Lately my heart has felt near to splitting its seams. It’s partly because this is my first Christmas far from my family. It’s also the Newtown tragedy, and the polar ice caps melting, and the slowly subsiding pain in my body. Lately the world’s immeasurable sadness has been crowding the margins of my neat little life.
My friends and I often catch ourselves in the midst of complaining about our jobs or busy schedules. “First world problems,” we wryly observe. But I feel the sadness of my privileged time and place, too. I can’t be the only one struggling to hear the music of the season above the drone of my mental to-do list. I’m alive and I’m well, and so are my loved ones. If I could just stop rushing around, maybe I’d sense what a gift that is.
This morning as I packed up gifts and food and clothing for our Christmas with David’s family in Rowley, I cued up a Tara Brach podcast called Committing to Joy. She quoted André Gide: “Know that joy is rarer, more difficult, and more beautiful than sadness. Once you make this all-important discovery, you must embrace joy as a moral obligation.”
So that was my goal for the day. Never mind global warming. Never mind all the monumental and miniscule heartbreaks that loom so large in my imagination. Today I determined to take Kurt Vonnegut’s advice: “And I urge you to please notice when you are happy, and exclaim or murmur or think at some point, ‘If this isn’t nice, I don’t know what is.’”
Playing outside with nephew Jack. Taking in the sweet-smelling trees and his imperturbable exuberance and the fact that I was running around without pain.
Watching Jack refuse to let David up until he sang a song.
Delicious food with beloved people.
Eliza’s first Christmas.
Not enough hooks for the stockings.
I thought it again and again. If this isn’t nice, I don’t know what is.