Normally I'd reserve this for my personal journal, but in the spirit of the season that so many others celebrate, I'd like to share this -- my own personal celebration of life -- with you while wishing you good health, and happiness, and good fortune in all you endeavor.
Whether you celebrate Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, Eid al-Adha, Yule or the solstice; whether you're religious, agnostic, atheist or just plain apathetic; whether you're young, old, rich, poor, privileged, under-privileged, male, female, man, woman, gay, straight, anywhere in between -- You are all part of this global community we live in and you're welcome here, at my table. Pull up a chair :)
So this past year was a little rough on my tiny household. I lost a grandmother, a mentor, and a canine companion. I watched as my friends lost mothers, grandfathers, grandmothers, and siblings. I've watched the world fall to pieces and lose all semblance of civility, but I've also seen the sweetest, kindest acts come from unexpected places. I traveled to Ireland, published more stories, and tried to be a little more open to letting others in. Even in the darkest spots, I've been grateful for the love and support of my beloved, the closeness of our friends, and the strength of the family we have carved out for ourselves over this past decade.
I am so lucky, and I know full well that luck can change in an instant. I won't take unnecessary risks, but I won't live in fear of that inevitable moment. Fear, I think, is the root of most of our actions. It defines us as humans. But so does love.
Years ago, when I was researching a fanfic of all things, I came across a quote by Vaclav Havel and it resonated within me, as someone who believes you can do good acts and be a good person without religion or sharing a faith with others:
"Hope is a state of mind, not of the world. Hope, in this deep and powerful sense, is not the same as joy that things are going well, or willingness to invest in enterprises that are obviously heading for success, but rather an ability to work for something because it is good." Vaclav Havel (Czech Playwright and President of Czechoslovakia (1989-92), b.1936, d. 2011)
When he passed away this last Sunday, my first reaction was sadness. It was quickly overcome by my admiration for him and the realization that, here I am, a person sitting on their couch in America, mourning the loss of a man half a world away and remembering him for what he did and what he symbolized and who he was -- that, friends, is someone whose goodness has touched more lives than he could have ever realized.
So I want to wish you well, not just for this day or week or season, but for all your years beyond, all your tomorrows and yesterdays and the unfolding potential beneath your feet. Even when the world seems like a grim and dark place, and you wonder if you'll ever get out of a funk or stop being lonely or stop fearing others or yourself--
It does get better. Because when you stumble, there are others who are willing to carry your burdens and your hopes for you until you find your feet again. There are good people out in the world, regardless of faith or creed, who strive and push and pull the rest of us toward mercy and love and understanding; who we can only try to emulate and carry on even when they themselves stumble. Because everyone hits those rough patches and there's no shame in reaching out for help.
When it comes down to it, we're all each other have, cliché as it is, with all these fragile human relationships and connections. When we harm each other with fists and words, we're harming ourselves most of all. We box ourselves in our comfortable little holes and patterns, and fear anything that threatens to drag us out. To constantly open ourselves up to the world and all that it entails -- it's exhausting, it can be painful and terrifying, but it can also be so beautiful and interesting and diverse and breath-taking in its constant seething mass of humanity.
When my heart aches and I see the bittersweet shapes the world has twisted itself into, I want to pick up my pen and write a love story to the universe. I want to compose a sonnet dedicated to the bravery of our children, and more than anything, I want to sweep my brush across a page and promise them kindness and love and happily-ever-afters.
I want to smudge hate and violence out of existence, exit stage right. I want the villains to be caricatures, twirling their mustaches and winking at the audience, easy to identify, and for them to never once use their religion -- or anything else that's meant to do good deeds -- as a weapon. I want my pen to fly across scrolls of paper, draped over the shoulders of my heroes like wings waiting for the right words to let them take flight.
I want to give the gift of unashamed emotion, rather than hiding behind a clenched jaw and loose fists. I want my lips and tongue and fingers to be sore from trying to express this bright feeling bursting in my chest, instead of trying to fix what others have broken.
I want to ink a story over my skin where I can raise up my chin and open my eyes and say: This -- this busy street, this noisy house, this crowded kitchen -- this is the hearth of my heart, where banked embers flare. I will remember that, no matter how cold outside, in here is where I return to warmth and love and family. The lifeblood in my veins, the breath in my lungs; they're steeped in this warmth and it echoes in my every step. Even when I'm tired or frustrated or sorrowful, I can carry that beauty -- that love story -- in me, and blaze a trail of pure feeling across the pavement; a beacon and a promise and a wish. I can do this and not lose pieces of myself, because my faith is in myself and in you, and our inherent drive to love and accept one another.
So my heartfelt wish for you, friends:
Please, stay safe and be well, and be kind to each other. We all deserve it.