It’s Christmas morning, which inspires a New-Year’s-like (except that New Year’s always feels bleak to me and this feels, well, warmer), a kind of a retrospective, in a sense. As usual, I’ve got at least three inspirations nipping at the corners of my awareness that want to get themselves down on paper; I’ll let them sort themselves out…
More and more, lately, I see things from a mile-high perspective. And usually what arises is, “Oh my God humans are so weird–what exactly is going on here?”. Take for example, last night’s foray to Candy Cane Lane–several blocks of a West Hills neighborhood, and many, many miles, I’m sure, of extension cords and Christmas lights. First of all, everyone’s in their cars. Not that this is weird in itself because it’s also cold as hell (an oxymoronic phrase which makes zero sense, but saying “as hell” just makes me feel like a badass, so whatever). It’s just that this has become how we do things here now, Covid-style: separate, but together…which is exactly what it reminds you of and is, exactly the problem with all this–but this is a topic for another post.
But what the fuck are we doing here with this? This light show is reminiscent of every small-town carnival you’ve ever been to–complete with indigent guys standing out in the freaking ice caps in ratty sweatshirts selling battery-powered lit-up balloons (that’s a LOT of batteries I think, as we weirdly roll slowly past); already something’s really off here. You know that if you witnessed this scene, replete with miles of those too-blue-colored green tangly cords and tattered old lawn decorations (made only slightly more majestic via the darkness and the twinkling lights), trotted out year after year and stabbed into patchy, weedy lawns, you’d be sad: the underbelly of the resplendent-at-night beast. Sigh. While there is kind of a tarnished sense of magic in the air–it’s yeah, for sure, tarnished. Is this just happening in MY head? Or is everyone else also looking around with just a little underlying distress? Also: what IS this?? We’re just swarming around in individual metal boxes together observing poorly painted plywood cut-outs and multicolored electric bulbs? I guess we are. Humans. Wow.
And my daughter–she’s four, so, she’s both sometimes-from-a-parent-point-of-view an infuriatingly non-conformist, self-designed and peculiarly, singularly driven creature and also, for same reason, amazing. Because she could give a crap about anything she doesn’t give a crap about. Which is most things that adult humans try to foist onto her. She’s seen these lights before, so instead of standing parade-style through the sunroof and waving to other kids who are also parade-style out their sunroofs, she’s refused to wear a coat and is wrestling with the dog we’re dog-sitting in the backseat in her thin nightgown wearing, at least (at my insistence) her lama hat and yelling, “LOOK AT ME MAMA!” every 23 seconds. In short, she’s refusing to engage in this weird ritual we’re trying to sell her here, and I love her for it. I start hating the light show, the crowds, the people in their cars–half of whom (in the same car) are wearing surgical masks but in zero danger of performing any surgical procedures in their lifetime. (Life has gotten so weird here on Earth, folks).
Speaking of refusing to participate–my daughter also wasn’t really down with Christmas in general. She liked waking up, running into my bedroom at dawn and opening each advent calendar door (featuring Peppa Pig figures and accoutrements), but could have cared less about the growing pile of presents (all for her) under the tree. Since her dad and I live in separate houses, she and I celebrated our Christmas morning last Thursday. She opened skates from her brother and co., which she immediately donned (now there’s a Christmas word in the right context–gay apparel for sure) and refused to remove the rest of the morning (LOOK AT ME MAMA!!!!) and one present (a cheesy travel dollhouse–ugh–when you blind-order everything from Amazon because you can’t stand wearing a mask) and just wanted to play with that all morning. She cared naught (another Christmas word for no apparent reason) for anything else. Eventually I cajoled her into opening the rest of the pile, but honestly, I could have just packed them in the closet and brought them out one by one each day–advent-calendar-style. I really wish I had.
Because…Vivien is Here. She is Now. I have to watch my unaware, soul-killing habit of “are you looking forward to _____?” “Did you like when _____?” Future. Past. In the head, out of the moment. Good Lord. Can I please just not fuck up this parenting thing TOO badly? And can I please stop shaming myself when I do? It’s really messing with me. This browbeating myself with the expectation of the personality that the poor, limited ego is going to somehow be in complete awareness of the infinite at all times when this is literally not its nature and backwards backwards backwards, as Eloise would surely say.
In any case, at the same time that my perfectly-elflike-and-beautiful small daughter cares nothing for what other people want to tell her is Important, she is starting to love when things are special. Movie night on Wednesday nights, a snail-discovering walk, routing sow bugs from beneath wet leaves, barefoot treks on dusty trails. She doesn’t care about how it turns out, what the through-line is, the concept of the activity–that it’s an activity at all; she doesn’t have to unlearn future and past thinking, agendas and plans and expectations. None of that exists for her; she cares only NOW. It’s the most beautiful and truest thing in the whole world and pretty much brings me to tears on a daily basis (sometimes tears of frustration because she refuses to live on anyone’s terms but her own, but this is also what I’m most proud of in my life, and where I get to re-member what’s Real).
Which brings me to the point: enjoying the ride. My friend Carey and I went to a movie once, called something like Take this Dance, (I can never remember the the exact title, and that isn’t it) that changed my life. Enjoy the ride, it gently reminded the audience, through all the incarnations of pain…enjoy the ride. And it’s this that is the thing, isn’t it? We’re always looking for the pain to subside, and maybe it does, to some degree. It mellows. But it still hurts. And it often hurts doubly: the moment and then later, realizing we were so lost in the mind’s eye-dea of what should have been but wasn’t, unfolding as Life. As OUR life. Did we miss it? Or are we missing it when we feel like we missed it? Comfortingly, I don’t think either: it’s all Life unfolding.
My life is full. It’s full of Love: people I love, things I love, activities I love, feelings of Love. Just Love. It’s been hell and back to get here, and I didn’t know where I was going or what was being smelted while it was happening, and realizing this is the case eludes small-me-mind all the time, but I get it, and that’s just the truth of it, which smacks me between the eyes like a giant gift under the tree that appeared during the night–off-the-charts BMI man and the sound of reindeer hooves retreating. Presence presents presents (figure that one out I dare you, it’s worth it). My life doesn’t look, in most ways, the way my Plan wanted it to. Which makes it all even more poignant. It looks the way I describe different family structures to my daughter: unique. And all mine. I look around and realize I couldn’t ask for more. My heart is overflowing. Which is a pretty damned amazing retrospective. Merry, merry Christmas, friends.