Absence of holiday loot, absence of sugar, absence of concern…

Yesterday morning, I walked Mitra and pondered how something feels missing this Christmas.

I’m listening to the music, watching the movies. The apartment has been cheerfully decorated since just after Thanksgiving. I hosted the dinner party, my table bedecked in red and green and gold. Hell, I even had a fire going while the snow fell Thursday and I was working at the family office in Connecticut.

But I haven’t yet made a single Christmas cookie, and I don’t think I will at all this year. There’s the obvious lack of gift giving because of the current challenge. And there’s a self-imposed Dickensian period ahead, best summed up in one of my favorite of holiday flicks, A Muppet Christmas Carol (don’t mock, it’s brilliant):

“I was often alone. More time for reading and study. The Christmas holiday was a chance to get some extra work done. A time for solitude.”

Last night, on my way home from recording Love Bites, I was lost and forlorn, and searching for Christmas everywhere.

My plans for seeing the Rockefeller tree with an old friend had been canceled due to a shift in his schedule. I was missing Ben in his first of many weeks away from the show. I was missing my closest friend (I call her Muffin here), who was also in pain and low, far away from me. I was frustrated in how 3:30 chimes and my body crumples down, leaving me hurting and vulnerable. And I was annoyed and lonely because of that vulnerability; wanting someone to love me, to offer a word or a strong arm or a soft kiss so that I could be just a little less tough about all the pain for a few hours.

This morning, after I’d slept off the worst of the pain and awoke to a frigid New York City, wrapping myself in silk and flannel and fleece, warming myself before the rush of sound-filled the streets, I thought about Christmas again. I pondered the absence of the rituals — the cookie making, the gift buying, the DVRing of the tree lighting and then going to see that tree, the fluttering around Manhattan to take it all in. I mean, a few years ago, this was my life**:

But am I really waiting for a Christmas miracle moment? Or do I just think I should be missing those rituals?

Because now, my life is very different than it was back then when I was active and social and moved in a more energized body and world. Now, I sip in silence and use my energy to formulate thoughts into words, rather than action. It’s about recognizing, still — always, constantly — the limitations of my body, and how they affect my socialization and sense of self; the three things that intertwine in this Year…  It’s about not buying presents or not baking cookies not so that I pine for their absence, but to find comfort and fulfillment without them. My life is about simpler, richer fulfillments. And I do feel that when I take out all the stuff and fluff, I can choose to see the simplicity for the joy it brings. Because it genuinely, honestly, truly is all I need.

Is that what today is? Just like there came a point where I went from craving social media to feeling good without it; from being frustrated at not being able to buy things to shedding what I already own; from wanting sugar and alcohol with a force to feeling lighter and clearer without it…  to today, when I’m feeling calm and grateful and simply in a Christmas spirit because it is the Christmas season?

Because I have love. And family. And friends. Yes, also pain and frustration and poverty and president-elects and Aleppo and the assassination of the Russian ambassador to Turkey and a slaughter in Germany and horrible horrible horrible things happening around the world. Which is why in my microcosm of a world I am so thankful for these layers of clothes, and my annoyingly adorable dog, and the work I have, and the hope that the solitude and completion of one task to another will lift me up…

Absence = Addition. 

Holy shit. This Year… never ceases to amaze me.

*From another of my favorites, the Jim Carrey / Ron Howard Grinch. Underrated, masterful.

**You can find all of those recipes — and 200 more — on www.TheDustyBaker.com. 

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