This is such a loaded time of year, isn’t it? It can be a beautiful time, yes. Full of sparkly lights and brisk walks bundled in layers, sweetly, arm in arm. In this part of the Northern Hemisphere it is a time of turning inward, into the darker months, shorter days. It can be a cozy time, a time for light-based ceremony, and love-based gathering. These holy-days, they can bring joy and celebration and communion, as well as angst and stress and an exacerbation of loneliness inside the re-enforcement of old, outgrown familial patterns.
I’ve been thinking about the way we lie to one another and ourselves, sometimes with the best of intentions. And the way we come to tell the truth. And about the choice we have to take an empowered stance in what we want these holy-days to stand for; what we want our children to “believe” in, what exactly we want to gather, to speak, to live in celebration of??
A couple of weeks back I made the choice to reveal the truth to my beloved boy Ezra (6) about the story of Santa Claus, which had mostly been nurtured within him by his adoring older sister. He had been asking us astutely intelligent questions about the reality of Santa, obviously sensing, with a slight air of concern, that there must be more to this story, and his sweet big sister Arayla’s (9.5) instinct was to protect the magic for him by continuously expounding on the lie.
Something about his clear, smart, intuitive knowing causing him to question this story, combined with my girl’s incessant need to keep it alive for him by lying, was just not sitting at all well with my heart. I am so sensitive to the betrayal of another’s intuition. It feels like one of the deepest disrespects. Suddenly the subtle line between nourishing his magical imagination and downright lying to him had become uncomfortably challenging to discern. I could not align with my own heart’s integrity in this lie-telling with him.
His initial response to the truth was one of disappointed rage and immense sorrow, which surprised me and made my heart ache with his. I questioned myself: had I robbed him of his magical innocence too early? Taken it from him before he was ready? Why couldn’t I have just let him believed a little longer?? Arayla confirmed this self-doubting voice within me by whispering to me with remorse, her eyes saddened with empathy for her brother: “I guess maybe he’s a littler boy than we thought, Mama?” 🙁
When he finally let me scoop him up inside his disappointed rage I held him and rocked him and simply affirmed: “Yes, you feel so angry and sad about this Santa Claus story not being true. You’re allowed to be so disappointed about this. I love you so very much.” And then I invited him to open his heart to seeing the actual Spirit of Christmas, of Solstice: celebrating light, love, family and the great bounty of our hearts~! Arayla and I started talking about all the real magic in the world: fairies and angels and the great, real mysteries of nature, of love, of aliveness, of God.
He would stop crying, trying to open his heart into what we were saying, and then collapse into a puddle of sobs again. I could see him wanting the hurt to heal. At one point he yelled out angrily: “Why did you tell me that?! You should have lied to me longer, Mom. Didn’t you know I wanted you to lie to me?! Couldn’t you tell I LIKED that lie?!!”
Didn’t you know I wanted you to lie to me?? Couldn’t you tell I liked that lie??
How familiar is this? Where we know the truth, but don’t want to speak it, nor ask it, for fear of hurting someone, or making our own lives less comfortable? Where we are lying to ourselves or others, simply because it seems so much easier and sweeter than facing the truth? Lying in service of protecting one another from the growth and evolution that undoubtably comes, sometimes fiercely, with sobriety and disillusionment?
Within a couple of days he had gracefully moved through these challenging feelings, as we usually tend to do, and bounced back into his jovial, bright-eyed self. I carefully tracked the evolution of a slight depression in his field invoked by the disillusionment, towards a deeper breath of relief that settled in. Since then he has seemed more genuinely joyous and excited, and less anxious about the coming holidays.
There is a relief that comes with the truth, even inside the disappointment, fear or sorrow that sometimes accompanies it. So often we are already sensing whatever it is, and yes, don’t really want it to be confirmed, but once it is, we can breathe a little more freely. Don’t you find this to be true?
How many people stay asleep inside of dead marriages, voiceless inside of painful dynamics, or show up passive-aggressively to stagnant family relations, so afraid to speak to the truth of what is most deeply wanted, to the ancient anger still harbored, or the true intimacy of honesty and closeness that is desired, that we are in truth starving for? So afraid to speak boldly to what needs to come alive, or finally be put to rest, in order for us to thrive?
Especially in these holiday times~ how many people turn to drinking more alcohol, watching more TV: numb, numb, numb. Stay asleep. Don’t look. Pretend, pretend, pretend. Don’t tell the truth. Don’t rock the boat. Don’t speak up. Just keep going, just keep going. Smile, nod, smile. Shhhhh….
At larger levels, we don’t want the truth of Death. We refuse it; we make up shiny stories of how somehow we will be spared of Death’s touch; at least for a while, at least until we’ve lived long, full lives. “Please, please,” we say to Death, “don’t touch my family.” We’d rather be numb and deluded than awaken to our own pain and fear, about what we in truth deeply know: that Death is a devoted friend forever at our backs, and we are entirely at the mercy of it’s Mystery. We don’t want the blaring truth of impermanence confirmed.
Sobriety has both weight and lightness to it.
I look at our modern world, and all the lies it is built upon. The lies we continue to tell ourselves at wide-spread, corporate levels, so as to not rock the pretty boat of our relatively comfortable lives. The truth about the depth of the global mess at hand, and the very immense work we must show up for, if we are going to somehow make this in any way all right for the future generations of Earth species; somehow make this alright~ for our precious children and their children’s children’s children. Will there be a world for them?
Truthtelling has a cost, every single time. A consequence.
And disillusionment hurts.
But what is alive and REAL, always, through it all, is the living truth of love. The vital pulse at the center of it all. What is real is our power to show up and bring brave, humble medicine with our lives, today. What is real is our capacity to tell the courageous, outrageous truth, to stay centered in the face of another’s reaction; to learn from our true mistakes, to say we are sorry, to forgive and be forgiven and rise to the fresh occasion of this new moment.
May this holiday season be one of true brightness and authenticity, celebrated! Transparency, illuminated! Truthtelling, rejoiced in! May we resist the tendency to get caught up in the wounds and unhealed family imprints of Holidays past. May we speak up for what we want now, and for what we know to be true; for the love we want to share with one another, the gratitude we want to name.
May the new, more meaningful rituals begin with us, this time, this season. May we delight in the light this time stands for. May we bow with gratitude for the many blessings of our lives.
Only Love is real. Todo es Amor. This is what I want my children (and all our children) to believe in, finally, through all the illusions and disillusionment of fantasy that comes so intensely, inherently, ruthlessly, with human aliveness. May they know Love to be the one, true, undeniable, thriving, living force through it all. Worth naming and reclaiming, again and again. Worth protecting and resurrecting. Worth standing boldly for. And so it is.