we know we are not alone. we know there are many other people who face many other challenges. we are merely two of them. we, like the others, face the challenges somewhat weary, yet stalwart, keep walking, and wish for better times.
the lights – all around us – full of glittering dazzle – are full of hope. shreds of twinkle and candoit. it is no wonder we keep happy lights all year round. these things always happen just when you are relaxing into breathing a little.
when i lost my job in november a couple years ago – right before thanksgiving and just before the start of advent leaning into the holiday season we were shocked. shocked because of the circumstances. shocked because it came out of nowhere. shocked because i had no warning. shocked because it actually felt mean-spirited. shocked because of, well, the hypocrisy. we couldn’t believe the action and we really couldn’t believe the timing.
but now, we both have lost our jobs in late november. and – like the last time, though circumstances are entirely different – it is no less shocking. the fact of the matter is that it – excuse the vernacular – sucks. really any time at all. but in a season of generosity, a time of light and hope and giving, a holiday full of warmth and expectation and love-one-another, this kind of loss is dismal.
our bootstraps are frayed and so are our heartstrings. yet, e.e. stands in the living room, beautiful. the dining room table is laden with packages to wrap and ribbons and tape. the old wrought iron railing outside our front door is adorned with evergreen garland and white lights and the radio is tuned to 93.9, the chicago christmas station. we keep listing gratitudes.
walking in our neighborhood and along the waterfront we are surrounded by lights and walking in the woods by icy displays glinting from the briefest moments of sunlight. there are meaningful symbolic reasons for lights, reasons why people decorate trees and light candles on menorahs, sing carols and recite blessings and festoon their homes.
it is a welcome byproduct of these rituals that “the lights can also trigger dopamine, the ‘feel good’ chemical in the brain”(matt barbour) and that “with these bright experiences with lights, we do have the physiological response from the nervous system that helps make us more alert, more aware, and can bring about these feelings of happiness,” said dr. terry pettijohn.
i don’t remember the shooting stars by the museums on the waterfront from previous years. but you can bet we are wishing on them.