My eyes relax and fall into the multi-colored lights across the 3-foot artificial Christmas Tree and I fall back into my first few Christmases on this earth. These were several years before my original family turned into a Rubik’s cube- something that kept shifting into a different pattern.
My index finger glides into the loop of a string like a spoon that glides into a child’s mouth during an hour of nourishment. Hanging from the loop is the most delicate Christmas ball we have, made of thin glass. A souvenir from my honeymoon. My thumb presses into the image of the B&B that’s painted on it. Our first week as a family. My fingers curl around the cap as though it’s a lightbulb. I don’t want to break this. Then I gently place it on the carpet under the bough of the tree. With that removal, I forgive my original family for shifting through the years as it has. Because it happens.
My fingers reach for another ornament, this time a mini burlap stocking with fake prickly pine and cotton wrapped presents peeking out from the opening on top. This was a gift from an old co-worker. I set the warmth the size of a jewelry pouch in my lap. My palms squeeze and knead through its rough and varying textures. My breath changes a little bit. I don’t think about the beginning of this year because I don’t want this breath. But I decide to work on forgiving the corporate office that let go of me. Because it happens.
My index finger and thumb pinch a nearby lightbulb. The warmth sandwiches in my skin and reminds me of the initial sprays in the shower, warm and safe rain. The tree and I interlace cold fingers. Skin and plastic. Our fingers may look different but the tree wants to be seen and felt and so do I. Our presence to each other is all that matters.
I can’t tell if this artificial tree is becoming my altar for forgiveness or if it’s asking me to be the altar for holding and placing items of forgiveness: delicate forgiveness, soft forgiveness, rough forgiveness.
I take another item. Don’t worry I’m not un-doing Christmas, this is not my intent…although this is the ultimate on-the-go, give and take Christmas we’ll ever see as we plan our doorstep delivery swaps, so we’re already somewhat un-doing Christmas and the rest of the holidays as is…. May as well play with decorations a bit, I suppose….
I play at my altar, or as an altar, like my niece plays with toys at her altar of a coffee table: lining characters up from smallest to tallest; removing them one by one; holding each one; and placing them on the floor, only to line then up again one by one. She takes her actions seriously, being fully present through each stage of movement. I’m merely acting out a lesson that I’ve noticed from the innocence and curiosity of a child. She recycles her toys. She recycles her routine. But because she loves it and is present every time, it becomes her ritual.
The blue and white ornament that reads “New Home 2018” is the next ornament I reach for. My exhale could easily be mistaken for a grunt. I haven’t been able to love this house the way it deserves and I know I need to apologize and forgive myself for that. I need to apologize and forgive myself for letting dishes slide around viciously in the thirty-year-old sink, and blaming the floorboards for being imperfect. I need to treat this house as a person with its own bones, imperfect foundation, and tendencies from neglect that was not through any fault of its own. We need to teach it to bring in warmth by opening curtains to let the light in. No house or home is perfect. It’s a constant Rubik’s Cube. Because it happens.
One thing’s for sure: my reaches take effort.
The highest, most strenuous reach for my shoulder is for the origami angel made out of clay from a best friend. There are so many triangular points to this angel’s anatomy but there’s no real sharpness when I lean the tops of my fingers into them.
I hold her for a while. Each hand cups a pointed wing as each thumb’s direction parallels the direction of its wing. I question forgiving my father for getting sick over 2 years ago. Are others forgiving their own loved ones for getting sick?
This most physically challenging reach turns out to be my most challenging mental reach as it stretches toward another question: can we forgive ourselves for playing games through this year of illness? Can we forgive ourselves for playing Russian Roulette as we’ve wandered out to see each other? The tagline of this game being “It can’t happen to me” whether its “me” or “my family.”
I’m so grateful for this angel. These wings.
The tree looks a bit bare, yet pure, open. Green is the color of rebirth, renewal. In saying that, this can be one of the most beautiful colors, and the most beautiful reminder to understand what forgiveness is. What it means to give ourselves away- the right way- because what we gain is love and kindness for ourselves and everyone, everywhere else.
I invite you to make a list of who or what you hope to start forgiving. You don’t have to actually complete the forgiveness. Just start trying for yourself. When you un-trim your tree in 2021, maybe you shed the weight off of what rebirth looks and feels like. Maybe you hold and release forgiveness, too. And If you’re not sure of an item, just take in its texture and temperature. Know that either way, you are unburdening and simultaneously opening your heart and someone else’s. A twinned open heart is so beautiful and so rare.
And you may just see yourself as that beautiful pure renewed Christmas Tree.
Because these invitations can be so intimidating and personal, I’ll start with my forgiving:
– My Rubik’s Cube Family of 1998-present
-The parts of my body that don’t work so well
-The crayon line on my pant leg and ball of masking tape in my hair from the blond girl in 2nd grade
-The blond girl, herself
-The new owners of my Dad’s house for erasing our pool
– My own doubts; fears; unmotivated hours; addicted creative hours; crunched nose toward the house
The pattern in my list shows that I can find compassion within these items. I think if there’s an area of understanding then I can find my way to compassion. This is where I also have great difficulty because there are a few people I cannot begin to forgive due to not emotionally understanding the violence behind their impact. Logically we can forgive mental health issues, but emotionally forgiving takes a lot of time, team members, and growth in order to be far enough away.