I'm not feeling the love. Or the magick.
When I was growing up in the States, long before I converted, I'd stay up in bed till after midnight Christmas morning with the sense that something special was happening, and I had to be awake for it. Shortly after midnight, I'd fall asleep, cradled, safe in the knowledge that the magick surrounded me.
Christmas always had that feeling, and after I converted, it was even better, because now, I was part of it.
But for the last two years, nothing. 25 December has been just another day. Part of me is terrified that what has happened is akin to what happens with me in relationships or situations where I've been unhappy/accommodating for too long: one day, I wake up and something has snapped. There's no feeling, no desire to keep trying, nothing. Whatever it was is broken.
It's known as the INFJ doorslam. It takes a long time to get me there, but once I'm there, it's not that the door is permanently shut. It's that there is no longer a door.
Not Christmas, please.
It used to be that I'd get excited about buying cards and presents in October/early November. I'd have my cards by 15 November; they'd be posted out by 1 December. The real anticipation began with "Carols from Kings", getting ready, followed by walking down to Midnight Mass/carols at 10pm Christmas Eve night. The beauty of the church, the carols, the first strains of 'O come all ye faithful'. (Note: those who wish to petition the O to have Midnight Mass in sung LATIN rather than English, let me know.) All of it used to help me reach kairos, where I could be in the manger at the Christ Child's bedside.
The last two years, I've been stuck firmly in chronos. To quote people suffering burnout speaking to Rachel Remen, "I don't know what's wrong with me. Terrible [and in my case, great] things happen in front of me and I feel nothing."
For someone for whom reading and picking up emotional resonances is easier than reading a book in her native language, it's like being stripped of a sense...of an ability you've always had. It's not the most comfortable feeling in the world.
I take comfort in Rachel Remen's explanation: we burn out because we don't grieve. We're so full of emotion, we can't hold anything else. As she points out, psychopaths don't burn out.
So she's reassuring me that I'm not a psychopath. *Phew*
But she is telling me that I need to unload. A lot.
As one of my friends said to me a week ago, "Irim, you've worked through a lot of emotional stuff lately, you've been working, learning and still supporting every person who needs you. And you're surprised because you're exhausted, cranky and you don't give a toss about Christmas. I'm not. You haven't stopped to process ANY OF IT. You HAVE to do it. Stop processing for everyone else."
Fair point. Now that I've stopped, it's all caught up with me. So, what to do?
I've heard the suggestion that I should talk to one of my numerous clerical friends. Reasonable suggestion. But, well, no.
"???????" I hear.
I can't. I just...can't. For me, clerical friends are to *be supported*. They get enough emotional drama crap from every Catholic who thinks they need a priest to sort out their lives; they don't need it from me. And whilst I love to challenge my men in black, I wouldn't DREAM of asking them to deal with my challenges. Many clerics are seriously uncomfortable with dealing with negative emotions: anger, conflict, sadness, doubt. Bring up a crisis of faith? Youch. That goes to the heart of their identity...no, can't mess with that.
And the ones who can deal? Well, every emotionally psychic vampire in the church (and the conservative wing has more than their share, as a lot of people here are using traddiness to fill a void) has already latched onto them. They need a shoulder; they don't need to BE a shoulder.
No, my spiritual conversations and support come from an eclectic spiritual community outside the church, which include the likes of Ari, Christine, Vera, and so on. The heart-to-hearts and long discussions on the nature of God and the directions in which our faith is taking us are blessed oases on my spiritual path. Often, they are huge pushes forward. But still, not the place to deal with this emptiness, because it's not about my faith in God; that's still there peeking out from behind the faces of my friends and events in my life.
For me, music.
Advent, Christmas and Epiphany have carols with some of the most wonderful and salient lyrics. I find these lyrics recurring at odd moments, so maybe I need to stop and listen:
Fear not to enter His courts in the slenderness
Of the poor wealth thou wouldst reckon as thine
Truth in its beauty, and love in its tenderness
These are the offerings to lay on His shrine
Ah. Maybe that's it. Maybe it's...about what I think I owe God.
Maybe it's about thinking that I have to BE something or FEEL something to earn God's grace. I'm very given to that way of thinking because I'm very given to the idea that one needs to make a difference, that one needs to DO to prove that they have any real faith at all. One of my favourite quotes is Gibran's "Your daily life is your temple and your religion", but perhaps I have been using it the wrong way: your faith should permeate your life, both being and doing; you shouldn't use your faith as a rod to drive yourself to exhaustion, doing what you feel needs to be done.
Let your actions FLOW from your faith rather than drive yourself to PROVE your faith.
Big difference, not least because the second framework means you judge others harshly for not living up to a standard of perfection you expect of yourself. It leaves no room for humanity.
I don't mind entering God's courts without material wealth. That doesn't bother me in the least. I fear entering God's courts in the slenderness of not having been there enough, listened enough, offered enough, tried to change enough, made my corner of the world better enough. Even tonight, I sat with my Christmas dinner balanced on my lap, counselling a friend online.
Enough. It may be my gift, but it doesn't need to be on tap all the time. Occasionally, it needs to be shut off at the mains. Or maybe, I need to let it flow through me rather than *do* it. My gift is to be a vessel for it and remember from whence it cometh.
And how does that tie into Christmas? Expectation. The insistence that I CAN'T be tired, that I HAVE to feel it every year, or I've failed.
The child in the manger wants ME, not the person *I* think I should be. It is, as Rachel Remen reminds us, about wholeness, not perfection.
And there's a glimmer of a star in the East of the void.
Meanwhile, I'm wrapping up in my slanket, processing, having the odd good cry, letting go of the need to BE in a Christmas mood, and entering the Lord's courts in the beauty of truth and love in its tenderness:
I am that I am.