Abandon Text!

W. H. Auden once said: "Poems are not finished; they are abandoned." I have been abandoning writing projects for many years, since only the pressure of deadline and high expectations ever got me to finish, or even start, anything of merit. This blog is an attempt to create a more consistent, self-directed writing habit. Hopefully a direction and voice will emerge.

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Holiday dread

I've come to recognize a certain form of dread that comes along with the holidays. If I manage to get into the spirit of the holidays, then I might feel, for brief periods, a certain wamth and comfort and good cheer. Driving along the highway, I might see a little constellation of Christmas lights hanging amidst a dark backdrop of trees, and I feel a sense of pervading hope . . . a glimmer that there is Good News to be heard, that everything is not so bad after all, that on top of all our wealth we even have something eternal to look forward to.

But that sense of hope in darkness, which is the proper and appointed mood for the holidays, will quickly get pushed aside by a dark brooding, which I can only describe as the anxiety of freedom. All through the year, when I am heads-down and working and constantly reacting to one urgent matter after another, I look forward to the holidays as the time when I will be able to do something. "I'll get all those photos sorted out over the holidays," I might say. "I'll read that book over the holidays."

But then, the holidays come, and what seemed in my hopeful mind to be a vast expanse of time and freedom turns out to be just a week or two of pretty much the same thing: minding the kids, travelling to family, fulfilling of obligations. "My time! My precious time! It's slipping away!" And, in the moments in which I do really have that "free" time I was looking forward to, I can't settle into it. I am beset by all the things I "ought" to be doing, plans I should be making for next year.

All this is just an extension of "ordinary" existential angst. We believe, habitually, erroneously, that some set of relative circumstances will make us happy. "If only . . . then I would be happy." And that is an illusion. No relative experience can give absolute peace. The holidays, a time when all attention is on everything good, only reminds us that all the good experiences in the world cannot make us whole. For that, we have to go Someplace Else.

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