The Gift of Christmas “Presence”

If we are forever yearning for ‘more,’ we are forever discounting what is offered.” Julia Cameron

You can never get enough of what you don’t really need.” – Stewart Emery

Kelly Salasin

I remember the morning that the Christmas “train” took my son on the journey from innate graciousness to maniacal greed to absolute dissolution.  He was three.

Since becoming parents, neither my husband or I got much sleep on Christmas Eve with the anticipation of our son’s joy.   That first Christmas, he was only a few months old… so it wasn’t exactly what we’d been waiting for.

His second Christmas was much more satisfying–though fleeting.  After unwrapping a handful of presents, our one year old simply refused to look at any more.  He shook his head “No,” to each pushy request from his parents, finally exiting the room to make his point– teaching us about “too much.”

By his third Christmas, however, our two-year old had fully joined the culture of gluttony. He never left the room once until everything was opened, upon which he said very matter of factly, “I want Santa bring more.”

The turning point, from graciousness to greed, came at our son’s fourth Christmas. Like a train wreck, we watched  it unfold right before our eyes.  The morning started out sweet enough, as he played with each “present.”   But soon his pace began to quicken, and he began ripping apart paper without even looking to see from whom the gift came; and then he began opening one after another without taking notice of what was he received.

Ironically,  we had once begged our son to keep opening gifts, while now, we scolded  him to slow down.  But he couldn’t stop himself.  He just kept plowing through the present(s) until there was nothing left– at which point he collapsed into tears, completely unsatisfied with his bounty of gifts.

We” had created a monster!

After that year, we encouraged the relatives to send less– and since that was mostly a hopeless cause– we bought much less ourselves, even re-gifting things from year to year.  That same Santa Moose showed up each Christmas along with holiday themed books, films and toys.

By 5 years old, our son had so many things that there was no need to buy more once our second son came along.   So we kept re-gifting–wrapping up forgotten treasures each Christmas.  Eventually, what was found under the tree was much more of what was needed~ new bed pillows, a ski coat, a sled to replace the broken one. The few toys that our sons did receive were treasured more and more.  Last year’s gift of digital cameras were played with for days on end.

Each year, we reigned Christmas in just a bit more–even cutting back on feasting and celebrations to create the space needed for the feelings we treasured most~ magic and grace and generosity.

But it’s still a slippery slope–for me.  I begin each holiday gently just as my son began that Christmas morning that transformed him from gracious to greedy.  As the weeks progress, I begin to need “more” and anxiety grips my stomach with both desire and fear.  Will I have enough?  How will I pay for it?  Am I missing out on the experience of abundance by not buying?

Soon the addictive aspect of consumerism kicks in and I reach the maniacal turning point of just wanting to shop and spend, spend, spend.

That’s where I found myself last night— coming out of the beverage store with a costly bottle of Baileys Irish Creme. I don’t even drink it anymore, but it was the holidays, and I used to love it, and everyone was buying fancy liquors, and it was the season, and I wanted to be fully part of it–even though I had just bemoaned that that I had just spent most of my budget for the month on fancy foods for the holidays.

I joined the throngs of shoppers at department stores in last minute shopping and filled my cart with things I wanted to give and to get.  I was rapturous with desire, craving the feeling of plenty!

And then I remembered my son.  I recalled how his rapture turned to dissillusionment –and I felt my own within it.  I restrained myself from a big covetous purchase and I returned another.

I began to soften.

I let the need for “more” go… and today, I sink into a slow pace with Christmas carols and cookies and writing about the gift of “presence” that needs—plenty of empty space— to be received.

~

“Abundance is not something we acquire. It is something we tune into.”~Wayne Dyer

First Sleepover~ “one” becomes “two”

Rembrandt

My son

isn’t sleeping

under the same roof as me,

and I feel

a great

dis-ease.

My heart

presses against my ribs

searing my skin

attempting the impossible–

to reach him.

And I wonder,

How will I breathe

when he is gone for good?

(to college,
to his own life,
under another roof with his own children?)

Will my heart

forever

reside

outside my chest?

Or will I grow sadly accustomed

to his absence–retracting my love?

Perhaps, one learns

to live

with her heart

stretched so,

Just as once
my love was forced

to expand

When as

one

We became

two.

Gheyn (visix.com)

Kelly Salasin

The Little House & Me


Within the city of Brahman, which is the body, there is the heart, and within the heart there is a little house. The house has the shape of a lotus, and within it dwells that which is to be sought after, inquired about, and realized. Even so large as the universe outside is the universe within the lotus of the heart. Within it are heaven and earth, the sun, moon, the lightning and all the stars. Whatever is in the macrocosm is in this microcosm also.
~Chandogya Upanishad


Do you know the story of The Little House by Virginia Lee Burton?  It’s a book published in the forties with a sweet little house on the cover and a big contented sun on the back. It’s been a lifetime favorite of mine.  What more could a long-ago child want?

The story begins like this:  “Once upon a time there was a Little House way out in the country.  She was a pretty Little House and she was strong and well built.”

Her-story continues as the Little House watches the seasons pass from her hill in the country and is soon surrounded by a village, and then a town, and finally—by a city–where she is so crowded-in by buildings that she can no longer see the sun or the moon.  The Little House becomes shabby and misses the apple trees and daisies that once grew around her.  No one wants her anymore.

I pulled this thin paperback off my child’s crowded shelves with the others that he had grown too old to enjoy.  But rather than pack The Little House with the rest, I placed her on my writing table, sensing that her story and mine were somehow aligned.

Once upon a time, I was a little girl, pretty and strong, living in the country—of childhood.  There were daisies and apple trees and plenty of spaces to grow and imagine and thrive.  But as the seasons passed, thoughts moved in and troubles and worries crowded out the moon and the sun –and soon, I grew shabby too.

So shabby perhaps that my own father decides to travel during the week that I have planned to visit my family at their seaside home.  I sit on the porch of my own Little House in the mountains and sob, wondering how I have become so unworthy.  It’s true, that at 45, I am an old daughter, with chipped paint and crooked shutters, but so is my father, older and shabbier still.

My son finds me on the porch, and sits beside me in my grief, placing his hand on my shoulder.  After I finish crying, I tell him that he might be ready to have a girlfriend after all.   Just the day before, I read from a book on teens that young men aren’t comfortable enough with the intimacy required to be in a relationship.  In less than 24 hours, he’s proven that wrong.

At 14, this same son, leans over my bent neck at the dinner table and kisses me before heading to the sink with dishes.  It’s an act of tenderness that ripples through my heart and sorrow.  He hasn’t kissed me of his own accord in years—and never on the neck like a man might do.  I am both touched and shakened by his sweet and mature response to grief.  I begin to feel less shabby.

It is the great-great-granddaugher of the man who built the pretty Little House who comes to retrieve her from the crowded city.  She puts the Little House on wheels and takes her over the big roads and the little roads until they are back in the country.

So must I find my worth–not among my father’s crowded life–but in the wide open expanse of love that surrounds me when I move away from troubled thoughts.

My story and that of The Little House share a similar path of healing and love:

As the Little House settled down on her new foundation, she smiled happily. The stars twinkled above her…A new moon was coming up… Once again she was lived in and taken care of.”

Kelly Salasin

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