Being who you are in December

Christmas lights.

My Jewish partner and I. Ravaged by life. Confronting a wall of lights at Canadian Tire. Going after something.

What are we after? Religious celebration? Family? Status? Beauty?

Oh the layers. In such a little thing.

And then later, tears. My tears. Trying to make an experience one thing that is actually another.

And when you follow your experience you don’t get immediate answers.

You only get who you are. You only get what is happening for you.

Pretty lights don’t bring the feeling you want. They tantalize you with it but they don’t change your experience inside.

They might for a few moments but all those things we chase after this time of year. All these things.

The sensitive readers of this blog would do well to question the things.

To give themselves a bit of freedom from the outward insistence that we create a day or a season “to remember”.

This idea of creating memories is one thing. And another thing, equally important, is the recognition that every day we are each living our memories. Our experience is our memory. Formed by our past.

We’re so eager to create the lives we want to think we have that we miss what’s actually happening perhaps.

Not perhaps.

I’m not sure sometimes if its worth it this feeling of our experience. It’s truly terrible a lot of the time. That isn’t true for everyone but it’s true for a lot of us.

Going through very difficult periods is exactly that — very difficult. And we never plan for that. We don’t plan for “a really difficult fall” or a “really difficult 2016” or a “really difficult decade.”

So as I think about this and wonder at the usefulness of reckoning with how things are rather than chasing after cookies and cider and presents and all the rest in a “why not enjoy it while it lasts” kind of attitude I make the connection that this morning helps me understand something about why we should do the emotional labour.

If I read the NY Times and then a few blogs I care about and a podcast on the way to work… I have ideas in my head. I “know” what “happened” and what to “think” about it. But I am also away from myself. So unless I am taking things in very slowly — a snail’s pace really — I am far away from my own thoughts and experience and taking in another.’s

Now this is what is involved conversation. This is the listening part. But it’s only listening if we then receive it and digest it and respond.

And there is so much that we encounter that is more than we could ever take in — it’s overload. And the receiving, digesting, and responding often doesn’t happen. We’re speaking off the top of our heads rather than from our hearts and guts.

If we don’t know the difference between knowing something from the inside and repeating what we have read (been told) then we’re lost.

Lost in other people’s words, thoughts, ideas, beliefs, values, feelings.

This is where it gets dangerous.

Who are these other people? Where did their ideas come from? What are they after? The answer is as numerous as the number of people who have lived.

A life organized around other people’s values is dangerous.

Not just less than ideal or perhaps not as enjoyable or rich. It is life threatening to each other and the planet.

The question is — who are we listening to?

It starts with small things. A niggling feeling in front of the Christmas lights display at Canadian Tire. That leads to a reminder of who we are. If we pay attention to the niggling feeling. Over and over again.

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