It’s Christmas Day. And I am spending it alone. I mean all alone. Well – alone without another human around that is. I do have the company of “Si” however, my “granddog” that I am dogsitting this week.
When I told most people that I would be without any human companionship on Christmas day, many of them gasped with a combination of something between pity and shock or just a sincere concern for me for having to spend Christmas all by my lonesome.
I wasn’t really sure myself how I felt about it. A part of me thought that I should be upset that I was going to be all alone on what is such a traditional celebratory day usually spent in sharing the holiday cheer with family and friends. But I think the expectation of how one should be spending this day was creating more angst than how I really felt about it. It was like I felt like I should be feeling more sad about it than I really was.
Was there something terribly wrong with me for not feeling more sadness or self-pity? Was I some kind of a sociopath for not cringing at the notion of a quiet Christmas, just me and the dog? Honestly this was much more the source of any consternation I’ve had this season than merely being alone itself.
So here it is – Christmas Day, I’m far from “home”- wherever that is these days (another story for another day). I’m alone. I don’t have one single present to unwrap. No Christmas dinner except the rotisserie chicken I picked up last night and my favorite chocolate Almond Dream ice cream(yum). No one to eat with or drink with or toast with. Nowhere – and I mean – nowhere to go . I can’t even put gas in my car today.
And it’s the best Christmas day ever.
Why? Because in the space of solitude and free from the busyness and distractions of all the things we usually expect to be doing this time of year, something so much more valuable than any gift-wrapped present showed up.
In fact, this year I got the best gifts I have ever received. And I would like to share them with you:
Gift #1 – Experiencing the Love of a Dog
One of the biggest gifts I received this year was the gift – and I do mean gift – of spending time with a dog – just me and him – who is fully in the present moment. He knows nothing about the fact that this is a holiday but still spends every waking moment in a place of love, affection and acceptance and a bountiful zest for life that is consistent with the Christmas spirit . Only he does this everyday and every moment of his life. On this Christmas I got to experience love, affection and companionship from him that is the best example of unconditional love I could ever wish for. It pours forth from him effortlessly and without judgment. Plus he’s so darn CUTE.
His outpouring of love also brings forth love from me. It encourages me to reciprocate not only to him but to everyone. It helps me to feel and express the love that is inside of me.
Gift #2 – Giving Beyond Presents
On previous Christmas days and the weeks leading up to it, I was usually too busy to give of myself to anyone else. Yes, I gave gifts to my family and friends of course, and sometimes I gave money to organizations and people in need. I gave what I thought I had to give which amounted mostly to material things.
During the season itself, I was busy trying to do what I thought I “should’ – give and receive gifts, give and go to parties, spread joy and cheer. These are all good things. But I told myself the story this was all I had to give. I had children and a job and not much time for volunteering or being a vessel to spread love to others in need.
This year, I went to a church service with my daughter who is deeply involved and committed to her church and their mission. I went even though I consider myself “Jewish by birth” and heritage, and “spiritual but not religious” in my beliefs. I can tell you – from my novice standpoint -church ain’t what it used to be. The pastor is young and hip, there are no religious symbols, there’s rock music, most people wear jeans. Its not even in a church!
The pastor’s words spoke to me and I believe much of what he preaches can reach many people regardless of their religious beliefs because he speaks to us as human beings and of the struggles we all face.
Part of the mission of this church is to give ridiculous amounts of time, labor, love and also money to others. The next day they were going to give away huge Christmas dinners to 80 families in a low-income housing neighborhood.
I was going to be here in this strange town all alone. Just me and Si. I didn’t have any of the usual excuses of running around or preparing for parties so what reason could I possibly have for not going? So I went. By myself but completely in community.
There were lots of other people helping too. It wasn’t a huge thing or a difficult thing to do. But in doing it I got to see the joy that can be created by giving to those in need. More importantly I got to interact with those in need and in doing so experience our shared humanity. It’s a lot different than sending in a check or making a donation. I’m not saying those things are bad or not desperately needed What I am saying is that for me, maybe for the first time in my life, I understand there is nothing as powerful as touching another human being with your presence and your love.
Gift #3 – Discovering Gratitude for Real
It is amazing what spending time with one’s self and just being with one’s Self can enable us to discover. This year I discovered gratitude. I know that in spiritual circles this word has become seemingly overused, maybe a little trite. I’ve read about it, talked about it, been preached to about it before. But the truth is I spend a lot of time focused on what’s wrong instead of what’s right. I feel grateful but often in a conditional way.
I’d also been crawling around in a lot of darkness lately, the light obscured by lots of loss and confusion. But my experience of the last few days – spending quality time with both my daughters, loving and being loved by my granddog, spending time with people in need, and having ample time to meditate, pray, and dig deep even in unfamiliar circles has shown me all I have to be grateful for in a different, glowing light.
I’m grateful for heat and being warm on this cold day. I’m grateful to have food. I’m grateful to have amazing children and parents still alive and healthy. I’m grateful for my husband being in my life. I’m grateful that when my daughter got sick the other day she got better. I could go on and on – and on. And I plan to. Maybe the word is overused for a reason. Because gratitude is the switch that turns the light on and therefore, it can never really be used too much.
I’m grateful for this time alone for teaching me about gratitude.
Gift #4 – Coming Closer to God
This is by far the most important gift because it is the gift that makes all the other gifts possible. I’m a spiritual seeker by nature. Perhaps I always will be. Over the years, I have followed many of the so called “new age” spiritual leaders – Eckhart Tolle, Marianne Williamson, Deepak Chopra. I do yoga and try to study the philosophy that accompanies the practice of physical poses. I’m drawn toward Eastern spiritual philosophy. But, in the last few weeks I’ve been led both back to my Jewish roots and a pull toward Judasim, but also paradoxically toward the tenets of what I like to call “Christ consciousness” as well.
I’ve determined as many others have(and many others will also dispute) that all legitimate spiritual leaders – from Ghandi to King to Buddha to Mandela to Jesus himself promulgate essentially the same principles of compassion, non-judgment, service all grounded in God’s love plus the premise that we’ve been separated from our true selves and souls, and that there are many paths to God but they all lead to the same place. They lead us to our own divinity, to knowing God better, to eventually making better, more conscious choices for our life because of knowing God and having greater purpose.
I’ve believed this intellectually. I believe it fervently. But feeling it and finding it inside of myself, and especially practicing it consistently has been such a struggle. Despite all my seeking, transformation has somehow eluded me. Sometimes the extent of the struggle has tested my faith. But this season, thanks to all these other gifts and the alone time I had to go inside, I’m thinking that maybe, just maybe, I’ve actually touched God inside of me and that me and Him or Her or the Higher Power that it is can start to have a relationship. And that feels good and right and gives me hope.
So it is in that vain I say Merry Christmas today and really everyday. I hope that all of your days are as full of love and serenity that mine has been. And that you get the best present you ever had too!