Joy, Sorrow, and Harmony

The holiday season is like a firecracker. Stirring slightly, quiet and calm, a part of the buzz of every day normalcy. Then in an instant, loud and booming. Everywhere we turn there is something that reminds us to be thankful, to give, to love, to be good, to praise, to sing, to be joyful. But hanging on those reminders there’s a shy, ignored hum, that many of us prefer to leave unnoticed.

First, those silly little reminders that we have something exciting to look forward to at the end of December. If you know me at all, you know I LOVE celebrating, Celebrating what you ask? My answer is, YES. Give me a reason, and I’ll throw a party for it. I think it’s important as adults to keep being excited the way we were when we were young. It brings so much fun and joy into our otherwise monotonous real adult lives. (Yes, even on adventures, things can become monotonous) I think it’s easy to find the beauty if we just take a little time and prep our brains for it. Here’s what I do when November hits:

  • Decorate! Beyond the candles, the leaves, and the ikebana, I have a banner I made out of old place mats, cardboard and twine that I hang in the living room. It looks like this:

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  • Give Thanks – Every day I try to publicly announce something I’m grateful for. I try to do my best to think of something every single day. It forces me to reflect and recognize the joy in my life. No matter how I’m feeling.
  • Have Thanksgiving – Whether it’s a small party, a big party, or just Kyle and me, I think it’s absolutely essential in sharing all the good things in my life that I have to be thankful for. It also gives me a chance to speak freely and maybe a little longer about those things TO the people they’re about.

The Day after Thanksgiving…

  • Decorate my house – My living room is my sanctuary. And as an introverted person, it is the place I go to be alone and relax without other people around. It’s the place I want to be most of my free days/nights. So, just after thanksgiving, I put up the tree, Kyle places the star on top, and I spray the tree with ‘Pine tree’ scent. (Yes, I indeed have that) Here is my living room:

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  • Decorate my desk – Every season I have a different mug for my coffee. I wish I was lying. Oh wait, no I don’t. Also! I have ridiculous decorations on my desk. My friend Evan left me a Lego Gandalf and when Xmas rolls around I change his attire. Here is what he and his horse looks like:

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  • Burn Xmas images into my retinas by watching a Christmas movie every single day until Christmas. Here’s our list this year:

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  • Buy ALL the Xmas things –  Every year Kyle and I buy one Christmas ornament to put on the tree together. We left the first 2 at home, but have been collecting them in Japan every year since. This year will be our 7th Christmas together as a married couple, so this year our spending limit is also 7 dollars. It goes up by a dollar each year:) It’s fun and keeps things creative! Sometimes though… I can’t help but just want to buy every single Christmas thing I see. This year’s purchase? A freaking fat lil reindeer. Yeah, it might be the most expensive stuffed animal I own. Regrets? Absolutely none.

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GIVE!  LOVE! BE GOOD! PRAISE JESUS! SING! LAUGH! BE JOYFUL! 

As Christmas sings these words into my ears and around my head, it’s easy to ignore that constant, faint, and very real hum that I so briefly mentioned earlier. Isn’t that what we want? To focus on the awe, the beauty, and the joy? But, what hangs on each bit of that joyful buzz, in my opinion should not be forgotten. The very real, extremely sudden, bursts of sorrow. Sorrow for those with whom we no longer spend our holidays with. Grief for the hearts that once shared with us laughter and love around a table full of meaningful words and glances.

What I mean to say, is that with great joy often comes great sorrow. When we share a part of our hearts with that which we love, we give a piece of ourselves away. We become hopeful, expectant, and we desire to have that same love returned. It is because of this, that the people or things that was love so much, are the very things we fear to lose. And once lost, that piece of our hearts is lost with it.

Each and every year I watch this Christmas movie, “The Family Man”. Now, I realize there is nothing special about this particular movie really. The plot has been done and redone again many times over. But, for some reason, I cannot help but want to be alone, watching this movie every Christmas. Why? Because while this plot is simple, doesn’t it seem to be a common thread among more people than we realize? Sadness. Regret. A glimpse of a life no longer plausible. There are many who are weighted down by sorrow, and especially so, every Thanksgiving and Christmas. Songs meant to bring a taste of joy leaving a bitter aftertaste to those who cannot find it. For those who made the wrong choice, but continue to be stubborn out of principle. Those who don’t have the balls to swallow their pride and say, “I’ve been wrong all these years, I want a new chance.” and mean it. It reminds me of the people who spend their holidays thinking of all the things they could have said to the person who is no longer with them, and of the things they say in the quiet corners of their darkened rooms every night before sleeping. More than anything, it reminds me that I do not want to become one of those people. No matter who or what it is I lose.

I have not lost a brother or sister, a father or mother, or even a child. But I have lost people that are very dear to my heart, and who’ve changed the way I live my life. Sorrow is sorrow, no matter the form, and so is the pain that follows. Sometimes, those who are still living can bring much more sorrow to our hearts than those who have already passed. For me, more than anything, I grieve for the sweet moments I had with my dad when he was present. I grieve for the feeling of anticipation that he would be coming to see me that weekend. I grieve for the faith I had in him, and the belief that he would change and that I’d be able to see it some day. I grieve for the trust that no longer exists.

I grieve for all these things. Before the drugs and the money became a problem. Or more, destroyed the person he was and wanted to be. Before it tore apart his ability to care for those he loved. Addiction has many tentacles that reach into the furthest away places if we invite it in. It also has many faces; work, substances, gambling, money, sex, drama.

This is what I think about when I watch “The Family Man”. A story of a person who was consumed by the immediate things in his life. Who regretted nothing until he stopped to see a glimpse of what could be, if he only changed his mind. A man forced to look at the unfulfilled bed he made, only to find that beauty still existed if he only make the choice to follow it. But, it’s also a story of what joy can be brought by those we once loved. Joy that comes from that which has a piece of our heart with it.

What I love most about this season, is that I get to be reminded of the soft hum of memories of those that I grieve for. Of course, I lose my breath for a moment to the sorrow, only to remember that with that sorrow comes a greater joy. A joy that only another person could bring. So deep, that more than 10…15 years later, when I think of those moments, I feel as though I am right back in them. I get to love those people as though they were in the moment. I get to remember them and honor them as though they’d never left. Because for me, I know that I turned and walked away from the truth of my life many many times, only to be welcomed in again time and time over. I do not choose to forget and forgive; forgetting is nearly impossible to do, and how do we learn from forgetting? But, I choose to forgive, and move forward.  To love deeper, stronger, and more honestly than I ever have before.

By the grace of God, I am what I am, and his grace to me is not without effect. I will do my best to love those I meet every day. Even the ones I want to hate the most. Because let’s be real, sometimes we just really want to hate somebody, and I think it’s fine to admit that. But we have a choice. We have a choice to learn from those who have run away with a piece of us, never to return. A choice to see how loving those we want to hate changes our hearts. A choice to learn and move forward. A choice to let the sorrow consume us, or the joy.

And with these holiday ramblings, I want to share a video that kind of inspired this post. It’s of our Thanksgiving party last Sunday. All these people,  some complete strangers, chose to love each other even just for a day. Regardless of race, profession, or circumstance, all of them decided to focus on the thanksgiving and joy in the moment. What if tomorrow we woke up, and all that existed were the things were thankful for yesterday? On this day, we all chose to remember those we love and have loved, and those we get to love today. We didn’t have to search for the joy within the sorrow. I feel like on this day, we found the harmony.

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