Two things I avoid like the plague are stores with more than maybe three people in them, and lines at the PO. Thus I have my own method for Christmas gift-giving, which consists of mailing out cards and giving a bunch of money to various charities. Making cookies. Having a couple of books sent. Bringing some choice foodstuffs to the places I’m invited for open houses or dinner.
When my siblings and I lived closer to home, we had a gift swap for a few years. The joke was that while most families had a maximum, we had a minimum. Like you had to cough up at least five bucks. I miss those days!
Mostly I’ve taken to hanging around sanctuaries, the tabernacle, and/or the nearest monstrance. The Advent liturgies and readings are surely the most beautiful of the year, the most filled with hope, joy, and light. Which I, for one, sorely need.
Continuing with my thin-line-between-passion-and-pathology DIY YouTubes:
I “love” Christmas. I can barely sleep the week before December 25. And yet I’m edgy, too, and teary, and sad. Many old and new friends are sick, undergoing surgery, suffering cancer recurrences, contemplating moves to assisted living. The nation is suffering; the whole world is suffering. “We have in our day no prince, prophet, or leader, no place to offer first fruits.”
Meanwhile, In conjunction with my novitiate as a Benedictine oblate, I’m (re-) reading Esther de Waal’s Seeking God: The Way of St. Benedict.
Here’s a passage about the vow of stability taken by Benedictine monks and oblates:
“A life of stability is a life that can be contained within the limits of measured space since essentially it is about spiritual and not geographical space. The stability of space and of relationships are all the means towards the establishment of stability of the heart…During his stay at the Trappist monastery of Genesee one of the things that Henri Nouwen disovered about himself was just this lack of single-mindedness….He looked back over his recent life and found how disjointed it was, how it lacked any sort of unity, how the lecturing and traveling and the counselling and the praying were all separate and how this encouraged fatigue and exhaustion. He called this ‘the divided heart’ “….
“The ingredients of [the stability for which Nouwen longed] are entirely undramatic. A few days earlier Nouwen had been reflecting on the importance of sameness. He knew that he wanted to be different, to attract attention, to do something special, to make some new contribution. Yet the monastic situation was calling him to be the same and more of the same. Only after we have given up the desire to be different and admit that we deserve no special attention is there space to encounter God, and to discover that although we are unique and that God calls us each by name, that is completely compatible with the unspectacular, possibly the monotony, of life in the place in which we find ourselves.”
More and more, I do feel my life is of a piece. It’s not so much that my heart is divided as that I sometimes wonder where to put it.
But speaking of wanting to be spectacalar, last week I conceived of the notion to give a little gift or tip to my sainted mailman, Robert. I know his name because we exchanged notes one time about a package that was being held for me. Plus I have always had a deep deep place in my heart for the mailman (or mailwoman–our next-door neighbor Diane Jones was our mail lady in North Hampton, New Hampshire for a time way back it seems to me in the 60s or so).
There’s Robert! I think when I hear the clank of the mailbox cover or the little beep, followed by a thud, that means he’s just delivered another book by tossing it over the fence. Also when I went to Ireland oer the summer, Robert somehow contrived to put my mail aside for three whole months.
I researched and found you can’t give mail deliverers cash, but you can give gift cards not redeemeable for cash and not to exceed 20 bucks in value. So I made a special pilgrimage to Starbucks on foot, my heart singing, and got a $20 gift card and the little sleeve to hold it. I wrote a nice message on it: “To Robert, from Heather,” thanking him for his faithful service. Yesterday I taped it on the inside of my locked mailbox with a Post-It that said, “For Robert.”
He usually comes around 3 and when I went out around that time to check, lo and behold, the USPS truck was just pulling up, right in front of my place. Robert! I thought. But another guy stepped out instead.
I said, “Oh hi! Is Robert around? Is this still Robert’s route?”
And he goes, “Robert? Do you mean Richard? Yeah this is his day off. He’s back tomorrow.”
Somehow this is entirely indicative of my life, much of which consists of trembling interior gratitude and the working up of delusional connections with people who barely know I exist (and whose names I can’t even get straight).
I went out and edited the Post-It to read “To Robert/Richard (?) I think I may have gotten your name wrong. Forgive me.”
Like the poor guy doesn’t have enough on his plate five days before Christmas.
FROM SAINTED FRIEND (I DO KNOW HER NAME) WHO ALSO DISLIKES CROWDED STORES AND LINES AT THE PO BUT BRAVED THEM ANYWAY IN ORDER TO SEND THESE TRULY WONDERFUL GIFTS. LORD, I AM NOT WORTHY…