Photo Credit: Pexels by Magda Ehlers
“To make myself understood and to diminish the distance between us, I called out: “I am an evening cloud too.” They stopped still, evidently taking a good look at me. Then they stretched towards me their fine, transparent, rosy wings. That is how evening clouds greet each other. They had recognized me.”Rainer Maria Rilke
I’ve lost the Christmas spirit.
Or maybe I’ve misplaced my rose-colored glasses.
It’s as if my senses have been dulled, and this includes my ability to create, manifest, and thrive. For me, this diminishes the flavors of life, as if a bolognese sauce, it’s a reduction of feeling.
I think this is why I needed a break from writing, wondering, scouring my experiences for meaning because all things suddenly seemed meaningless.
Maybe it’s common for folks to feel sadness this time of year, when we’re longing for deceased loved ones, lulled by the darkness, or hopelessly swept up in the nostalgia of Christmas past. And quite possibly, all those Hallmark movies are making us feel worse. Just a thought.
I believe the emotion is commonly referred to as depression, but I’m very leary of that word. I prefer to call it the blues. Back in the 18th century, they called it the blue devil, as in blue feelings bedeviled the sufferer.
For me, it’s a color that reminds me of the sky, and I believe that is vital.
The thing is, if you know beyond a shadow of a doubt that the sun is above the clouds, then according to the well-known therapist Dr. Phil Shutz, the trick is to focus on the positive, that’s how you penetrate the clouds.
Well, at least that’s the theory, and I agree, it’s corny.
There are days when I get so overshadowed by these clouds that I almost forget the existence of light is just a thought above the pall.
I’m like a garbage can. I take in rubbish, but as if a landfill, I’m overrun by material that refuses to decompose. I hope that makes sense.
I feel the darkness overwhelm me (or maybe I allow it to). I imagine all these limitations. It feels very much like fear.
Okay, I admit, I caught another cold, and I commonly associate that with being punished by some force of nature for failing to take my vitamins, for harboring primal resentments, or worse, TRAVELING.
Larry and I recently returned from a visit with Kelley and Tim in New York City.
It was a fabulous, jam-packed week, and the weather was extraordinary. In four days’ time, we strolled central park, marveled at the holiday storefronts, walked through St. Patrick’s Cathedral, sipped mulled wine at the Chrismas market, admired the Christmas tree in the Rockefeller Center, saw Hadestown on Broadway, watched a Knicks game at Madison Square Garden, hosted the family for a brunch at Kelley and Tim’s new apartment, viewed the entire city from the new World Trade Building where my daughter works, spent the day exploring the 9/11 memorial museum, strolled through Chelsea Market, walked the high rail, and enjoyed an incredible meal at Carbone to celebrate Kelly and Tim’s anniversary (which was months ago, but it was worth the wait).
As we were landing in San Francisco, I could feel my energy waning, and by the time I was reunited with my beloved pillow, it had manifested into a full-blown cold.
The realities of life currently seem as if they are a mixture of snot, congestion, and the constant work to relieve them. Not unlike life when dealing with pain and confusion.
Recently I heard something we’ve all heard before, but it’s worth repeating because just because I’m annoyed by the premise doesn’t make it false.
It’s like the antidote to a snake bite.
It goes something like this, when adversity comes, it’s an opportunity for you to grow. The idea is that we need negativity in order to bloom.
I call bullshit.
I can grow in the manure of joy, as well as in the dung of hopelessness, and by the way, the first would be my preference. But apparently, not all growth stems from happiness.
Sometimes we need to experience gloom, clumps of black-gray clouds, as if cotton balls after a night out, covered in mascara and eye shadow.
So apparently, I’m in the middle of a growth spurt.
I’m spending my days surrounded by tissues, coffee, and vapor rub. It’s not a bad gig, but in the meantime, the Christmas tree is not erected, the decorations remain in the cupboards in the garage, and the gifts unwrapped.
Maybe we can skip Christmas this year?
I ventured outside this morning, still in my pajamas, but at least I was in the backyard. The red cyclamen corralled in my dad’s old pickle barrel made me smile, the only flower that seems to thrive in darkness and cold. I admit I asked them how this was possible. They stood there strong, vibrant, glorious…in bunches, clustered, bound by an invisible alliance. Made me want to call my mom.
I found a corner of the patio that was splayed in sunlight, and I sat down on the stoop, my bare feet absorbing the warmth from the brick. I could feel the sun penetrating the material of my top, seeping into my vapor-rubbed chest, warming my soul, if you will. I don’t know how long I sat there on the step basking in the sun, not a cloud in the sky, just me admiring the light and for once, not censoring my humanity.
It was good.
This is where miracles take place, this is how we penetrate the darkness, as Emily Bronte notes, from the midst of cheerless gloom, I passed to a bright unclouded day. We stay focused on the positives, we bundle with those who love us unconditionally, we silence the voices that call us unworthy and refuse to translate the language of our souls for those who will never understand.
So I actually got dressed yesterday. Met my dear friend for coffee (I warned her I was sick, but she didn’t care). Yes, there are people like that. We spent the better part of an hour catching up, tearing up, laughing at the precariousness of life.
After our coffee, I walked over to the cleaners in the pouring rain with one of my favorite gloves that had a ripped seam. I showed the woman at the counter. She took the glove, examined it, and walked five feet to a sewing machine already set up with black thread. In two minutes, the gloves were beautifully repaired. She smiled and said, “no charge, Merry Christmas.”
I said, “no, I have to pay something. This is like new.”
She shook her head, pushed the glove into my hand, and when our eyes met, I knew what to do.
Accept the gift.
I walked straight to the bakery next store and bought her a bunt cake, ran it back to the cleaners, and she teared up. I think that was what she wanted all along. Someone to acknowledge her generosity, to see her, and appreciate what she does all day. Isn’t that what we all want?
Today I finally feel like writing again for the first time in weeks!
Miracles never cease. We just cease to see them.
I wanted to tie this up with a pretty red bow, but I can’t think of anything rare or unknown about the blues. This is life. We experience continual cycles of joy and gloom. So if I were to warrant a guess, I would say my growth is this; the vastness of the sky is all the reason I need to bloom insanely, to reach for something much deeper and much higher than my limited awareness, and maybe the clouds in the sky didn’t come to block the sunlight, maybe they came to allow me the privilege of breaking through.
I’m Living in the Gap, feeling the blues, missing our engagement.
“Aren’t the clouds beautiful? They look like big balls of cotton… I could just lie here all day, and watch them drift by… If you use your imagination, you can see lots of things in the cloud formations… What do you think you see, Linus?”
“Well, those clouds up there look like the map of the British Honduras on the Caribbean… That cloud up there looks a little like the profile of Thomas Eakins, the famous painter and sculptor… And that group of clouds over there gives me the impression of the stoning of Stephen… I can see the apostle Paul standing there to one side…”
“Uh huh… That’s very good… What do you see in the clouds, Charlie Brown?”
“Well, I was going to say I saw a ducky and a horsie, but I changed my mind!”
― Charles M. Schulz
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