What a difference a day makes.
Confession time: I was trying to keep things light and objective on my blog, just because I don't want to be a downer for other people, but my Christmas, apart from remembering and giving thanks for its spiritual significance, was not a good one. I spent much of Christmas Eve feeling extremely alone and sad; then around midnight we had a momentarily frightening Falling Incident at our house (no injuries this time, thank God, unlike last Christmas Eve when my mother fell in church and broke her wrist, and we spent the wee hours in the hospital ER); and I got through Christmas Day mostly through grim "git 'er done" determination.
But today was my day. I got out of the house and out of town for a few hours, with no real itinerary, and felt my body unclenching for the first time in about a week. I found myself, despite the overcast skies and rain-mottled landscape, enjoying things -- the perfect tiered symmetry of the black spruce, and the startling coral of Michigan holly berries, growing in swampy forest bordering the highway; Dutch belted cattle, like walking Oreos, in a pasture; the Amish girl I encountered at Meijer's, expertly maneuvering the computer touchpad at the self-checkout; Eric Clapton's greatest hits on the stereo at my food coop, and the lemony cream of Swiss chard soup I had there at lunch.
One of the things I enjoyed the most was in a churchyard on the main street of a village near here. It was a nativity scene -- one of those pastel, cartoony plastic ones, a little worse for wear. The figure of Mary had fallen flat on her back, and now her praying hands were seemingly beseeching the skies for help. I had to laugh out loud when I saw it. That could be me, I thought.
The I've Fallen and I Can't Get Up Mary is a wonderful icon for those of us who have a rough time during the holidays; who get stressed out and worn out and disappointed by what my Brit friends call Crimbo -- all the frenzied, distracting, non-Christocentric stuff surrounding Christmas.
And what's great about the Church calendar is that those of us who keep it still have eleven days of Christmas left to adore the Holy Child of Bethlehem -- eleven days now unencumbered by to-do lists, social obligations, deadlines and unrealistic expectations of a Hallmark-card holiday.
Our Lady of Crimbo, pray for us every Christmas.