Musings on a cold Winter’s Day….
The holidays are done with. Thank God. Um, don’t get me wrong. I enjoy the long stretch of days from Thanksgiving to New Year’s Day as much as anyone. There’s all these opportunities to reconnect with friends and family and there’s no shortage of inspirational and loving moments, from carving the turkey to all that shopping to candlelight services at church to bowl games to cheering at midnight New Year’s Eve amid the cacophonous, rippling roar of bursting fireworks.
You awaken New Year’s morning and you sit up in bed and you scratch and yawn and since it’s a holiday, you don’t really have to get up, but you do. There’s football to watch and black-eyed peas to eat and too many of those nagging quiet moments when you think back to the year you’ve just put behind you and you begin to think of all those things you screwed up and those precious few things you did right. Usually, there’s more wrong than right, and realizing that brings on a spate of wanting to hit the rewind switch so you could go back and take another crack at the screw-ups.
But we can’t do that, can we? Nope. Not gonna happen. No need to bitch and moan, because what is done….is over and done with. Friend of mine told me once that making amends can be difficult. I mean, you take a hammer and you drive a nail right square into mama’s good dining room table, you can go back and pull the nail out and you can cry and say, “Mama, I am SORRY!” But there’s still a hole in the table, isn’t there? Old farmer once said, “Letting the cat out of the bag is a whole lot easier than putting it back in.”
You get through a New Year’s Day without such an introspective moment, you are either badly hung over or you plain don’t give a tinker’s damn.
Besides all this, there’s a lot of aggravation that goes along with a holiday season. Traffic’s always too heavy. There’s no such thing as, “I’ll just dash in and grab a loaf of bread. Won’t take a minute.” For me, the worst is trying to get some business done when the folks you must deal with are in that “take two weeks off at the end of the year” crowd. Try and get ANYTHING done and you get voice mail or if you’re lucky and find an actual, for-real living person, you get the old “Well, I was just about to leave on my ski trip, so I’ll get back to you, oh, sometime after the first.” These kind of things, well, let’s just say that I can easily do without them.
So in the midst of the celebration and the aggravation, you will, unavoidably, find yourself thinking of all those….changes. There will be the things that came to an end and about some of those you are sad and about others you are glad. Some familiar people or things will have gone away and some new people and events will have come into your life. No way around it. It’s called “life.” Jobs will come and/or go. Some things at church will not be what they were a year earlier. And for reasons known only to God, friends will begin to change. Could be for the better, this change, or not. You may experience those currents of life that bring you closer to a friend, or you may notice that a trusted friend has drifted away.
What is a friend, anyway? The dictionary describes it thusly: a person whom one knows and with whom one has a bond of mutual affection, typically exclusive of sexual or family relations.
Um, well, yessss…..
But there’s more to it. Someone once told me that a friend will bail you out of jail. A TRUE friend will be sitting there on the bench in the cell with you, saying ” Whoa! THAT was fun!”
The bond of real friendship is a hard-won thing. It is years and miles in the making, and the best kind of friend is the one who NOT turn from you, no matter what. They might get mad because you look them in the eye and speak the truth and they don’t want to hear such a thing. But they’ll stay put. This is not an easy situation with which to deal. But I’ve just read some words on a blog I frequent that has a lot to say about such a thing, about how the trick is to “know how to listen to those around me and to have patience with those who think differently,” the blogger said, and she continued, “My way isn’t always the right way and listening to (not necessarily always agreeing with) others can cause me to think, discover, learn.”
I often have a difficult time in understanding that some things I see so clearly may not make so much sense to others. It’s a two-sided coin, though. Someone else gets, they think, all their ducks in a row and they simply cannot understand why I don’t agree. It is at this time that the patience, the understanding, the loving and the caring….and the willingness to listen, and to consider, come into play. I have learned the hard way, the very hard and very painful way, that the hand we slap away can well be the last thing we could have grabbed ahold of as we began to slip under the water. Then, as we begin to drown, we start to beg, to scream to the Lord to PLEASE God let that hand appear again.
This is where the gamble comes in. Even those with the best of intentions and the noblest of motivations can become weary of being slapped away. Most times, we don’t fully understand this until we reach out….and find nothing to grasp but air. People, that is a cold and painful thing to experience. It could be the worst thing to ever happen to you.
So, there are no more holidays and no more pretty packages to unwrap and all the fireworks have been used up. Most of the bowl games are over. And now we are left to deal with….life. You got any smarts, you won’t try and begin this fresh-out-of- the-wrapper new year without God at your side, and, one hopes, you’ll consider the worth of those true and real and faithful friends, and be tolerant of them, always willing to listen to them, even when it hurts and even when it makes you mad. Because that is the time a friend is most valuable to you. When it really counts.
Thing is, one can never be certain whether one has used up all of one’s second chances. So, um, be very careful with your friends. Or one day, you’ll wake up and discover you want so bad to say you are sorry, but then you notice that….there is STILL a hole in the table.