Six days before Christmas and I’ve suddenly realised that it’s happening.
Term fizzled out on Friday as I turned in my final essay and Christmas, the next big hurdle, suddenly loomed large. I am utterly unprepared in every way. The few cards that I’ve started to make lie discarded around my room, along with papers to file, bank statements to open, clothes to fold, and lists to work my way through. So much to do. So little time. So little inclination to get on with it.
I put on Christmas songs to induce some festivity but because I’m tired they just make me feel sad for the way that things change, that you make mistakes, that people die, and that life starts going so fast that you feel scared that you might blink and miss it without even having felt it at all. I know that this is the season to be jolly but at the moment it seems more like the season to feel guilty about not being on top of things. Guilty about the friends I’ve been rubbish at being in touch with. Guilty about the reading that I should be doing.
I thought the palpable stress would stop bouncing around the walls of my brain once the essay was handed in, but instead all the other stuff I’d pushed to one side has come flooding back in. I am pausing for a moment to try and let my whirling mind settle.
The reading will get done. The cards will get written. The friends I’ve been rubbish at being in touch with will, I hope, love me anyway.
In the midst of the past few weeks of stressing about study and blanking the fact that every other aspect of my life is either spiralling out of control or getting lost in the clutter on my bedroom floor, my little moments of sanity have beep-beeped into my BlackBerry in the form of daily advent emails written by my friend Brian. (Top tip: get on his mailing list so that you don’t miss them next year.)
Brian is an encouraging and inspiring friend who sees, interprets and communicates the world in a very beautiful way. And every day the email has been what I’ve needed to remember that it’s not just what I do, but how I do it. To remember to look up; to see a bit more clearly; to glimpse the sacred in the middle of normality. To wait; to hope; to hang on in there.
Last week, one of my favourite poems popped up in his emails and I leave it here as my Christmas wish, both for myself and for others. At a season of fast-forwarded hurrying and nostalgic hankering, it somehow resonates all the more. I find myself praying – in my disengaged, stressy kind of way – for breath-taking, heart-stopping, gut-wrenching, mind-blowing, transcendent ‘bright field’ moments when the reality of the Christmas message is illuminated for each one of us. Happy Christmas!
The Bright Field
I have seen the sun break through
to illuminate a small field
for a while, and gone my way
and forgotten it. But that was the pearl
of great price, the one field that had
the treasure in it. I realise now
that I must give all that I have
to possess it. Life is not hurrying
on to a receding future, nor hankering after
an imagined past. It is the turning
aside like Moses to the miracle
of the lit bush, to a brightness
that seemed as transitory as your youth
once, but is the eternity that awaits you.