Tuesday, December 25, 2018


This was printed Saturday, December 22, in Peru Indiana Today. Apologies for such a quick turnaround on the blog, but...well, it's Christmas Day. I hope you're having a great one.

Every now and then…well, most days, I look out the west window of my office at the trees and the fields and the big round bales of hay that manage to convince me they are deer if I only see them out of the corner of my eye. And I get philosophical. I’m not sure if that comes with age or experience or weariness, but there it is. I find myself with tears on my face and not knowing where they came from or why they’re there. I laugh out loud here in the silence of this beloved room, yet am unable to pinpoint what’s so funny.
          This morning, in this quiet place, I’m thinking about Christmas. I’m not “feeling it” very much so far this year. As long as I’m with family or friends, I can find it in the laughter and music that is shared there, but the feeling leaves me too soon. There is still the blessing to be found in believing, the joy in giving, and the rush of pleasure that comes with lights and wide-eyed children.
          And yet.
          There is so much depression at this time of year, so much loneliness, so much awareness of what we don’t have. Relationships may have changed or disappeared through the year. Loss might have become such a part of you that it seems to have its own heartbeat. You may try to go back to sleep when you wake in the morning because facing the day is just…well, it’s beyond you. You just can’t.
          Yes, you know how lucky you are and how wonderful life is and that soon you will feel better. You get the thing with counting your blessings and faking it until you make it and smiling even though it makes your cheeks wobble and your eyes water. You get all of that.
          But now it is Christmas and even though you love the lights and the kids and the excitement and the music, you’re kind of overwhelmed, too. You don’t feel like you think you should. You might be angry for no identifiable reason. You might feel compelled to make someone else feel bad because…I don’t know why. Maybe just because. Your own pain from loss and change you didn’t want may threaten to take over your life and take you down with it.
          This is when you need to find your west window, even if you don’t know you have one. But you don’t have to do it alone. If you need help, it is up to you to make the call. It is when you must remember…you MUST remember…that it’s not just you. That lots of people are in the same place as you, even ones you think have perfect lives. The Size Twos. The ones with perennially good hair and always full wallets and kids who behave in the grocery store and spouses who know what they’re thinking.
But there’s fear, isn’t there?—that’s hard to get around. If you’ve been hurt, it could happen again. You could lose all the emotional gains you’ve dragged up from inside yourself in just an instant and the next time it will be even worse because you’ve talked to somebody about it and now they know. They know, but they care. If it happens again, and real life tells us it very well might, they’ll still care.
It’s dark now, a morning later, sitting here beside the west window. The
office Christmas tree is covered in white lights but only a few ornaments because I never finished decorating it. The desktop is the same mess it always is, with memories showing up sometimes in the piles, stirring the laughter or the tears or both.
There…as the sun comes up in the opposite window, a deer makes his light-footed way through the field. It’s not quite light enough to see him, but I’m almost sure…but it’s not. It’s a round bale, as beautiful in its way as the deer would have been.
I shouldn’t give advice—I am as unqualified to do so as anyone could possibly be—but advice comes, I am convinced, not from thinking you know it all but from caring about the person you’re talking to. But even as I spill out here what I think you should do, I know that the best thing anyone can do for someone else, much better than giving advice, is to listen.

And the best thing you can do for yourself is the giving I mentioned earlier. Whether it’s gifts or time or just a listening ear or a terrible joke. Take an angel from a giving tree, hang mittens on another, ring a bell, visit someone who doesn’t normally get visitors. Instead of scrolling with your phone, call someone and talk on it. They’ll be glad to hear your voice. If you’re not a phone talker (there are those of us around), text. Write a letter or send a card. The truth is, if you’re thinking about someone else, you give yourself a rest.
So, if you’re having a rough holiday season, whatever the cause, find your own west window and things that give comfort—even if they’re round bales instead of deer. There is hope and love and sharing to be found and I hope you find all of it. I hope I do, too.
Merry Christmas.

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