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
–unknown

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

39 comments:

  1. May all our hearts be softened and opened in this season of Christmas and throughout the year . . .
    A marvelous post once again, dear Galen!
    Blessings!

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    1. Martha, A soft and open heart is a perfect Christmas wish. Thanks for commenting.

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  2. A gentle, compassionate post, Galen. There really are so many experiences of the holidays going on, and so much pain amidst the festivities. I heard about the mall shooting on the news and was so sorry for the lives lost and lives affected by it. May we all open our hearts and, as you say, remember that "we are connected to the deep heart of all hearts."

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    1. Tina, The shooting continues to dominate the local news. It's close to home, and yet this sort of thing has happened in so many locations, from restaurants to schools to offices to theaters. We are all affected by every act of violence because every act of violence is a cry for compassion. Thanks for your comment.

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  3. It can't help but give pause to the thoughtful, that ordinary places like malls, movie theaters, churches and schools have become danger zones. I know we live in a violent culture, and that Americans zealously guard the right to own deadly weapons, but my mind still can't properly accept the magnitude of these kinds of tragedies or understand how best to make them more preventable. I don't have anywhere to go except into prayer. I'm glad you are all safe.

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    1. Mikey, Our minds grapple with this from so many angles and at so many levels. I don't think anywhere we go, in terms of law or programs, will change anything until our hearts change. Prayer can do that. Thanks for your comment.

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  4. I often find, in our own Personal Experiences anyway, that those Holiday Seasons where we had unforseen circumstances that were Challenging and even Sorrowful, causing us to Celebrate in a much different way and Simplify everything drastically because of dealing with a Crisis or particular challenge... well, it actually made the Spirit of the Season Magnified to such a degree that they became the most Memorable Years during the Holidays... because it gave deeper Meaning and a Thankfulness that wasn't at all superficial. Unfortunately, for some, pain manifests into Anger... and hurting people often hurt people... and that truly is a tragedy on all levels. A Simplified Merry Christmas coming to you this year from the Arizona Desert... Dawn... The Bohemian

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    1. Dawn, That is an interesting perspective I had not considered, that a crisis can awaken and focus the deep spirit of the holidays. Thank you for sharing your thoughts.

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  5. May we open our hearts and focus on all things positive, beautiful and warm. Merry Christmas, Galen!

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    1. Rachna, Yes, indeed! Thanks for commenting.

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  6. Hi Galen, a simple and thought provoking post. I love this time of year, mostly because of the spirit I see and feel infused in everyone all around. And equally I'm aware of the tragedies that ofentimes occur at this time of year, for reasons that are beyond my pay grade to know.

    The best I can do is hold love and blessings in my heart for everyone...not just for now...but for all the year, in the hope that some of that loving vibration will reach, even a tiny corner of someone's heart.

    I'm so glad your family is safe. What a relief Galen.

    Love Elle
    xoxo

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    1. Elle, I am taking your approach in a situation closer to home. I am trying to focus on holding love and blessings in my heart rather than trying to control the situation (and the people in it!). Thanks for your wisdom.

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    1. Linda, Yes, indeed. Thanks for commenting.

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  8. hi Galen - are you actually suggesting that we should celebrate compassion, gratitude and heart connections instead of malls and online black Mondays? OK :)

    We spend so much time on everything else but what that matters. You've helped inspire my next post Galen! I feel the exact same way about Christmas you do - why not spend it doing something meaningful and celebrating the holiday is some substantive way?

    Very sad to have heard about the tragedy in Portland and glad your family is safe.

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    1. Vishnu, Yes, I guess I am suggesting that. Jus' saying'.... I look forward to your post! Thanks for commenting.

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  9. Ack! Clowns! I've always been terrified of them, or anything in a big costume. That condition has not improved over time.

    And like you, I enjoy a quiet holiday season, focused around family rather than stuff - more so every year, really. We should celebrate each other (or even ourselves) during the holidays, and reflect on the year gone by. Time well spent. :)

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    1. Jennifer, You and Mia! Mia didn't like anyone in any kind of costume or uniform. Forget Santa and the tooth fairy! Police officers, fire fighters, doctors in lab coats. Clowns, however, seem to occupy their own category. Wishing you a quiet, happy holiday!

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  10. I love that Joanne Macy quote! I gave me shivers! This is a powerful post!

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    1. Jodi, I love it, too, and use it often. Thanks for commenting.

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  11. I am glada that you and your children are safe.

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  12. When the story broke, I just kept thinking about you and yours. I am so happy you are all okay.

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    1. JJ, Very close to home, but then it could have been anywhere. It's all close to home.

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  13. I know that so many struggle against darkness, sadness, depression and more this time of year. I don't know a single person who hasn't lost a loved one close to, or on one of the December holidays. It makes for a very challenging anniversary to weather. I agree with the concept of being conscious in appreciation for the blessings we have. It's an old saying that there are thousands of people out there who would give a great deal to be shouldered with what we consider to be grievous issues, as their existence is such a bleak contrast to ours. That thought usually brings my thoughts back into perspective.

    I had to wrestle myself into going to the first Christmas party on my list of holiday commitments tonight, as I've been dealing with some sadness. It wasn't easy, but I'm glad I went. I saw many people I love, and simply being in their presence soothed my sadness somewhat. On my way home, I witnessed a handful of shooting stars, as tonight is the peak night for viewing the Geminids. It gave me some magic to sprinkle amongst the notes of sadness. :)

    Namaste',

    Dawn

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    1. Dawn, So true that it's all relative. I'm glad that the effort you made to go out turned out well. Shooting stars--how lovely. Thanks for commenting.

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  14. Oh you are so right. I also, have been swaying toward the more quiet approach to Christmas this year, and I'm sure much of my feelings come from having both my parents in heaven instead around our dinner table. I do like to make our holidays special for my children and their children, because it is a rather big deal still to them. They all have their trees up already, and hubby and I are going out tomorrow night to select ours. After all, it's not that far away!

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    1. Karen, When my kids were little, I went all out, but now I'm happy to hunker down and let them take care of all the festivities. Good luck with your tree hunting! Thanks for commenting.

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  15. I am with Mia! I'd like to find the place where it is just the right amount of twinkly lights to be cheerful and represent the season, without all the commercialized "sameness."

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    1. Julie, The lights are beautiful, aren't they? When my kids were little I went all out and had enough lights on and in my house to light up the whole neighborhood. I love to drive around before Christmas and look at the lights. Thanks for commenting.

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  16. The holidays are not always so jolly as the commercials make you think. I try to stay out of the stores and shop more online to avoid all the craziness. How awful for those at the mall. I think the darkness too contributes to many people's moods too at this time of the year. We just have to remember our blessings :)

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    1. Lisa, Like you, I have become an online shopper, but even there I have cut way back. Yes, it must have been awful at the mall. And just now I saw there was school shooting somewhere. So much pain and anger and alienation in this world. I feel so sad sometimes. I try to keep my heart open with compassion for everyone. Sometimes it's overwhelming. Thanks for your comment.

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  17. I am quite like you Galen!

    I guess I prefer being with family and friends on such occasions, rather than at the stores or malls or shop. I feel that's why such holidays like Christmas are celebrated. But with kids it's different as they would want all of those things and want to be out with their friends or shop around. We tend to do all of the visiting out before the real holidays, and stay home on the main day. :)

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    1. Harleena, Yes, it's different with kids. When my kids were young, I had the most decorated and lit up house in the neighborhood. They will probably do the same for their kids. But now, I'm ready to "retire" from that role, and enjoy the holidays in a more subdued way, visiting, reading, praying. Thanks for your comment.

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  18. Beautiful Galen. Christmas is a double edged sword. I love the lights, music and being together with family and friends. I don't enjoy the frenzy, the shopping and the expectations. It can be a melancholy time for some families. I'm so sad about the shooting at the mall and now the one in Connecticut. It is difficult to understand. We just all need to take a moment and breathe and try to keep centered. My heart goes to those involved in both of these tragedies. Hugs to you.

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    1. Cathy, When I heard about the shooting in Connecticut, I just started crying. So much pain in the world. All those beautiful children (and the adults, too). It just broke my heart. Thanks for commenting.

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  19. When I first heard about the shooting I immediately pulled up a map of the mall to figure out if it might be close to you. But, I never thought that your kids might be connected to that location in some way. Heavens, what a horrible situation.

    Now, we are reacting to the killing of 27 kids and adults in Conn. Sometimes it is so hard to not give into the fear.

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    1. Bob, That mall is not the closest one to us, but it is easy to get to on the MAX, so the girls often shop there. It is also the closest mall to my sons, and the staff takes them there to shop. And now all those children and adults back east. It just breaks my heart. Thanks for commenting.

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  20. Thanks for the lovely post; I, like you enjoy the quiet, simple, sweet moments of Christmas time. In light of the tragedy yesterday; my heart is saddened by it all. It is all a little scary. I cried for a while because I have grandchildren those ages and I can't imagine the pain of losing a child or others I love dearly.
    Here in Utah a few years ago there was a young man come into a mall here and shot and killed several people. It certainly makes you a little scared to go into a mall; and now it's again happening more frequently in schools.
    I believe deeply that there is life after death. I believe they are with loved ones that have gone on before. I just feel so sad for the parents and others who lost loved ones.
    I pray for all that were affected yesterday and that we all will be safe during this Christmas season. Hugs!

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