Happy Holidays/What Christmas Is About

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My sisters and I on Christmas two years ago

The opening scene of Love Actually is footage of reunions between loved ones – mothers and daughters, fathers and sons, girlfriends and boyfriends, old friends – at the arrivals gate in the Heathrow Airport.  A young girl in bifocals squeezes her face against her mother’s shoulder, and the narrator says that whenever he gets gloomy with the state of the world, he thinks about this arrivals gate.

1 Corinthians 13:4-8 says, “Love is patient, love is kind.”  Henry Miller wrote: “What is love, but the acceptance of the other.”  Of the euphoria of love, dumped on you like the paint bucket in Carrie, Stendhal wrote, “Love is like a fever which comes and goes quite independently of the will.”

It’s hard to write about love, because love is so much.  Love is like an ever-shifting weather pattern.  Love may be the best thing we do with our lives, and love is the milk and honey – the whole point – of the holidays.

The older I get, the more I come to respect to love.  Love makes the line between you and everything not-you seem fuzzier.  Love allows you see people wholeheartedly – without wanting to shave away all the things not-quite-perfect.

Love is a force that comes and goes despite us.  From first dates to infidelities and back, love sweetens and sours our lives with rhythm.  It tosses us hand to hand like dice, but we’re infinitely better because of love.

A real-life example – it was my birthday recently.  Birthdays always make me reflective, and doubly true since my birthday falls at the end of the year.  That night, at the steakhouse, as the waiter poured me a glass of pinot noir, I egged my Dad on about the morning I was born.  In the restaurant’s sea of low conversation, he leaned against his chair and said: “You looked like a gray dinosaur,” visibly disgusted. “Your head was like a cone.”

My Dad witnessed the first minutes of my life, and that’s something I forget sometimes.  Today, on Christmas, I remember more easily that love has a history.  I remember that the man who wrapped my new (and desperately needed) wetsuit, also coached me through every bad dream.

Sometimes, the fight seems to be – to me – love versus everything else.  Love versus fear.  Love versus doubt.  Love versus boredom.  Love is divorce attorneys and Hallmark cards and adoption agencies.  It’s all the feelings felt in a delivery room that sees set after set of excited parents.  Love changes all the time, and it also changes you.

Love is felt in different ways depending on who we are and where we are in life.  It deepens and fades.  First loves are felt different than second loves, which are felt different than thirds.

When I think back on the favorite stories of my life – the moments that make my heart beat faster – the moments that make me feel like I really did something – they almost always involved love.   I’m not a very religious person, but if anything were a touch from God, love would be.

For me, love is the point of this season.  It’s a time to bake cookies and watch The Grinch and drink wine with the people you love most.

Merry Christmas/happy holidays.  I hope you all have relaxing days ahead spent with family and friends.  I’ll see you after the New Year.

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