December 7 - Tangled Lights and a Mended Heart

I remember feeling that my day had started in a strange but somewhat promising way…I had slept through my alarm and as a result was able to get an extra hour of sleep! Because it was the weekend, I decided that was a really good thing, even though it put me a bit behind in regards to my overflowing “to do” list.

This particular day was “Christmas decorating” day…one of my most and least favorite days, depending on how I decided in the moment to look at it. For me, when the Christmas carols are playing and the dogs are nestled in by my feet, it is difficult to surpass “Christmas decorating” day.

However, when the lights are tangled or they just won’t work at all, well, Christmas decorating day just does not make the top of my list. Or at least it didn’t, not until this day.

I had my favorite new Christmas album, Clay Aiken’s, playing in the background and my dear animals were all around me…curious as to why in the world we had just brought a live tree into the house. I was grumbling a bit as my back was screaming that I was putting far too many lights around this scraggly tree we had adopted. It took me hours to get these lights just right…I have always been rather fussy about this aspect of tree decorating. I check the lights frequently to make certain that they work before putting them on the tree, and I check them periodically after that to make certain that the placement is perfect (according to me!). Even the angel holds a light in her hand and has a special perch all of her own.

This day was no exception. There was a bit more stress than usual because I had a project with a deadline rapidly approaching that seemed to be hovering over me as I hung the lights. I had trouble with the big ones and even more trouble with the tiny ones. Three-quarters of the way through I looked up and saw that the original string and the angel had all gone out. Now these are not the kind of lights where if one goes out the others are expected to go…in fact the box says they will all continue to burn brightly!

But they remained dark, and I was getting more and more frustrated. I remembered an email I had received recently that said you could tell a lot about a person by the way that they handled lost luggage and tangled Christmas tree lights. I tried to keep this in mind, but I found my frustration escalating anyway.

When I picked up the angel to try and fix her, she fell apart; and so did I.

Tears of frustration spilled from my eyes. I tossed the angel roughly into the chair. In the midst of my chaos, I was somewhat pleased that I was aware of my thoughts and curious about them as I saw myself “losing it.” I heard myself saying out loud, “No matter what I do, I can’t make it work…I don’t know how to do this. I don’t know what to do next. I hate this. It isn’t worth it. Nothing I do makes any difference anyway. It is all just falling apart. Why do I think this is important anyway…no one else seems to care?”

Wow…I realized that I had been thinking many of these same thoughts about my project as well. Then I realized I had been thinking these same thoughts all of my life.

I was back in my home when I was a child and my father’s drinking would spoil Christmas. I remember trimming the tree then as well. It always started off as such a great night. My mother, father and I would be working on it together, with my dear German shepherd, Jerry, by my side. Carols would be playing in the background, just as they were this night, and things were typically wonderful until my father had made one too many trips to the bar in our house.

It seemed like then there was always something that could easily serve as a catalyst for his blow-up. It might be tangled cords, a broken ornament, or bulbs that would not light. Whatever it was, it sounded like an explosion and it ruined our family party.

I allowed my tears to wash away some of the pain from that time of my life. I asked myself what I wished I could have said to my father and what I would have liked to have heard from him in response. I was “journaling in my head” and it was as if I were in that moment right then; when I “heard” my father say he was going to get treatment for his disease, even though it was only in my imagination, I could feel my helplessness and hopelessness shift.

I gently picked up the angel I had tossed aside with resignation only a few moments before. After a short examination, I saw the problem and fixed it. All of the lights came on, as the music continued to play in the background. Somehow I just knew that Christmas would be a bit brighter that year for sure.

What are some of your holiday memories? Are there any that you need to remember in order to let them go? When do you get frustrated? When you do, are you willing to ask yourself when you felt just like that before in your life? Are you willing to revisit those moments so that you can be fully present in the moment right now?

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