Enlightened by lights

I use my dictionary often.  It was a gift from my Aunt when I began work on my Batchelor’s Degree.  I most recently used it to remind myself what exactly the definition was of the word ‘Enlighten,’ because earlier this month that’s how I felt, Enlightened, and I wanted to make sure that the word I was swirling around in my head was the right word to use to describe the way my heart felt, and the way my soul felt, and the tingle that was pulsing through my spine…

past tense: enlightened; past participle: enlightened; present participle: enlightening
give (someone) greater knowledge and understanding about a subject or situation.

Earlier this month I suffered a few sleepless nights in a row and awoke in the wee morning hours with a sense of dread, unease, and worry.  The last time it happened I had a bit of a ‘meeting’ with my mind, and put forth the simple reality that worrying does nothing but cause a restless sleep.  The things that I was worrying about are indeed valid things with which I should be concerned, but not things that I can solve or fix immediately, let alone today, tomorrow, or perhaps even this week…so to worry about them is nothing but a waste of energy.  This is what I told myself, and this is what has started me on what I anticipate to be a new path for the new year soon upon us…

I made a decision at that moment that I was going to focus every night, for the rest of the month, on something that made me happy, so that my thoughts at bedtime were those of thankfulness and gratitude and joy, rather than any of the day-to-day upsets.  During that first day I was thinking about how many people I have known in my life who “hate” the holidays…or at least those who say they do…people who get sad or stressed-out and who don’t get any joy out of the season.  I was also thinking about girlfriends I have and have had, who recently lost loved ones, or who had childhoods far less idyllic than mine.  I was thinking about many people I have known in my life who neither decorate nor shop with any enthusiasm…people who go through the motions because they think they -have- to, rather than because they -want- to. 

The first Christmas after my daughter was married and living an eight hour drive south, I still decorated my house with all of the joy and anticipation and elation that I did during all of her years of childhood.  I remember one friend remarking that she was surprised I decorated like that now that “nobody is here,”  and I said, “but I’m here.  I decorate for me, I would have decorated like this even if I never had a kid.”  …and it was the truth.  I love to shop, I love to give gifts, I love to make people feel happy, and the glitter, sparkle, twinkle, euphoric bliss of decorating for Christmas is like the icing on the cake for me…it does not feel like too much work, or too much trouble, or a drag…it feels like just something that I adore doing right after Thanksgiving and then un-doing on the 1st day of the new year.  I indeed get as much excitement from the un-decorating, mostly because every single Christmas bauble gets packed up and my house becomes for a few hours, a blank canvas…and I clean-clean-clean…and then bring all of my treasures out from storage and put them all back where I like them to be, and the new year starts out fresh and as perfect as I can make it. 

So back to the topic at hand…I have been, for almost two weeks, having something of a nightly gratitude.  I suppose some would say it is a form of prayer, but whatever I call it, it feels good.  I was thinking about those who truly do not like the holiday season and for whom it does not conjure joyful memories or feelings of excitement and cheer.  I was thinking that if even one sad person reads my nightly posts in cyber space of something that made me happy that day, she might think to herself, “well, there has got to be ONE thing today that didn’t suck.”  or he might think to himself, “I liked my dinner tonight, I didn’t get a flat tire when I hit that pothole.”  I felt, as silly as it might seem, that I could give a gift to people who were sad, without them really even knowing it, by putting that little seed of thought into their heads, that even on a bad day or even during a sad time of year for them, they could find just one happy thought that day.

That first night of my social experiment I was walking next door to the house where my daughter and her family lives, to read the first book of Christmas, a nightly (or at least I try to do it nightly) ritual, where I read my granddaughters a bedtime story from my assortment of holiday books, more than half of which belonged to their mother, and I thought about what made me happy that day, which included the lights I had finished stringing outside, the book I was about to read to two excited little girls, and my new comfy fleece pants.  They might have been “silly” but they were, off the top of my head the things that made me happy at that moment, and now I have forced myself every night to think, FAST, “what made me happy today” and the first things that flash into my brain are thoughts that bring joy.  It feels good to think this way. 

Several nights ago I was at the stove starting dinner, and my FAVORITE piece from The Nutcracker came on.  I suppose I should backtrack a bit and share that I love holiday music and have many Christmas playlists that I shuffle through during the holidays and that there is always music in my house throughout the year but in December it is all Christmas all the time…I even press play before I leave for work so that when I arrive home, no matter what time of afternoon, prevening, or night, there is Christmas music to welcome me back…So anyway, I am at the stove and song 10 comes on…my favorite of the cd, Pas de Deux, and I look to my right out my kitchen window at my twinkling new Christmas peacock, my crystal star-burst  solar lights subtly changing color down the driveway, my illuminated pussy willow sticks in my pots of evergreens off my east deck…then I look to my left at the living room, no light fixtures or lamps on, no television on, just the fiber optic tiny twinkling lights of decorative objects and trees throughout the space, the glitter, the shimmer, the sparkle… the big fat ceramic Santa that my mother painted the first Christmas she was married to my father, the decorations on every single flat surface, a room bursting with Christmas cheer…and The Nutcracker Suite bursting through every speaker in every room of this house, and I started to cry…

…not tears of sadness or worry or upset, tears of awe…”I can’t believe this is my house” was the first thought in my head…and then the thoughts just started rolling in so fast like the Polar Express…that I get to live right next door to my grandchildren and that they are wickedly witty and perfectly beautiful and so super smart, that my parents and family are healthy and near, that I have a man in my life who I think really really loves me, and that I have girlfriends who I may not see as often as I like and I don’t call as often as I should but if I needed them…they would be here for me…I felt an all consuming sensation of blessedness.  I felt that I had been opened up in some way, unlocked…all those sparkles and all those lights, it’s like the last unopened door inside of me magically opened…that I understood without question how lucky I have been in this life, how much I have to be thankful for, and how much I have to look forward to, I felt like I knew everything that mattered…while it only lasted a few moments…the Pas de Deux, the lights, the love in my heart, the food I was preparing…the whole thing was just a moment in time, but the whole thing became everything…I think I had at that moment my enlightenment…I felt at that second, or minute, or hour that I had a greater understanding of the subject of me and the situation of living a life, and everything that mattered in my life and everything that mattered about myself…I understood at that moment that there is nothing I could possibly want or need that I don’t already have…”Happiness wants what it has” has been my father’s creed of life, and at that moment, in my kitchen, surround by lights, I understood it… I think, for the very first time…

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