A Christmas Message

Burning Christmas candlesI’ve been thinking recently about necessities fulfilled without human notice—the season change, the hibernation of plants, the sleepy obedience of animals, the shifts in daylight and night and all the planet’s other restless but essential motions. Other animals do what nature requires much more than we do. We set ourselves apart and operate as if noticing were a burden.

Truthfully, we follow necessity too. The tides of sleeping and waking pull us daily. We sense the shifts of clouds overhead as they extinguish the gentle warmth sun lends a cold day. We smell cooking when the wind wheels to a new direction, and some deep hunger stirs, bigger than the promise of food. We hear a bird cry in the cold and can’t help feeling how out of place its solitary song appears, how strange we feel in empathy.

But maybe I’m speaking for myself. A few weeks ago, some beloved readers commented on the despair they hear in me, the “vague loneliness” of “some melancholia or something heavy-pressing on the soul.” I try to laugh too (in my muted, sardonic way), but I suppose they’re right. It’s in the cadence of my posts, in my quiet enthusiasms and fitful peevishness, in stoic descriptions of shadow and weak sun. I guess this time of year stretches me out, attenuates pleasures I know I ought to appreciate more.

Which makes it important to compose what I hoped to today—a Christmas message. You see, I am appreciative. My faith in humanity wavers, days seldom deliver the joy I hope, and the frictions of existence chafe me endlessly. Still, I care about you. It will sound silly—corny even—to say so, but I never greet another person without real warmth. Though I can’t always show it, meeting another mind is such consolation and relief to me. When someone is open to talk, I’m equally open, and I love to hear a student’s latest lament about an unfair question or quiz, a cabby’s story of his biggest fare, a colleague’s memory of a disappointing fourth birthday, or a stranger’s gratitude when I give him the dollar he asks. And, though I sometimes have to withdraw from the world to meet it again, I don’t really like being alone, either in my thoughts or in my affections.

I’m especially appreciative of family—extended and nuclear—that accepts me as I am and doesn’t ask me to pretend to more. They forgive me when I need it and prod me when I need it and reassure me when I need it and offer me solace when I need it. They keep me, in the absolute sense of that word—to hold, protect, preserve, and cherish. And I try to keep them as well… partly by keeping Christmas.

Christmas doesn’t mean anything to some people and everything to others, but it’s just a day. The frontier of dawn races around the planet as it always does. People wake to jobs and responsibilities, to troubles, to tiny disasters and private triumphs and loss and love. The dishes shuffle. Mouths and minds fill with words and empty again. Eyes drift over the familiar and unfamiliar, storing it all.

But, even if you regard Christmas as the sorriest excuse for materialism and an emblem of Christian myopia, indulge me at least this Christmas message. I meet you today with peace and love. I’m grateful for you. And I mean to appreciate the world more.

Merry Christmas.


Filed under Apologies, Blogging, Christmas, Depression, Doubt, Essays, Home Life, Hope, Identity, Laments, life, Love, Meditations, Modern Life, Resolutions, Solitude, Thoughts, Voice, Winter, Writing

6 responses to “A Christmas Message

  1. That was lovely.

    I have no doubt that you appreciate the world, your wonderful poetry and your blog post essays show that, though I know I myself have commented on the sense of despair that comes through in your writing. That’s only because I relate to it– and it’s not really a bad thing. It’s one aspect of you, that’s all.

    Personally, I love the way you write and what you write. I think we are as grateful for you as you say you are for us.

    Peace and love right back at ‘cha.

    Wishing you and your family a Merry Christmas, and a wonderful new year.

    • dmarshall58

      I like thinking my despair is just garden variety melancholy, but maybe I’d be a lot worse off without this outlet for expression. Thanks for your response… I come by optimism the hard way, but I’ll let you convince me that what I do here is worthwhile. Hope you have/have had a great holiday. –D

  2. Peace in the new year. I’ll look for you here to buoy us all up. Best, –Peter

  3. I’m going to have to stop commenting after Val. She always says what I am thinking as I arrive [having read your post in my email].

    I am a solitary being, by nature, more so as I age. Your line: ‘And, though I sometimes have to withdraw from the world to meet it again, I don’t really like being alone, either in my thoughts or in my affections.’ strikes me, as, despite the solitariness, I feel the same way. My need for aloneness and for people balance. When they unbalance, I need aloneness more. Fortunately, my husband ignores that.

    When I first read your column [for such it has always struck me], I stayed because of your articulateness and the fact you are a bloody good writer. As I continued to read, I stayed for an added reason, your humour, which underlies most of your writing. I was surprised to read that people worry about your ‘melancholia’ but perhaps that is because in myself I don’t see aloneness as loneliness.

    As Val says, I appreciate you for what you are and what you write, the sharing of your thoughts [and not hiding moods]. Thank you for the year. I look forward to to the next.

    • dmarshall58

      It’s taken me a while to reply, but your comment has been inspiring to me. Humor is certainly important–it lightens every burden and makes connections impossible without it. If I were relentlessly melancholy I’d be unbearable to everyone else and myself. I need reminding occasionally that good humor keeps me afloat. Thanks. –D

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