The weekly good today is saying goodbye.
Christmas Eve is always a charged time for me. It is, as some say, complicated.
I decided to end my relationship with my family some years ago, and it really took quite awhile for me to get used to the lack of familial structure during holidays. Christmas Eve, in particular, was especially painful. What does one do, when there is there is no obligatory dinner to attend, no stockings to hang, no mandatory gifts to buy, no photos to take?
In past years, I filled this void easily: I volunteered at homeless shelters, packed up boxes for the food bank, baked dozens of tins of Christmas cookies, attended a lengthy Latin mass.
But this year, I'm doing something different. I have embraced some of those same traditions, but with an added twist. I've come to see that Christmas is not gifts, nor trees, nor religious services, nor being with anyone in particular.
It is, instead, an opportunity for reflection and self examination, as well intensely examining the people we choose to have in our lives. I'm using this Christmas Eve to think about connection and saying goodbye in a positive healthy way to experiences and people that don't shine. Sometimes relationships shine for a little while and then when you stop polishing them, they get dull again. It is a process of discernment to determine which connections to polish and which ones are not worth the effort.
What relationships have I chosen for this life, and are they of value? How are these relationships creating peace? Not world peace, but the peace of the self.
I know what you are thinking: a relationship that creates peace? It doesn't sound like the connections we are used to making. But peace is not possible between two people when there is a great deal of space between them. Not physical space, but the space of understanding. You can't force understanding: people are in their own worlds, and either they come into it by some immeasurable kismet, or not at all. Sometimes it feels like we are walking around blind, blessed with deep friendships and familial connection only when we accidentally bump into each other.
Oftentimes, I have felt pressured to keep people in my life that did not earn their place in it. Family, for example. One's family can be even terribly kind and warm and loving--but if they deny your truth, then suddenly that kindness, that warmth, that love, it looks different. At least it does to me.
And even friends: sometimes I have kept people near out of habit, as I have known them for years. Other times, I have allowed people in that perhaps I should not have, based on what I thought I saw, or perhaps hoped I did. But life changes. And it is okay that it does. It would be strange if it didn't.
Each time I question a relationship in my life, I have to question myself, too. There is the question of what did I contribute or not, to create something that did not function. Always there is a lesson.
But these goodbyes have to be made, to make room for renewal. This is the time to make decisions which will carry over into the new year. It's not a sad thing, letting people go. I allow myself to miss them, to linger a bit. As Paulo Coelho says, it takes a huge effort to free yourself from memory. There is remembering, and then there is reflecting in what was, but no longer is, without waiting. Just moving through it.
I've come to love goodbye.
Goodbye means something new. Goodbye is a good thing. It doesn't mean you don't wish someone well. It only means you are choosing for them not to be an influencer in your present.
If you are one of those people who is like me on Christmas, wondering how to define a holiday for yourself, when all the people you're supposed to be with aren't present because they don't fit with who you are: celebrate it. You are allowed to write to write your own life story, and you are allowed to choose all the characters in it. It's a positive place to be standing tonight, a night whose story is about what is new and coming forth.
The peace of the self is as important as world peace. In fact, I don't think world peace is possible if we are not at peace with ourselves.
Wishing you a blessed Christmas.