It’s not like I don’t possess a calendar.
It’s not like I don’t turn on the radio and hear holiday music on a 24-hour rotation, even before December 1. It’s not like I don’t see the lights and crèche scenes and inflatable snowmen going up in my neighborhood.
It’s just that I forgot what season it really is. That it’s Christmas.
I’ve been ignoring my own advice to “do the next thing” lately in favor of fretting about things like health insurance and finding a job I like, aging family members and a house in which the clutter seems like something over which I will never gain control, and forgetting that . . .
I’ve fretted about approaching deadlines and not managing my time well despite intentions to the contrary. About my eating habits and books that haven’t been read or reviewed. About messages that aren’t returned and checks that haven’t been mailed. About whether I’ll ever be smart enough to pursue a dream. About what kinds of gifts to buy and finding them on time, driving an old car (that still runs well and requires very little maintenance). And in between, I’ve grieved . . . for the blogger I’ve never met, whose husband’s deterioration from ALS has recently increased so rapidly that he was just placed in hospice care. For the Facebook friend whose books I’ve read and admired and shared, whose unborn grandchild has been diagnosed with an incurable genetic condition described in medical parlance as “incompatible with life.” For the real-life friend with an undiagnosed health issue and no health insurance. For the woman less than a decade my senior who is barely making ends meet on Social Security and sometimes goes for days with no food until her next check arrives, whom I only know from a newspaper advice column.
I forgot that it’s almost Christmas.
And so a couple of nights ago, after sending up yet another brief and hasty request to heaven for direction while doing whatever else I was doing, perhaps it was no surprise that the immediate answer seemed to be: “Go for a walk.”
Which I did, for the first time in almost two months.
It was a good night for a walk. Cool but not cold. A full moon. Huge white clouds.
And lights. Inflatable snowmen. Wreaths. Trees in windows.
I needed to see the lights. To remember what season it was.
Yes, I have a calendar. But I’d forgotten that it’s Christmas. I’d forgotten who put that full moon in the sky and who breathed life into those clouds. I don’t know if all the owners of those lit up houses were thinking along similar lines when they decorated, or simply responding to tradition. It didn’t matter. I walked by their houses, slowly, and looked at those lights. Enjoyed them. And simply let myself remember why they were there. I looked up at that moon and felt small, as I should. But not in a bad way. I waved at the cheerfully waving inflatable Abominable Snowman when I was sure no one was watching. I walked slowly by the lit and unlit crèche scenes, humble plastic figures put in yards as a reminder, and humbly accepted the reminder.
That this is a season. Preceded by another, to be followed by another. And my job is to live in only one at a time.
Over and over again last week I wondered, “What do I do next?”
The answer was simply to remember the season.
* * *
“There are many things from which I might have derived good, by which I have not profited, I dare say,” returned the nephew. “Christmas among the rest. But I am sure I have always thought of Christmas time, when it has come round—apart from the veneration due to its sacred name and origin, if anything belonging to it can be apart from that—as a good time; a kind, forgiving, charitable, pleasant time; the only time I know of, in the long calendar of the year, when men and women seem by one consent to open their shut-up hearts freely, and to think of people below them as if they really were fellow-passengers to the grave, and not another race of creatures bound on other journeys. And therefore, uncle, though it has never put a scrap of gold or silver in my pocket, I believe that it has done me good, and will do me good; and I say, God bless it!” – from A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens