Monday, December 26, 2016

A Transcendent Christmas Experience

I hope that everyone has been enjoying a peaceful holiday season. All of my celebratory gatherings took place before the actual holiday, so I spent the weekend enjoying quiet time - mostly cooking, and eating, and watching silly Christmas movies into oblivion.

I wonder... exactly how many times can a person watch White Christmas before they'd have to admit that they had a problem? 😉

I can't help myself. I just melt when Bing sings the "Blessings" song to Rosemary.
And you know, somewhere between the mashed potatoes, the Brussels sprouts and Danny Kaye's antics, I had a realization. This is the first Christmas in 7 years that I haven't been either grieving a recent loss (family, friend or feline) or anticipating one in the very near future.

Just writing those words down is like heaving an enormous sigh of relief. I dunno... it almost feels like years of tension melting away or something.

Of course, it's not like everything is nice and rosy. I mean American democracy is hovering on the brink, the climate situation in the Arctic is getting really alarming, and honestly, the renewed talk of nuclear tensions has me reliving fears that I haven't felt since childhood, when I was quite convinced that nuclear Armageddon would arrive long before I ever got the chance to grow up.

But somehow, I seem to have turned a corner, and I'm feeling much more at peace with it all.

In a funny way it started at the solstice dinner with my parents.

We had a quiet celebration this year - and at one point the conversation got quite introspective. We're all very concerned about the political situation, but my dad has made a decision to disengage from the news and stop filling his psyche with a daily dose of doom when there's nothing he can do about it.

Instead, he's immersed himself in a book about the Permian extinction - that's Dad's version of light reading. Anyhow, he's found great comfort in the fact that even though the majority of species died out, some survived, including a few "proto-mammals" which eventually evolved into humans. Apparently they survived by living largely underground... hunkered down as it were, and that seems to be Dad's plan for surviving the next four years.

That got my stepmom to talking about her childhood in Nazi Germany. She was quite young during the war, but the memories of both her own experiences and her family stories seem very fresh. She basically said that even when your country gets taken over by a fascist, and horrors are unfolding all around you, life still goes on.

Even when they had to run to the basement several times a day because of the bombings, and when you had to be extremely careful because expressing the "wrong" political opinion could end up being a death sentence... they still had to get up every morning, wash the dishes, do the laundry, put dinner on the table and basically go on with life.

She talked about how a lot of people found solace through gardening. I think it was partly a survival thing since food shortages were common, but she said there was also something very life-affirming about it. Even when the world is falling apart around you, spring still comes, seeds still sprout, and life continues.

Maybe it was the wine, but somewhere between the proto-mammals and the gardens of Nazi Germany, I had an amazing experience. I was suddenly overcome by the sense that all of these problems are temporary, and that we (meaning we as spiritual beings, not necessarily human beings) have existed long before all of this, and that we will continue to exist long after it's all been forgotten.

Honestly, I'm not really sure how to explain it, it was almost an out of body sort of a feeling - like I was floating through the cosmos or something.

It was incredibly comforting - like a sudden insight that even if the worst happens, I mean even if human beings were to completely destroy themselves and/or the planet, everything will be still be OK.

I know this sounds corny, especially coming from a person who isn't a Christian, but maybe that's what Christmas celebrations (or solstice celebrations in general) are really all about. It's not necessarily a celebration of today, but a promise of light and life to come.

Anyhow, that's my little transcendent Christmas experience... and boy, did I need it! I have to say that I'm feeling much better than I have in a very long time.

I hope you all had a wonderful holiday, and may the returning of the light fill each and every one of you with love, peace, and joy for the year to come.


  1. Glad to hear you're having a nice holiday!

  2. What a beautiful post...I thibk that's spot on the money, that's exactly what a winter solstice celebration should be. A time to reflect, as well as gather strength for time to come, as well as anticipating the light and warmth to come.

    You've finally made me see what I think is so special about a winter Christmas (the first one I've ever had.) Ideally, it brings peace (of heart, mind and body.)

    P.S. Love the sparkly gif!

    1. I'm so happy for you that you've finally had the chance to experience a winter Christmas.

      You know, if I lived in the southern hemisphere, I think I'd almost be tempted to swap out the traditions and celebrate Christmas with a big bonfire and cookout - much like the midsummer celebrations in Scandanavia, or the 4th of July here in the states.

      Then you could do all of the traditional Christmas baking, cooking and feasting on the winter solstice when it's lovely to have the oven on for hours at a time. Not sure how much support one would get for that approach, but it sure sounds better than trying to roast a turkey when its roasting hot outside!

  3. I like the idea that Christmas and solstice celebrations are about the promise of light and life to come. I plan to keep that idea with me in future years' celebrations.
    I have been doing a bit of what your dad is doing - disengaging from the doom and gloom of the news media which seems to think we need all this crap crammed down our throats repeatedly 24/7 (even when there's nothing new to say - hey! that's entertainment!). I really do think it's bad for our psyches - similar to having someone verbally abusing you day in and day out. All that negativity is bound to be bad for us. So I'll be spending more time in my garden.

    1. I'm trying to wean myself from the news as well. Honestly, when I do watch I just find myself screaming at the set as the media gleefully reports on our president elect's shady business deals or the Russian hacking. All I can think is: Where the hell was this reporting BEFORE the election?!? But apparently keeping up the hype about the emails made for better ratings.

      So perhaps I'll start planning my garden early this year as well! Hey, if I get really adventurous I may try starting some things from seed indoors. I just have to figure out how to keep Smoky from destroying them all!

  4. I am pleased to hear that your worries subsided and you had a positive experience. I am doing as your dad and trying to disengage from the onslaught of the media trying to depress me. I am not even reading anything that might impart negativity.

    Escapism probably isn't going to cure any of the worlds problems but for me at the moment, it keeps me from the chronic worry that seems to have taken over my being.

    For all my worries, though...I am an optimist at heart and believe that no matter what would/will happen things will be OK.

    Interesting that your stepmother has first person knowledge of Nazi Germany. I have walked through the concentration camps and museums in western Europe (a lot in Germany) and it is life affirming in some ways. I know that seems contradictory but the voices of those that survived are inspiring.

    1. You know, on some level I think that one of the most powerful things we can do is to live our lives with joy, and refuse to succumb to the fear. Maybe that's corny, but at the moment it's all I've got!

      Anyhow, I totally agree that there is something really powerful in the survival stories from that horrible chapter in history. My stepmother's stories about the war are pretty amazing. I wrote a whole post about it if you're curious:

  5. Cat, it's good to hear you finally had a holiday of peace in your home.

    But so much for light conversations :-) That was quite the epiphany you had afterwards. I'm not there yet, still trying to get to the point where any of this makes sense for me.

    At my home, we too have similar kinds of deep discussions but ours focused on a different theme, that being how we have taken what should be opinions such as pro-life vs pro-choice and turned them into ideologies to be pushed on all.

    Your step-mother's thoughts on her childhood and yours of fearing nuclear destruction reminded me of how easily we can forget there are problems outside of our every day existence. When I was young I attended Catholic school which didn't practice the bombing drills of climbing under a desk so I had no idea millions of children feared a nuclear attack. Instead, I was living in the projects dealing with racial tensions and trying to make it safely from one day to the next.

    1. You know... ultimately I think that this society is just filled with really, REALLY unhappy people. Yet we live in a world where genuine expressions of emotion (especially negative emotions like anger and sadness) are frowned upon.

      The net result is that the vast majority of people are walking around with a whole pile of feelings festering under the surface, and so they come out in all sorts of crazy ways, like trying to buy one's way to happiness, or wanting to impose one's beliefs on others, or blaming all of your problems on some person collecting welfare who you never even met.

      And I honestly don't know if there is a political solution to that sort of a problem. So I'm just gonna do what I can do, which, at the moment is to work on my own shit and to try to treat the people around me with understanding and compassion. And I'm gonna sigh a lot! :-)

  6. I watch White Christmas every year at this time and never tire of it even though I know every word of dialogue by heart. If only I could learn the dances I'd be in great shape! 😉 Your dad and I share a coping mechanism as I am on a news fast also. I got too caught up in the minutiae of the election and I am choosing to not focus on events I have no control over right now.

    I loved your transcendent description of being able to step outside of yourself and see that life is bigger than each of us. You explained it better but I've been graced with a few experiences when I realized my minuscule human experience was truly like a drop of water in the sea. It is a freeing experience. Happy holidays and thank you for sharing your lovely thoughts with strangers like me!

    1. Awwww... thank you for such a sweet comment.

      I swear I can recite the entire dialogue to White Christmas - I've watched it 3 times this year alone! "It's probably just a small internal muscular hemorrhage... I wouldn't want to faint in front of the women, sir." Did you know that Danny Kaye was actually their third choice for that role? They offered it to Fred Astaire and Donald O'Connor before settling on Danny Kaye... and I just can't imagine the movie without him!

      Anyhow, I truly believe that we are spiritual beings having a human experience and not the other way around, and that while we are but drops in the sea, we are, on some level, connected to and inseparable from the "whole." Thanks again for your kind words.

  7. I am shocked that Danny Kaye wasn't their first choice...I can't imagine the movie without him. My hubby bought me the blue ray version of the movie this year as I'd worn out my old copy. It has all kinds of "extras" including a commentary by Rosemary Clooney. It is hysterical as she watches the movie along with you and talks over it. That could be annoying except we know the dialogue by heart "Never kid a kidder, son"... She laughs at the movie as if she's never seen it and makes asides about the other stars. I'd always heard that Rosemary sang Vera-Ellen's part but during her commentary she refers to another singer who provided the vocals for the singing! I'll have to check that out.

    Anyway...I highly recommend the blue ray version for a less than $20 indulgence! The restored colors are worth it alone although it was shocking at first as I was used to the grainy, washout version.

    Have a Happy New Year 🎉

    1. Ooooo! Running commentary by Rosemary Clooney sounds wonderful! I think I know what I want for Christmas next year!

      And I've read that while some of Vera-Ellen's singing parts were done by another singer, some were done by Clooney... but I don't know which ones. Last time I watched I listened carefully and my guess is that on the Sisters number they used another singer, but on Snow and White Christmas it's Rosemary... but that's just a guess.

      I have to say it's really nice to find someone who is as crazy about this film as I am. CatMan HATES musicals, and thinks I'm just utterly nuts!

  8. I found comfort in your perspective, and your post inspired me to start thinking about the garden. While I can honestly say I've not yet read about the Permian extinction, I like your dad's coping strategy to disengage from the news. I always love reading your posts, Cat. Happy New Year!

    1. Happy New Year to you too!

      In case you're curious, the Permian extinction, also known as the "Great Dying" occurred about 250 million years ago... so WAY before dinosaurs even existed. I think about 80-90% of all species died out, and modern research suggests that it may have been triggered by sudden release of methane from the sea floor caused by... wait for it... a global warming event! Comforting, dontcha think?

      Anyhow, I agree that focusing on the garden seems like the way to go!

  9. Ah, the Varieties of Religious Experience! Which is an interesting book, BTW. I think many people have these glimpses into the infinite, but somehow we feel that we can't talk about it. The universe (which I call God) is trying to tell us something, a happy something. And for now, I say "Happy New Year!"

    1. "... glimpses into the infinite..." I love that way of putting it!

      Hope you have a very Happy New Year too!

  10. I'm so glad you had a good holiday, and that you weren't dealing with any recent losses.

    I like the idea your dad has of kind of hunkering down. Honestly, I've gotten really sick of everyone whining about things that can't really be changed. I'm all for just making the best of it, and waiting for things to improve.

    That's interesting about the gardens. I've always read about the victory gardens in the US and the allotments in the UK. It makes sense that Germany would have had something similar. It probably was very good therapy (in addition to being practical) for average people.

    Happy belated New Year!

    1. Yes... let the hunkering begin! Honestly, I think that whatever happens politically, Karma will take over at some point and the ship will eventually right itself. I just hope that too many aren't tossed overboard in the process!

      Happy belated New Year to you too! :-)


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