The week before Christmas and I find myself stuck in the angst, the poltergeist of the holiday. Yes, my Sante Fe white icicle lights hang from my balcony, my home is decorated with cards, and candles, and pictures of my children when they were young and Christmas seemed fresh and new. A short, fat, lovely Noble pine stands in one corner of the living room, twinkling with more white lights and ornaments which upon examination could tell a story about the progression of my life and my family's. In between insomnia and sleeping late, grading papers, reading the news online, negotiating another piece of a my dissolution settlement, I run Christmas errands and wonder why I bother. I shop for gifts for family, order crab for the big dinner on the 25th, check the linen closet (do I have enough clean sheets, blankets, pillows, towels to accommodate all the guests?)and pick up Albertson gift cards and some toys to donate to a local nonprofit organization. I make this donation every year - but I am not convinced this year that it matters. I am not convinced that my own observance of the Christmas myth helps the world in any way - and I've always been a big believer in the ritual re-enactment of myth as a way to affect change, make a small but cosmic difference. But it's not working this year. I'd like to cancel the family gathering, take back the presents, tell the nonprofit to give it up - their work makes no large difference in the world - we are all just putting our thumbs in the dike, pretending that what we do on a small scale ripples across the universe and perhaps bounces back to us.
I run around trying to collect what little bits of light I can - those little bits of light that spilled out when the great silence grew even more still and quiet, then drew in on itself until it could draw in no more and then exhaled - long, slow, cracking the world wide open, spilling air and illumination all about - but in jigsaw puzzle pieces that make no sense. But I know as I scurry to and fro, trying to collect the strands, that I am making a mess of it. I step on this bit of light here, tarnish another bit there. And the pieces I collect don't seem to fit together and I can't find anyone who has any pieces that match mine. My acts of kindness, my engagement with the world seems meaningless, irrelevant - ineffective.
Does it matter? No. Yet despite fatigue and cynicism and despair, I do what I do. Like the character in Joan Didion's book, Play It as It Lays, I know what nothing is but play anyway. Why not?