot tea between my palms, and the comfortable bed to rest my body in at night.

If you are walking past our dark house, and wondering what is happening behind the humbly wreathed front door, know that we may not be flashing, or even glowing, but we are giving thanks alongside our neighbours in our own quiet way.

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