For Throwback Thursdays this month, I’ll grab a few posts from the series I started a couple of years back called The Advent Writings…
The Advent Writings, Day 5 – Deliratio
Deliratio – delirium/madness
Source: Oxford Latin Dictionary, 1982
When the Lord used a friend to nudge me into blogging, He made it pretty clear that I wasn’t supposed to hold a lot back. Graphic and unlovely details, yeah. But things that might be embarrassing or deeply personal? No. Sometimes I look at what I’ve written and think, “holy cow – do I really want this out there?” I consult with the Master, I think, I re-read, and most of the time it stays. He doesn’t let me hide a lot.
And yes, sometimes my beloved (the Proofreader) reads the words and thinks, “why in the world did he have to write that? Why do people have to know that about us?” And yet, they don’t get edited out. She understands the need for transparency that God has laid before me.
As always, give her a hug today if you see her, or send her one via email or Facebook – she always needs extra hugs. 😀
These are two very personal stories from my life, so I beg those who know of what I speak to not take offense. The stories relate to my own mental workings, and not anything about the events they reference. It’s my issue, not anything external. And as always, there’s a point to this wandering.
Ok, “always” might be a stretch. How about “usually” or “sometimes” or “even a broken clock is right twice a day.” That’s probably more like it.
When madness invades Advent, scene 1:
There is a yearly event, a holiday tradition, and something that many would consider an essential part of their Christmas celebration. It’s a biggie (for the folks involved or with personal interest therein) and is always a labor of time, sweat, effort and love.
And no, it is not egg nog, fruitcake, the Fifth Third Holiday Pops, or the annual playing of “Grandma Got Run Over By A Reindeer.”
This event drove me nuts every year. I’m ashamed of that – it speaks about many layers of me and how I used to view the world. My part in it was very, very small, very easy (for one with my particular gifts), and not a big deal. Yet the mental angst and stress over it would smolder through the rest of the holidays. In short, my issues with this particular event would yank the rug right out from under Advent for me, every year.
For a number of years, it was related (as were most things) to my weight and self-image. My world was pretty pathetic, my response to most things selfish and impatient, and my field of vision limited to what I could see around my ponderous bulk. So this particular event would bring out EvilCal in the most profound way, and it would take the rest of the season to jam EvilCal back into the box.
If he ever actually got stuffed away at all.
It was madness, to get that worked up about something so small, yet I did. Every year. Why didn’t I just stop participating? Not sure – I could try and peel back the layers to explore that, but there’s no point.
Last year, (that year being 2010) well on my way to my present size, you would think that things would finally change. That I’d react with grace and patience, with all that newfound energy running around in me. You’d think that NewCal would triumph, that all would be well and jolly, and that angels would sing joyfully as peace and harmony ruled within my mortal frame.
And you’d be oh so very wrong.
Same piddly little stresses. Same overreactions. Same lack of patience and kindness. Same madness.
Sometimes kids, you hit a wall you just can’t ride around. You can’t go over it, you can’t dig under it, you can’t rewire how you perceive it, and you can’t sort out why it summons your inner beast.
And that’s when it has to go. Not just for the sake of your own happy little world, but more for the sake of those around you who receive the poison of your fractured heart.
Why relate this to Advent? Because I think there’s so many more of these opportunities for an express train to madness in this season than other times. So many activities, so much stuff, so many expectations piled on one little holiday, and so many ways to experience madness on a personal level.
If you’re a happy soul, well-adjusted and stable in all your ways, you have no grid on which to reference this. It’s a foreign concept, one you simply can’t wrap your head around. If that’s you, bless your heart. Go forth, celebrate with your entire being, and don’t get stuck with the fruitcake.
But if any of this rings a chord of familiarity in your heart, read on…
When madness invades Advent, scene 2:
In the last few years of my mom’s life, we spent each Christmas in Oscoda, never knowing if this was going to be “the one,” the last one ever.
Stressful? Oh yeah, you might say that.
Know this about my mom – she was the heart of Christmas for my family. I didn’t realize this until she was gone. She was the one who made our season bright.
I remember one year, the one before the real “last” one, when mom was so sick. She’d always make stockings for each of us. Not just a few little things stuffed in a sock (not, for the record, that there is ANYTHING wrong with that – she just took it way over the top… and sides… and bottom… and everything…), but all kinds of things – toiletries, goodies, useful stuff, fun stuff, all individually wrapped, and put into something unique. Tupperware. Rubbermaid. A hand-woven basket. A garbage bag. My stocking has been in all of these. The rule was, if there was a picture of a stocking on it, it was a stocking.
This year, Mom had been trying very hard to do the stockings, but had no strength to shop for things as she would do every year. She ended up ordering some things (gotta love QVC), picking up others the rare times when she could get out, and had piled them all in bags in the spare bedroom. I remember helping her look through it all, and the sadness and confusion on her face. She had no idea what she had bought, how much she had, or who it was supposed to go to. This tradition, this fun thing that always brought us so much joy was so far beyond what she was physically capable of, and that came crashing down on her. I remember helping her sort through it, separating it into bags, no wrapping, just going through the motions, and I wished that I had understood just what this meant to her, so that I could have helped her more.
That was the year that we all tried so very hard to make it “the” Christmas – the one to remember. We honestly thought it would be our last together, and that desperation took hold big time. I was sick with a cold, we were all exhausted, and so we bustled around, trying to do the things we always do to make it feel more like how we all remembered or thought it should feel. I remember baking sugar cookies and decorating them at midnight Christmas day – because it wasn’t Christmas without sugar cookies, so we HAD to have them so we HAD to get them done. We all tried so hard that we ended up with one of the most miserable holidays we’d ever had.
And on the way home from that sad time, Ezzie the Wonder Dog ate the two cookies my Beloved had especially decorated and saved for herself. I took over driving, as she wept – the cookies were the last straw, and we felt broken. My most vivid memories of Christmas with my mom are the year when we tried so hard to make it Christmas, and we left brokenhearted.
“Gee, Cal – just when I thought you couldn’t put much more ‘blue’ in a ‘Blue Christmas,’ well, you proved me wrong. Well done, Grinch.”
My dear ones, this season of joy can turn to a season of madness in so many ways. We can pile up expectations, we can bury ourselves in activities, we can spend well beyond our means to try and use stuff to create meaning, we can numb up and dive under work or obligations to keep away the lonely…
Or we can recognize it for what it is: madness.
We can choose to set some things aside, to close the door to madness – activities that cause us nothing but angst. Demands that place the weight of the world on our shoulders. Expectations that no sane person would try and meet. Schedules that rob us of time and strength and meaning.
And we can choose to embrace the only thing about the season that matters: the gift of God. We can restore Him to His right place, as the only One who gives meaning and clarity to this world.
As I said, if in your happy world, everything fits and makes your season bright, blessings to you. Enjoy your celebrations with a glad heart, cherish your loved ones, and celebrate Jesus.
But if the season brings too much stress, too much busy, too much excess without enough meaning, consider lightening your load.
The event that causes EvilCal to take over? I’m typing this as it’s going on, staying away from it. For my heart’s sake and for the sake of my beloved and my dear friends, I have to step away.
All the memories of Christmas as my mom declined toward eternity? Or the gleaming ones that proceeded them? Those shadows have to be set aside as well. Nothing will ever be like that again, no Christmas will ever feel like that, and I can’t live my future shackled to that past, no matter how wonderful or horrible they were.
This year, I’m working toward a clean house, using the preparation time of Advent to sweep the floor of old dust and memories, and taking some things away, getting rid of them because they just shouldn’t be here anymore. Polishing and cherishing some things from the past, while realizing that I’ll never see their kind again, and that it’s madness to try and make my present live up to their real or imagined memory. Raising my vision from the distractions all around me to the One who it’s all about, and rearranging my celebration around Him. I lay down the past, the good and bad, the bitter and sweet, the treasured and the stressful, and realize that it was never about any of that in the first place.
Away from madness, into clarity.
Away from stress, into peace.
Away from unfocused busyness, into single-minded purpose.
Away from everything being about me, and making it all about Him.
“For to us a child is born,
to us a son is given,
and the government will be on his shoulders.
And he will be called
Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God,
Prince of Peace.”
Isaiah 9:6 (TNIV)