Monday, November 28, 2016

The Christmas Marker

Thanksgiving is over with. Christmas is coming. Soon there will be snow. Days are getting shorter and the weariness of winter awaits. I struggle with Winter. The holiday season is very much a mixed bag for me. The weeks in between Thanksgiving and Christmas bring an unsettling melancholy. Always has. I can't explain it because I've never understood it myself. Of course, this year Castro is in hell, so that should help a little!

I don't know very many people who have been blessed with good fortune like I have been. I own a successful business, I married an amazing woman, have two wonderful children and enjoy the benefits of a large and loving extended family. For the most part, my health is good and nobody I love is suffering. In other words, I have absolutely no good reason or room for melancholy in my life. And yet...along with the Christmas greenery, it comes.

The odd thing is. . .I love giving gifts, look forward to Christmas morning much like I did when I was younger. Only now the excitement comes with the giving, not the getting. But always just above the din of activity and the sound of laughter hovers a gnawing sadness. Why?

Perhaps it's because Christmas serves as a marker, a milestone. It's the end of something, the curtain closing on another year, the sense that you have fewer Christmas celebrations left than you already have enjoyed. The new year brings with it another birthday, yet another marker on the road of your life. The question festers in my mind. . .Am I using the time wisely? Am I taking advantage of all of this good fortune or am I simply marking time. What has been the result of all of my consumption? To what end do I work? What is the purpose of my spending?

Reading through this, it strikes me that I sound like the writer of Ecclesiastes. It's not that bad! I guess it goes back to something my Dad used to say..."have you been a blessing to someone today?" Maybe during the holidays when we focus so much on all that we have to be thankful for, I start to notice all the people who don't. The panhandlers on Broad Street weigh more heavily on me when it starts to get cold outside. The injustices of life seem somehow more unjust when I'm buying expensive gifts. The more delicious and abundant the feast, the more the hungry creep into my consciousness.

I'm 58. Using my parents as examples, I've got roughly 30 more years left on this Earth, 20 at full physical capacity. Every Christmas I spend much of my resting moments pondering how I will finish the race. What will I accomplish over the last third of my life? I desperately want it to be in a flourish. But more importantly, I want to be a blessing. I want to have earned my place, to have been worthy of the blessings I have been showered with. Maybe the melancholy comes with the realization  that I'm falling short and running out of time.