“This is the most wonderful time of your life!” the well-meaning relative gushed at the graduation party. “Enjoy! Enjoy!”
My 17-year-old daughter, who’d hated high school and was anxious about college, looked alarmed. If these were the most wonderful years, she was in big trouble.
The Christmas carols are ubiquitous now, and my ear worm is “It’s the most wonderful time of the year!” I’m sorry, but could there be a more obnoxious line than “It’s the hap-happiest season of all” ? It’s pretty much calculated to make you feel terrible, unless you, too, are glowing and mistletoeing. If you’re alone, if you’re grieving a loss, if you don’t have the money for food and rent let alone piles of presents, if you’re worried for someone you love, if you’re deeply disturbed by your country’s political climate and all the hatred loose in the world, well. The song jangles instead of jingles. Unhappiness is always a lonesome feeling, but this time of year can makes it feel especially, painfully raw.
We have just lost one of our dearest, bravest, most luminous friends. And so I’m reminding myself that there is no hap-happiest time of the year. Joy is a wild bird that touches down and folds us in its wings, without warning, any time. We can coax it to us, but we can’t make it stay. We definitely can’t coerce it, not even with presents and parties. Better to look for it every day, in friends and family, books and art, memories and hopes, the work we do and the kindness we share. Let there be no most wonderful. Let every day have its own wild, winged life.
Wishing you peace.