As Christmas approaches, I thought I might go off message (or maybe not). I have told you about the prison inmates who dislike the Christmas season. They remember being on the outside and at Christmas time feeling up, good, and together. Being behind four walls, and in locked cells, it is near impossible to even appear cheerful, much less actually be that way. They are not unlike many of us who around this time, when asked, respond to the question, “How are you holding up this year?,” with words to the effect, “ I am weak, exhausted, overextended, I feel like I have to do it all, and I am running out of time.” This sounds to me much like the inmate who just can’t be cheerful. There is something wrong with this picture.
Sufi’s say that during this period of feeling overwhelmed and unappreciated, life is offering us an opportunity. An opportunity to listen to that part of us that says, perhaps you have been following other peoples agendas and ignoring your own inner needs. Often when we do this we feel divided and weakened. When we are overwhelmed during Christmas we should think about how much of it is — doing what is expected of you, rather than what you want to be doing. The conflict is what causes the stress, not the actual activity.
Tom, I understand what Sufi’s say, but I still don’t see how acknowledging the conflict solves the problem. Yes, we are overwhelmed because of other’s agendas. Aunt Agnes expects a Pecan pie at Christmas dinner. It is her agenda, everyone else is happy with Pumpkin pies. Yet, I also have a need to please Aunt Agnes, so I run around like crazy to get the ingredients to make her a pie. Now I am overwhelmed. ( Bad example I know. I love Pecan Pie.). I don’t have an answer. I have a suspicion it lies somewhere in the beauty, wonder, and mystery of the Christmas Story. It has to do with finding the right balance, a search that goes on for our entire lives. Some years around Christmas we are “overwhelmed” and some years we are “together.” Maybe the Sufi wisdom is simply acknowledge the conflict, seek the balance, but always, always enjoy the season.
I found a great excerpt from a Wisdom text about inner balance that may or may not apply, but it got me thinking anyway:
Advance together to childhood
the small, the simple, the poor
can live with
the great, the complex, the rich,
don’t isolate great from small
rich from poor within you.
By one you know the other
and none can live in health divided.
Your Friend, Webb