Monday, December 26, 2011

Christmas Letter

Despite whole-hearted attempts to be as cranky as possible about this disease; It has not escaped my attention that, possibly as a result of needing more help than I could have expected my ego to survive, I am surrounded by goodness. A motley assortment of strange angels show up, just when I need them. I am not talking about my friends, here, or family; these assistants are only related by my own good fortune to have made their acquaintance.  There’s the insurance agent, who came out to investigate a flood that I was not insured against, and found something of equal cost for which I was. And the young woman I spoke to before being routed to him, the one who assured my teary and anxious self that she’d get this taken care of; which is where the insurance agent thoughtfully assigned for me, came in.

Maybe floods are good omens for me. My office is separated from my home by a driveway that has always sloped down, at an angry angle towards the threshold of my office door.  When Phoenix last expected a heavy rain, I called the city because I wouldn’t be able to pack and load the sandbags necessary to protect the office myself. The concerned operator on the other end assured me that although she didn’t know of the service of sandbag delivery for the disabled, she’d find someone who did. She routed my call to the fire department, which sent me on to city hall (which was closed, by the way), where I was led to sanitation, until finally I ended up right back on the line with her. Did you find help? She asked optimistically. She sounded very dissatisfied and even offended when I reported the lack of a pre-coordinated city response.  I ended up trying to make her feel better about the situation. A couple of hours later, Sandra came home with plenty of sandbags that she had shoveled herself. No sooner than Sandra arrived, a burly older man showed up in a city truck loaded with sandbags for me. He looked like they pulled him from a log cabin buried in a state park; with an abundant scraggly beard and flannel shirt (just for context- I live in the Sonoran Desert. Nobody wears flannel here.) I let him add a few bags to my tightly packed driveway, just so his trip wasn’t pointless. I had to assure him, not once, but twice,  that we were safe for the storm. I don’t know how to find that initial operator again, to thank her for her compassion, but I know she is out there, doing good things in the world.

It’s kind of like developing MS led me to the outrageous finding out there really is a Santa. He’s for real, but he drops things down the chimney on a different clock; Christmas is whenever you need it. Of course, I am aware that many people would object to the confounding of Santa and God: But isn’t it the same basic idea? This is the God of the New Testament, no doubt. No fire and brimstone, just group hugs and unconditional positive regard.

My mind is chomping on a counter-argument. Who is this person, sitting here writing about the Bible, starting to believe in Santa? But then, I noticed the weight of my child’s face, mashed against my chest, slightly damp from the work of resisting sleep. Her breaths came in warm, soft little puffs across my skin.  Sometimes the world is so beautiful, its impossible not to see the hand of Santa, however I cling to my antipathy.  How did I become surrounded by such goodness, such grace? I’ve lived long enough to be disabused of a belief in personal exceptionalism. If I am offered this life raft, again and again; then there must be numerous life-rafts, just floating around waiting for each of us to notice.

Closer to my own solar system, a network of elves who make magic daily. Even Gus, the practice cat, has a magic workshop. When the bathroom was being reconstructed (thank you again, insurance-elf), all four members of my family had to squish our lives into the front 3 rooms of the house for the demolition of the back.  Make that five, because our big, sweet doofus of a shepherd stayed closely underfoot. There was stuff everywhere, but never the stuff that I needed at the moment. To be sure, the stuff that I needed was always in the last room I looked. Call it my womanly sensibility, a la House of Mirth or The Yellow Wallpaper, but the disarray drove me away from anything remotely resembling sanity. One night, I sat in the driveway crying, unable to enter the chaos inside.

I hobbled out to my safe space, the calm in the storm, my magic patio.  But Gus the practice cat was trapped in the little storage dump we called her home just off the magic patio. I should have been grateful for Sandra’s insistence that he live outside, one less thing to trip on inside. But I was wracked with bad-parenting guilt. Gus, out in the rain; Gus, all alone in the storm. I couldn’t go inside until I righted this terrible wrong. I called my next-door-neighbor, who is in the painting and roofing business.  He came right over and drew up extravagant plans for a cat sanctuary in our former-storage room, complete with custom built shelving for Gus’ food and hygiene needs. The next morning my neighbor demonstrated super-human endurance as he emptied a decade’s worth of junk from the recesses of Gus’ future palace.

The problem turned out to be that Gus too, does not like disarray. For the days she was displaced, we clung to each other in the mist of the clutter and tried to see how it would all come together.  One morning, she didn’t come out of her room so I went hunting for her. She was curled up in my temperature controlled-office on the other side of the storage crisis, with a friend. A small black cat with large yellow eyes peered calmly out at me.  Hello, he seemed to say, Welcome. Gus was happy. The friend was happy. I was flummoxed.  Two cats?? I didn’t even want one.  Two cats, happy to find each other, making a neighborhood in my backyard.

I’ve become accustomed to watching Sesame Street every morning at 8 am (don’t judge me- if you live with a two-year old, you know you watch too. I am convinced that Sesame Street is the Revolution- televised, albeit on Public Broadcasting Station.  A brilliant diversity of creatures creating a Neighborhood; each caring about & contributing to the happy whole. Sesame Street is a subversive portrait of heaven.  My favorite segment of this post-modern utopia is Abby’s Flying Fairy School.  Abby and her gang of misfit peers (one is more monster than fairy, and my favorite one is a skate-boarding pothead ) screw up all of the spells and can never wait for the instructions from their teacher who looks like a mosquito.  Everyone means well, but it takes patience to learn how to use magic. Life is just like that. The longer you sit, the more you keep your hands to yourself and use your indoor voice; the more visible the magic becomes.

Santa, fairies, elves….where was I going with this? Only here: The sacred is everywhere. There are a millions stories and they all boil down to one thing: The world is full of magic, and we bring it to each other. We are the sparkles that glisten in the sky. The chip on my shoulder doesn’t block my view, sometimes it becomes almost weightless. I know you are out there, Santa’s little army, prepped and ready. I get it, this grace. This is how it is all worth it.


  1. Oh wow... Beautiful to find those sweet spots.

    And yes, I'm a sesame street fan too.

    Thank you for the life raft that was much needed this week.

  2. Hope you had a wonderful Christmas.

    I'm going to have to watch Santa. I think I may be depriving my kids...