Celebrating The Holidays 2002
Wishing that there were more hours in my day today so that I could sit and write to each one of you individually and wish you happy holidays. But time is what it is and a certain amount of mine has to be dedicated to lying on the beach on Sundays and another portion of it dedicated to sleep. So I'll work with what I have left here. And yes, there is still some sand between my toes as I'm sitting here writing. It feels good.
However we choose to celebrate the holidays that fall in December, the fact is, something special comes around this time of year. I no longer align myself with any religious thought or practice but don't find that this diminishes my ability to enjoy the holidays along with everybody else. If something makes you feel good, then I'm all for it.
What made me feel good this past week was being with my precious daughter Auri, her husband Trent and their adorable little six month old Tristan, who loves his grandpa Tom by the way. The kids had a pine tree that they cut themselves, all decorated and lit in the living room. There were lots of presents under it and more accumulated after my arrival. No mention was made during my eight day stay about Jesus or the origins of the reasons for which that tree was sitting in the living room. The Christmas Tree has become a symbol of a time of year when we swap presents, eat lots of good food and get together with our families and friends. What could be more wonderful than that?
I shared a flight with my friends Val and Chris and their daughter Carly to Salt Lake from Orange County last week. They were going to ski and I was going to be with my daughter. At the airport in Salt Lake as we were saying goodbye, Chris wished me Merry Christmas and it brought a smile to my face because she and Val and Carly are Jewish. I was reminded once again that this time of year isn't so much about beliefs but about having a reason to feel good and to share that feeling with others. Chris and Val, like my friends Eleanor and Bernie who are also Jewish, never hesitate to keep the boundaries open by never putting them up in the first place. I have a lot to learn from my Jewish friends who teach me by the way they live, that there is more that joins us than separates us.
As I have searched for a way to define myself in the absence of a religious belief or practice, I've found that I have a deeper respect for my friends and family who continue to live within a religious context. I don't need them to be like me to enjoy them and love them and I don't need to have a religious underpinning to guide me in knowing how to be with people who are different than me. All I need is the willingness to be embraced when arms are opened to me. Everything else seems to take care of itself.
I have friends all over the world today who live their lives in a kaleidoscope of differing beliefs and spiritual practices. I'm not sure that any one of them views the universe in quite the same way I do, but with each of them I enjoy something special - a friendship that seems to exist above and beyond our perceptions of god, origins and the reasons for being. From where I stand, a uniformity of belief is inconsequential to the love that we share. All I really know is how I feel when I'm with a person. So I guess you could say that my religion is based on the way I love and am loved, regardless of the details. And this seems to be simple enough that I can make it work in my day to day living.
I laid on the sand this morning in Laguna and felt the winter sun warming my skin. Lisa's dophins came to say hi as the tide slowly worked itself out to low and everywhere I looked there were people, different in every way imaginable than me, all basking in this same beautiful light - all of them enjoying in their own way the same things I was enjoying.
I watched a young surfer who from a distance seemed to be no bigger than a four year old. But something about him was different and as he came closer I realized that he was a little person. And a young one at that, perhaps no more than eleven or twelve years old. His body bore the distinctive shape and proportions of a little person and yet there he was, in a wetsuit, reveling in his skim-boarding like so many others on the beach in Laguna this morning. Whatever else there was different about him, the sun shone on him the same way it did on me and the cool waters of the Pacific spoke to both of us with the same voice.
It all seems so simple when I'm sitting on the beach.
So to those of you who celebrate Hannukah, here's eight big hugs and eight big wishes for the fulfillment of your heart's fondest desires. To my friends who celebrate the Pagan/Christian tradition of Christmas, here's hoping that Santa found you safe and content with family or friends as he was shimmying down your chimney this week. To my friends who subscribe to no particular religious tradition, I wish for you the same thing I wish for myself - the contentment of knowing that you are loved.
My best to all of you always from the water's edge,