There are very few things that give me faith in humanity. One of those is watching people run a marathon. This is because there are generally crowds and those crowds are wishing the runners, many of whom are strangers, well. They are cheering them on, and encouraging them. Imagine what life would be like if we readily acknowledged the shitty marathon we’re slogging through on the regular? Oftentimes, marathon spectators are offering runners drinks or food. Some of the runners are in wheelchairs, or they are blind and running with a guide, and some have prosthetic limbs. I wish I could bottle the goodwill and indomitable spirit so I could dip into it when I needed some of either offering.
The other thing that restores my faith in humanity is how many people show up at the Byrd Theatre in Richmond to watch It’s a Wonderful Life. The fact that the Byrd shows this movie at least 3 times during the holiday season and it sells out is magical. We went last night.
Zora Neale Hurston wrote, “There are years that ask questions and years that answer.” I thought this year was asking an awful lot of questions, like, “Why is this happening to this person I love and care about?” Or, even, “Why is this happening to me?” The reality is that I fared better than many of my friends. And, of course, I now realize it was me asking those questions - not the year. The year was whispering the answer but I was railing too loud and too long to hear what the year was saying.
Maybe you were doing some of your own railing and you too missed what the year was saying in its low and urgent hum. Perhaps your own vibration was too loud and not in sync with the vibration of the year.
Finally, both suddenly and slowly, things shifted, just enough so that I could hear what the year had been hissing. The answers to the questions. Sometimes, I heard only the questions, like that one time at the cottage when I woke up worrying and wondering, “Does this person know how much they mean to me? How they changed my life? Have I told them? Have I shown them?” The answer, just as urgent as the question, was, “tell them.”
Sometimes there is too much to hold, to carry, to wrap our arms around. The temptation is to open our arms wide and let it all go. But this is not the answer. Not this year anyway. The answer, I believe, is to set down what you need to. To let go of what you should. But never all of it. Just enough to make room for what and whom is important.
I love the movie It’s a Wonderful Life. George Bailey is world weary and Uncle Billy makes a mistake. A big one. George doesn’t toss Uncle Billy under the bus when he goes to that asshole Henry Potter (the original patriarchy) for help. He says he’s the one who made a mistake - even though that smug, son of a bitch Potter knows the truth. Potter and Bailey both know that Bailey’s friends don’t have $8k to dig Bailey out of the jail cell sized hole he finds himself in. Sam Wainwright, the only friend with any kind of money, is unreachable in Europe. It never occurs to Bailey to really even ask for help. Fortunately, it occurs to his wife, Mary.
“Mary did it, George! Mary did it! She told a few people you were in trouble, and they scattered all over town collecting money. They didn’t ask any questions – just said: ‘If George is in trouble – count on me.’ You never saw anything like it,” Uncle Billy excitedly says at the end of the movie.
I’ve seen this movie many, many times and can recite most of it. But, like George, it seldom occurs to me to ask for help. Which is crazy because when I finally relent and wave the white flag, friends appear like they did in George’s living room and help drag me out of whatever jam I’m in.
This year, one of the year’s answers to me was, “Normalize telling your friends you love them. Tell them a lot. Make it weird.” So I’ve really worked on doing just that.
Have yourself a merry little Christmas
Let your heart be light
Next year all our troubles, will be out of sight
Have yourself a merry little Christmas
Make the Yuletide gay
Next year all our troubles, will be miles away
Once again, as in olden days
Happy golden days of yore
Faithful friends who are dear to us
Will be near to us once more
Someday soon we all will be together
If the fates allow
Until then, we'll have to muddle through somehow
So have yourself a merry little Christmas now