Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Grace and Grit

'Twas the season to be 'false'. Much of a month before Christmas Day there was just so much to do! (And what was it all for?) There actually is little left of religion in "Happy Holi-days". (After all, they are not so 'holy' for many of us.) And the Xmas lights (er, Christmas) got strung out and affixed to the balcony, and wound around the tree. The decorations got hauled up from the basement storage and cradled out. There was eggnog, carols on the stereo, with the fresh biscuits-a-baking too! All very festive. All very manufactured. All very commercial. All of it much of a made-up occasion to arrive at a certain date. All of it, really, quite expensive. (The cost of gifts quickly mounts like unmonitored money in a bank balance.) All contrived and historically inexact. Like New Year. For what? To celebrate a lie? To promote a Santa, a Father Christmas, or an Easter Bunny? (Oops, wrong season.) One must get one's dates right. Keep the lie alive! Just make it a consistent event. Or is there too much of a bah-humbug in my tone?

Actually, the effort required to participate in the season takes one out of oneself, as it were. It is best done with grace. And with grit! You've got to expend a different amount of time than usual when putting up tree lights, hauling out wrapping paper and writing cards and tying bows and... yes, shopping for presents. It becomes about thoughts of others. It becomes about a consciousness of family and friends and people in the past and the present, and it becomes a wish that all will find peace and joy and happiness and health and wealth and all the good things that time and circumstance can afford. And in that wish, one connects with others. And it all can be, should be, ought to be, good!

Who did not receive a Christmas card? (Who was not left alive to send one to me too?) The last time comes to us all. There is a finality that is inevitable, sad as it may be. And grief, sweet grief, lingers long and abiding until you too must die. We each take our turn. But it is of the living people who become no longer in contact with us that I herein think, not those already departed. It is of the very many relationships one has had to let go (especially by the time one is in the seventh decade of life,) that I now recall, because Christmas, that singular event marking the yearly passage of one's life, recurs to remind us all: where were you last Christmas, and with whom? And what of the same event ten or even twenty years ago? And what happened to the people of one's childhood, one's workplaces, the students and the colleagues and the friends and the very many people cared for along the way? Where’d everyone go?

Meryl Streep (although dubbed in an infamous tweet as an "over-rated actress") had it right, I think. We best lead our lives "with grace and grit." It certainly was the topic of her speech at the Clinton Convention. And so too was it the thread through her speech at her Golden Globe Lifetime Achievement Award. That our leaders be imbued with grit is a given, (it takes great perseverance to get to stand before a country as a candidate,) but to have grace, now there's a stick with which to stir the mud-puddles. There are so very many alternative ways to handling a situation, to responding to questions, to pressure, to crises, and to the climb toward wherever one is going, in every case. In every case, indeed. At all times. Grace is a quality of choice, ideally a consistency of character, and of measured practice such that it may be observed in the physical, yes, but even more so in the manner in which a person treats another. At Christmas time or not. (We give grace not only at the dinner table, just before a meal.) And so we give thanks for Christmas and New Year and Birthdays and the Easter Bunny too. It all is about care and gratitude. And that is the grace we perpetuate, or not: the treatment of others. Despite our grit.

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