Sunday, December 25, 2011

Christmas Presence


I am writing this under protest. Under duress as it were. Not really, but it sounds like fun to say such things.

My family and I have just returned home from an overnight stay across town at my brother's house where we celebrated Christmas Eve and Christmas Day with my family, some of my wife's family, and a whole slew of friends. It has been a wonderful two days, but as with any holiday and time with family, it has also been tiring and now, finally home with the kids tucked into bed and some of the mess put away, I want little more than to go to bed and lie there with a book until I fall asleep.

But first, 750 words.

It's good for me sometimes to have these obligations. I shy from obligation more than is good for me and, often enough, look on simple appointments as obligations, giving them a negative spin that is out of proportion to the occasion. Sharing the holidays with family and friends, wondrous as it is, before it happens can feel like an obligation, a thing I have to do instead of something I want to do. It is all too easy to let myself slip into that sort of thing.

An example that I think most men will get is one I remember from just over ten years ago when my wife and I were trying to get pregnant. She monitored her cycles and when the time was right we needed to head for the bedroom. Pretty much any other time in my life I would kill for my wife to beg me to go to bed with her, but when it was an obligation, when we had to do it, even sex felt like a task to get through. Crazy.

It's all in perception. Which brings me to tonight's writing. I said that I was doing it under duress, but that's a load of crap. There are few things I enjoy more than banging out words like this. (One of them led to the births of our children, but the less said about that the better.) I know that as soon as I sit down at the keyboard, I'll feel energized.

The same is true for me when I let myself be with my family, when I sit still for a moment and am just there. This isn't easy for me. I get anxious around them because all my life I have felt pushed into a corner or an identity when I am with them. I am the ____ kid who always ______s and is just like his _______. You fill in the blanks for your situation, I'll keep mine blank for now because when I can leave those blanks behind and not help people fill them in, that's when things work.

This weekend, I was able to do that some and I fell into old patterns some other times. It's okay. The process is what I'm working on, not the end result. My family has known me for my whole life, my wife's family since I've known her, and some of our friends have known me since before I was born. There is a certain amount of childish residue that will always cling to me and that I think I can live with so long as it is the shadow that trails along behind me and not the disguise I wear. Shedding the disguise, assuming a real identity, and allowing the shadow to exist, all of that is complicated stuff and so it's okay that I have some success and have some things that I still need to work on.

All in all, I'm figuring it out. There are moments when I think, "I'm 43 years old; shouldn't I know this stuff already?" (And shouldn't I know for sure if a semi-colon is the correct punctuation in that sentence?) But my plan is to live way past 86 and so, I'm not even halfway through this life of mine. I have time to figure things out. I have Christmases to come in which I'll have to figure out how to be a son with his parents, and sadly all too soon I will have to work through how to be a son without his parents. Then I'll have to know how to be a father to grown children, a grandfather, and so on. It's going to be okay so long as I keep working at it, accept that it's a process, and stop worrying about it too far in advance.

I started writing this ten minutes ago with the complaint, blew off the complaint, and noticed that I was just writing. I went to a place I didn't fully expect and came out with a new thought as though I had just reached under the tree, pulled out a gift, unwrapped it and found something I hadn't asked for but which fit perfectly. It's a very merry Christmas for me and, I hope, for you. Just a few days left in this year and then we move on to the next. And always we write on.