The ghost of Christmas recently passed

It was a good Christmas, more or less.  I spent most of the day in my room with a migraine (courtesy of the woman in front of me at church with the perfume containing bergamot oil) and I tripped and rebroke my little toe (which is now swollen and purple again and sticking out at a strange angle), but everyone else seemed to have a pleasant holiday.

The food was good, if excessive.  We will be eating turkey, dressing and sweet potatoes for the next several days.  We still have some roasted parsnips and carrots left, but sadly the cranberry-goat cheese tarts are all gone.

Perfume aside, church was a moving experience.  The pastor at All-Saints’ Episcopal Church in Palo Alto gave one of the most thoughtful — and thought-provoking — Christmas Day sermons I have ever heard. As soon as it is posted on the website (the Christmas Eve homily is up, but not that for Christmas Day) I will link to it.  It is well worth reading.

As predicted, we did not open gifts until 12:30, to the annoyance of Railfan but nobody else.  Everybody got things they wanted, with the most well-received being Railfan’s X-Box and copy of Halo Reach.  He and the Red-Headed Menace have spent most of yesterday and today trying not to accidentally kill each other (electronically, that is).

I got the second volume of Stephen Sondheim’s collected lyrics, and his observations on them (as well as so many other things), Look, I Made A Hat, which was listed on my Amazon wish list as “what I most want for Christmas.” Continuing the Sondheim theme, I also received Everything Was Possible: The Birth of the Musical Follies, by Ted Chapin, who was a production assistant (i.e., gofer) for the show. I also got Writing Tools: 50 Essential Strategies for Every Writer by Roy Peter Clark. I am hoping to learn from the last one ways to write more compellingly.

I am still feeling melancholy, with a strange sense of loss and homesickness.  Christmas is the time I most feel out of place in my adopted home.  I don’t long for a white Christmas, having never had one, but a warm and green Christmas would be nice. The Christmas song which keeps running through my head is not a religious carol, as in most years, but “Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas.” (That would be the version sung by Judy Garland in Meet Me in St. Louis, with its strangely bittersweet lyrics: “Someday soon we all will be together, as the fates allow; until then we’ll have to muddle through somehow.”) Not going East this year, even though I know it was the right decision made for the right reasons, didn’t help.

The unmooring of the holiday from its spiritual roots which has been occurring the past several years hit home.  The religious symbols of the season, which as the result of a crisis of faith had come to feel vaguely fraudulent, were also a comforting link to the past, to my past, which seems distant and out of reach. There was no Advent wreath, no Lessons & Carols service. I have become that most mocked of Episcopalian stereotypes, the Christmas and Easter church attendee. The words and visuals of the season, which help make it a season rather than simply a few weeks at the end of the year much like any other except with better food, were missing.

For very complicated family and other reasons, I have had limited contact with many of my friends recently. Yet another person I care about moved away earlier in December, leaving for the Sacramento area. I do not make friends easily or comfortably, and losing those I have hurts. Friends did invite me to go see A Christmas Carol with them, and I had lunch with another, and that was lovely, but underscored how I isolated I have been feeling lately. One of my current goals is to change that:  two friends and I are meeting for lunch later this week (not my suggestion, although I was more than happy to follow up on it). There is a whole world of people out there: I just need to meet some of them, and see the ones I already know more.  As I grow older, I need connection with other people in ways I never did before.

My writing has suffered.  My hope — to write more than I did in either November or October — proved beyond my reach.  I am seriously thinking of taking a formal hiatus from blogging so that if I am not writing at least I am not feeling guilty about not writing.  I am kept from doing that by the suspicion that doing so would have a negative impact on my mental health, and the belief that the unseen readers of this blog are in some sense my friends too: I need to feel that there is someone out there, as delusional as that may seem sometimes.  Not so delusional, though: there are a number of people who tell me that they follow this blog through either the RSS feeds or Google Reader.  That carries its own frustrations, sometimes: my friends know a lot more about what is going on in my life than I do about theirs, even those I follow on LiveJournal or Facebook.  Communication needs to run two ways in order to be meaningful.  A particular need of mine lately is to feel that I can be of as great support to my friends as they are to me.

Time to move on. Time to think about the new year, and what I need.  This year, which started in hope and excitement is ending in somber reflection.  This is the way the year ends, this is the way the year ends, this is the way the year ends, not with a bang but with a whimper.  Looking over my Eleven for ’11, I achieved so few of them that I am going to simply list them as my resolutions for 2012.

After all, if the world is going to end in twelve months, it would be nice to have something to show for it.

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