2021 Grateful 3: The old Irish Healer to the Soul

I’m not a great one for Christmas. I don’t like the manic consumerism and the fuss and the pressure to enjoy it and have a good time. What’s wrong with not wanting to go to the opening of every chocolate box in town, I say. I wonder, too, what we’re teaching our kids about Christmas. What example are they seeing? What pressures are they absorbing and hard-wiring into their behavioural code?

I liked this FB meme enough to share:

Son: “Dad, I think I’m old enough now. Is there a Santa Claus?.”
Dad: “Ok, I agree that you’re old enough. But before I tell you, I have a question for you. You see, the “truth” is a dangerous gift. Once you know something, you can’t unknow it. Once you know the truth about Santa Claus, you will never again understand and relate to him as you do now. So my question is: Are you sure you want to know?”
Brief pause…
Son: “Yes, I want to know”
Dad: “Ok, I’ll tell you: Yes there is a Santa Claus”
Son: “Really?”
Dad: Yes, really, but he’s not an old man with a beard in a red suit. That’s just what we tell kids. You see, kids are too young to understand the true nature of Santa Claus, so we explain it to them in a way that they can understand. The truth about Santa Claus is that he’s not a person at all; he’s an idea. Think of all those presents Santa gave you over the years. I actually bought those myself. I watched you open them. And did it bother me that you didn’t thank me? Of course not! In fact, it gave me great pleasure. You see, Santa Claus is THE IDEA OF GIVING FOR THE SAKE OF GIVING, without thought of thanks or acknowledgement.
When I saw that woman collapse on the subway last week and called for help, I knew that she’d never know that it was me that summoned the ambulance. I was being Santa Claus when I did that.”
Son: “Oh.”
Dad: “So now that you know, you’re part of it. You have to be Santa Claus too now. That means you can never tell a young kid the secret, and you have to help us select Santa presents for them, and most importantly, you have to look for opportunities to help people. Got it?”
Help each other this Christmas🎄🎅 and…be kind.

What I really want for Christmas is to feel better. About Hungary. About Ireland. About the world. Granted, I’ve not been feeling great myself lately but I suspect what’s wrong with me goes deeper than the superficial symptoms I’ve been showing.

I came across the words of an old Irish healer who might well have been talking to me, listing my ailments, and explaining it better than any doctor I know.

It’s not your back that hurts, but the burden.
It’s not your eyes that hurt, but injustice.
It’s not your head that hurts, it’s your thoughts.
It’s not the throat, but what you don’t express or say with anger.
It’s not the stomach hurts, but what the soul does not digest.
It’s not the liver that hurts, it’s the anger.
It’s not your heart that hurts, but love.
And it is love itself that contains the most powerful medicine.

Burdens, you ask, what burdens? Yes, I live a blessed life. Some might even call it privileged. And were I to complain, I’d no doubt be drowned in a sea of toxic positivity reminding me how lucky I am compared to refugees fleeing Syria, Venezuela, Afghanistan, South Sudan, Myanmar, and the Democratic Republic of Congo. I’m definitely better off than the 82.4 million who have been forced to flee their homes. There’s a burden in the imbalance, in the struggle to recognise and own my issues rather than brush over them because they fail the comparison test.

Injustice is impossible to ignore. No one society can claim it as its own. It’s everywhere. For me, the injustice of 2021 is Myanmar. It flashed briefly on the world’s consciousness in February but failed to gain global traction. Others will have different opinions. Can one injustice be weighed against another? Is one cause more deserving than another?

My thoughts hurt. They really do. Trying to make sense of what’s going on in Israel and Palestine. Trying to get my head around the vitriolic elements of trans activism. Trying to understand why anyone would refuse to get a Covid vaccination. It hurts.  But what’s the option? Become intractable and add my opinion to the growing mass of polemics that is polarising friends and families?

My throat is fine. I express myself. I’ve been told I say too much. Perhaps. But my throat is fine.

My stomach, that’s another story. My soul is having a hard time digesting how people treat other people without even realising they’re doing it. Discrimination. I’ve come to hate that word in all its guises. I cringe when I hear people blanketly castigate those who dare believe in God. Not any god it seems, just the Christian God. My God. When I hear people speak dismissively of Roma, or migrants, or Irish travellers, when anti-semites take the floor, my stomach hurts.

I rarely get angry at anyone but myself. Or if I do, it doesn’t show. And that’s not good.  I’m afraid that if I take the top off the bottle, it’ll overflow. And once it’s oxygenated, there’ll be too much of it to fit back into the same bottle. I suspect that deep down, I’m angry. Very angry. Maybe this is why I’ve unconsciously been giving my liver a rest. I’m barely drinking these days.

I can cope with my heart hurting because that means I love. It means I care. And in the words of the inimitable Rod McKuen, I feel.

It’s nice sometimes to open up the heart a little and let some hurt come in.
It proves you’re still alive.

If nothing else it says to you–clear as a high hill air, uncomfortable
as diving through cold water–

I’m here. However wretchedly I feel, I feel.

And for that, I’m truly grateful.

4 Responses

  1. If Christmas is difficult, and I understand that you have very pressing worries to deal with this year, at least welcome the hope that a New Year can bring. Take care.

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