So. We find ourselves in the thick of the Holiday season, fast approaching, ever returning. The heavy side of the year’s cycle spinning round with a gyroscopic zig-zag of a Hula hoop with sand in one side. The Holidays.
They used to mean something different to all of us. The level of distraction has increased the speed of life. I find myself caught in a turning pool below the great waterfall of the age of information. I’m given enough air to keep my body from death, but I can feel myself dying. A leaf turning green to gold, yet not as graceful. More like necrotic flesh making it’s slow and steady march up my leg, with the patience of Job, Ache and heartbreak. But this is not what the Holidays are for. They are for family, for finding that shred of wonder in yourself as you desperately conjure up a brave face for the young who’s own sense of wonder is vibrant and hasn’t been beaten down by the indignities of growing up.
Such indignities as the blind hunger for sex, parking tickets on your windshield like leeches on a farm animal, hell, even a job interview takes a bit of the wonder out of life.
As I’ve aged I’ve tried to recall the sense of wonder and possibility that I had as a child. I’ve tried not to reduce it to base facts. I’ve tried not to think of myself simply as a poor kid with no money excited for toys I would never have been able to buy myself (stupid child labor laws!), I’ve tried to look further. I’ve tried to conjure up what made that sense of wonder so prescient in my mind as a child during the holidays. And what I’ve come up with is akin the same feelings I would get while exploring in the woods, or walking around carnivals, it’s the sense of POSSIBILITY. The open ended back half of a novel with its’ pages still blank. Open land on all sides, the joy and the terror of looking upon the expanse in every direction that are the potential paths of your life.
I used to love the poem, “The Road Not Taken”, by Robert Frost. In the last stanza he writes,
I shall be telling this with a sigh,
Somewhere ages and ages hence,
Two roads diverged in a yellow wood, and I,
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.
When I first read this in my late teens I thought it was Frost being counter cultural, going against the grain, and as a card carrying loner in my own mind I thought this to be worthy of a credo.
Then in college a friend in the English program told me the poem wasn’t about taking the road less traveled, it was just about choosing a road. I was livid, here was the ornate mission statement of my own personal brand of loner being picked apart. Now what am I going to recite to myself while I smoked cigarettes on the roof of my crappy apartment in Azusa?
It was only later, much later, that I began to appreciate the true sentiment of the poem, which is to simply make a choice, to leave the crossroads behind you. This is the natural part of humanity, the gradual thinning down of choices until they form a narrative, of what you were while you were on this earth.
But as a child, and especially during the holidays, there is nothing but possibility. The world is open, the sky is the limit. Try to shake off those wandering blues. Have your cake and eat it too. Let the wonder of the season numb those nagging fears of your inadequacy. That’s what I’m trying out this year.