The fussy, self-important and over-committed woman is not one of the more attractive stock characters in our society but she likes to infiltrate her archetype throughout our ranks during the holidays. This year, she got a toe-hold in me and was meddling with my nervous and digestive systems in no time at all. It started last fall when I got on the fundraising committee at the church where I run the choir. In my position as a self-employed artistic type, I never go to meetings or get on committees of any kind so it was a novel experience. I said yes to every idea that was floated, an alarming number of them having to do with Christmas.
Once when I was a young piano teacher, a mother marched into her daughter’s 30 minute piano lesson with several boxes the size of small filing cabinets panting that 500 of her Christmas cards had to go out that night. I looked at her hair hanging down the front of her face right between her eyes that were rotating in an ellipse and said, “No, they don’t,” trying to be wise and above it all.
“Yes, they do!” She shouted.
I told myself I would never be like that. Surprise!
This year I did one too many holiday bazaars where I sold my book, my watercolor cards, my raspberry liqueur, and various other handcrafted items that I thought it was a good idea to start making in the middle of November. Still on the calendar is the shepherding of the church choir through their rehearsals and performances and the cattle ranching of The OK Choralethrough theirs. Then I had agreed to lead a caroling party, which in my frame of mind would probably turn into a horse whipping. After my second bout of schedule-hysteria, I canceled the caroling party.
Getting all wound up is not predicated upon the number of activities cluttering up the month. People survive being busy. Some people like it. I don’t, which makes it all the more puzzling why I ever say Yes to anything. I need spacious, do nothing, day-dream time. Those times are actually quite full and productive times for me. When I’m too busy I contract a fussy self-importance that sucks the joy out of everything.
The day after the last bazaar I packed gifts to mail to cousins in England and Wisconsin. Waiting in line at the Post Office does not count as Do Nothing time. When I have to do something soul-destroying like getting stuck behind someone with three small children who is sending ten large packages to Mumbai but doesn’t understand what a customs declaration is, well, OK, sometimes I try to help. I’ve been terrorized in foreign post offices myself. But when there’s nothing to do but wait, I read a book. I know: Hahahahahahaha. A book! Everyone else is posting on Facebook and playing with their apps.
The book I had with me the day after the bazaars was a relic from the 60s, The Book by Alan Watts. Full title: The Book on the Taboo against Knowing Who You Are. I hadn’t read it since college. In line at the post office, my stack of packages beside me, I lost track of where I was when I read:
“We do not ‘come into’ this world; we come out of it, as leaves from a tree.”
I no longer cared how long the woman from Mumbai spent with the only postal worker at our branch. When I got home I pulled out another relic from the 60s, another book, yes: Carl Sandburg’s Honey and Salt because the line from Alan Watts reminded me of this:
. . .forget everything you ever heard about love. . .
it comes as weather comes and you can’t change it:
It comes like your face came to you, like your legs came
And the way you walk, talk, hold your head and hands—
And nothing can be done about it. . .
There it was! “Nothing can be done about it. . .” These few lines pulled me into Do Nothing space and reminded me why that space is so rich and why I need it. It’s the space of nothingness and everything. I’m alone yet I’m with everyone. I feel safe letting go of classifications and boundaries because I feel intact. The fussy self-important archtype has left the building.
What do you know, someone else appeared to pick up the reins of the caroling party. As I go off tonight to The OK Chorale’s dress rehearsal, I’m leaving the horse whip at home. If you are in the Seattle area, you can hear the Chorale this weekend at:
Friday, Dec 7, 7:30 Broadview UCC (325 N 125th St)
Saturday, Dec 8– 4:30 University House, Wallingford –4400 Stone Way N
Saturday, Dec 8 — 6:10 Green Lake Pathway of Lights, aqua theatre