Wednesday, December 12, 2012
Jolly Molly? No Thanks!
Underneath the hardness there is fear
Underneath the fear there is sadness
In the sadness there is softness
In the softness is the vast blue sky
My daughter Mia attended a birthday party when she was four. The party’s main attraction was Jolly Molly, a popular local clown who was a big hit with the preschool set. When Mia arrived, Jolly Molly opened her arms wide and greeted her. Mia took one look and ran shrieking from the room.
Sometimes I feel that way about Christmas. The store decorations go up at Halloween. Elf commercials start airing. Christmas music is everywhere. Shoppers battle in the wee hours of Black Friday. Everything is so manically festive. Some people love it. Like the young partygoers who were clustered around Jolly Molly clamoring for her attention, many people’s spirits sing with the season. And that’s wonderful.
For me, it’s often just too much. I tend to stay away from the stores. I look forward to going to friends’ homes for celebrations. I enjoy Christmas, but in a quiet way.
For others, it is a time of feeling alienated, overwhelmed, sad, anxious, lonely, even angry. I’ve started noticing blog posts about the dark shadows of Christmas. There is grief over loved ones who are no longer here, sad memories of Christmases past, isolation in the present, financial anxiety, bitter struggles with family. Sometimes, it’s too much to bear.
Yesterday, a man ran into the very mall where my children were shopping on Sunday, and started shooting, killing two people and injuring a third before shooting himself. I don’t know anything about this man and whether his tragic outburst was at all related to the Christmas frenzy, but I know he must have been in a lot of pain. His attack in a popular mall during a time of holiday shopping is like the two trains of Christmas crashing into each other.
Marlo Thomas, who has continued her dad’s support of St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital, ends her commercials with “Give thanks for the healthy children in your life, and give generously to those who are not.” That seems like a balanced approach. We can be grateful for our blessings and at the same time offer compassion to those in pain, including ourselves. Our hearts are big enough to hold all these feelings.
Chogyam Trungpa teaches that joy comes from the gentle heart of sadness. When we can break through the hardness of absolutes and move through our fear of uncertainty, we find ourselves in the sea of sadness. All the suffering of the world is there. We might want to escape. Fear might lure us back to the “safety” of our hard defenses.
But if we can find the courage to stay, to yield, we can sink into the softness of our tender, open heart. With our heart thus exposed and vulnerable, we we are connected to the deep heart of all hearts. And isn’t that what Christmas is really all about?
The heart that breaks open can contain the whole universe. –Joanna Macy