Not all news is good news. Good news is a real and valid entity, but there also exists bad news. Some of it will sour your taste and weaken your emotional fortitude. Some of it is simply nothing more than ugly – disheartening at best. And sometimes, news can mean different things to different people.
Christmas Eve is a week away.
For some people, this is fantastic news. These are the people who got all of their gift shopping done in August. Who started listening to Christmas music in October. Who find it easy to get into the holiday spirit. Who revel in ugly sweaters that they only wear this time of year. Who fill their homes with decorations, laughter, cheer, guests from out of town, and the delectable scents of baked goodies.
For others, this is urgent news. These are the people that have procrastinated pulling the decorations out of the garage. Who have forgotten to schedule their year-end PTO. Who haven’t yet purchased a single present. It’s time to check those wish lists that are sitting unread in their inbox or wadded up on a sheet of wide ruled notebook paper stuffed in their back pockets.
There is also a segment of our population that views this as bad news. A first holiday season without a loved one. Traditions that trigger hurtful memories of a troubled childhood. Anniversaries of a tragic event. Estranged family members. Broken relationships. Financial stresses. Seasonal depression.
We hear the carols and the familiar lyrics “tidings of comfort and joy.” These words resonate with a great many people. Others hear those words at a time of discomfort and lament.
To be honest, this Christmas will probably be the most difficult one I have ever experienced. Even with the holiday playlist on my iPod on constant rotation at home and at work and in my car, I’m still having a difficult time being merry. Not to say I’m the Grinch with a heart that is two sizes too small. It just means that the smile on my face takes more effort than usual. That my murmurs of “happy holidays” are born out of sincerity instead of an oblivious platitude. That every laugh, every prayer, every best wish, every hug is deliberate.
It means I am living in this grey area between heartbreak and abundant bliss, between relief and remorse, between hope and sorrow. I have never more fully understood the lines from that Counting Crows song “walks along the edge of where the ocean meets the land, just like walking on a wire in the circus.”
It also means I’m wrestling with the understanding of the difference between happiness and joy.
So Christmas Eve is a week away. What kind of tidings does that bring? Is it good news or bad news? Well, in my world, it’s a little bit of both. Like I’m walking on a wire.