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The Christmas Present

It was the end of September and I was practising mindfulness. I had just had the best holiday ever. I’d also experienced a summer of fun, friendship and adventure. I remember telling a couple of friends that I was in a “really great place”.

And then things changed. The following few months were turbulent. I felt stressed and under pressure. My feelings swung from anger and resentment to guilt and fear.

Ten days ago, I was asked to make a difficult decision. And one week before Christmas, I found myself moving out of one house and into another. I was shocked and exhausted, upset and excited, free and frightened.

My friends rallied around and took me on a couple of big nights out where I drank a lot of alcohol. The days afterwards were strangled with panic and depression.

I certainly wasn’t feeling very Christmassy. I didn’t decorate. I stopped meditating and exercising. I was just too tired to take out my tools for well-being.

I convinced myself that people wouldn’t like me very much if I wallowed and complained but I couldn’t pretend either. I wanted to be left alone but I felt needy for company and love.

I beat myself up for not snapping out of it, for attracting in this turmoil with my thoughts and beliefs. It’s all my fault, I decided. But I didn’t know how to transform it. It isn’t fair, I wailed.

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favim.com

And today it’s Christmas. I meditate. I exchange gifts and well-wishes with family and friends. I gorge on chocolate and a variety of meats and vegetables. I take the dog for a walk. I watch movies. I give myself acupuncture. I rest. I write in my journal. I do everything I can to lift my spirits but I’m still lacking in enthusiasm and hope.

Suddenly, it strikes me that my suffering does not exist in this present moment. It has arisen out of my thinking. It lurks in my expectations about how I should be. It grows in my resistance to how things are. It expands with my longing for something more, something different. It strengthens with my doubt and self-flagellation.

I realise that this moment holds no pain. So I bring my full attention to right now. I become present to the dog as it snuggles up beside me. To the trees that line the quiet country road. To my laughter at The Big LebowskiTo my loved ones. To the clear night sky and the shooting star that dives before me.

This moment is perfect. My suffering is simply an illusion created by my thoughts, attachments and misguided beliefs.

Today, my brother gives me a gift of a beautiful necklace. I decide to use this chain as a reminder to be present.

Today, I give myself the gift of my presence. I shall stop telling myself that this moment is not enough, that I’m not enough.

Because when I’m truly present, this moment is complete. I am complete.

madripoor.tumblr.com

madripoor.tumblr.com

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From the Depths of December

I wander downtown to buy Christmas cards, in the hope that it will assuage my guilt at not yet having begun shopping for presents. There is no escaping the swift approach of Yuletide on this brisk December day.

Fairy lights wind their way up tree trunks, like magic ivy. A middle-aged couple carries plastic bags and an air of exasperation. A Norway Spruce leans up against a wall, naked but on the brink of fulfilling its life purpose.

I pop in my iPod buds and drown out the world with the sounds of Video Games and VillagersA teenager rushes out of a pound shop, her face full of freckles and anticipation. I enter. A mother slaps her children’s hands away from sweets and toys. A man in dirty work clothes holds a basket brimming with tinsel.

I buy two packets of sparkly Santa cards and continue down the main street. A young boy bolts into the library. I follow. As I enquire after a Heather O’Neill novel, which is currently MIA, an elderly woman breezes up to the desk.

“It’s getting cold out there, Mrs O’Brien,” the male librarian tries.

“We’re all ageing,” the woman retorts.

He changes the subject.

“What do you think of the Budget?”

The woman doesn’t respond.

“WHAT DO YOU THINK OF THE BUDGET?” the librarian bellows. Children look up in disbelief.

“I heard you the first time,” the old lady announces. “I just don’t bother with all that shite!”

I leave without a book, but not without a story.

I take a detour home along the Liffey. The river is full and fast. The moon clings to the cobwebs of the morning sky. Drizzle settles on nettles. A reluctant dog is pulled toward the nonchalant swans. Ducks fly close to the water, their necks straining forwards.

Reeds clump together and float to the surface, like dead bodies. A leafless tree bends over the water, like a nude diver frozen in time. A woman jogs by, barely lifting her legs. A man in a track suit practises Tai Chi in the wet grass. I wonder if he’s crazy and try not to stare.

As I huddle on a park bench, ignoring the cold and blowing on a Biro, I decide that I am a writer and that there is nothing I’d rather be.

“It is necessary to write, if the days are not to slip emptily by. How else, indeed, to clap the net over the butterfly of the moment?” Vita Sackville-West

And for all you budding writers out there, click here.

Images: http://gallery.hd.org/_c/art/_more2004/_more12/baubles-glass-and-wire-shiny-tinsel-blue-and-silver-star-for-top-of-tree-decorations-ornaments-JR.jpg.html; http://weheartit.com/entry/18871955;

http://laetificus.tumblr.com/page/8; http://weheartit.com/entry/9454974