Not everyone will be spending a 'happy' Christmas this year. I know four people whose lives are so unhappy that there will be only tears and no laughter. One had a nervous breakdown this year and was sectioned for three weeks. Another is in an abusive marriage and feels too trapped and ground down that she cannot think straight enough to leave. A third is imprisoned by her son who has stolen all of her money. A fourth has terminal cancer.
Life is not all riotous laughter. Most people struggle in their own lives tremendously and there is so much pressure to conform, fit in, be seen to do the right thing, have the latest fashion accessory, and just generally, be all things to all people. Not everyone is brave. Not everyone is perfect.
Leaving an abusive marriage takes great courage. Being in control of oneself when your life is literally falling apart is as lofty a goal as an asthmatic climbing Mount Everest. Being sad, depressed or despondent is about not having control of your life. In a world where we have grown used to doing anything and having everything, losing control it is a worse proposition than death itself.
I saw my friend yesterday whose husband has turned against her since she confessed her affair to him. She felt it was the right thing to do. She hadn't however expected him to set out to destroy her emotionally and to decimate her self-esteem leaving her a jabbering wreck. She hadn't expected him to turn the children against her. She also didn't expect me to ask her to confront her reality.
Avoiding problems is a great human defence mechanism. We tip toe around conflict because we are afraid that if we acknowledge what is wrong in our lives it will destroy us. But we're already living less than half a life so the question of it getting any worse should not even arise.
Many years ago I was walking around the remains of a Roman villa and came upon the following engraving in a wall - Memento Vivere. It struck a chord within me and was so eloquent of my own needs at the time that it quite simply took my breath away. What does it mean? The literal translation is "Remember to live".
There is a second part of that engraving that is perhaps better known: Memento mori.
Remember to live. Remember you will die.
Freud wrote extensively that we are all fearful of dying and everything we do is essentially relative to that fear. But if we were to switch the fear of death with a gratitude for life, and teach ourselves that we must embrace life, we would banish our fear of death altogether.
Put another way, to be living half a life is to be dead already.
So this is Christmas....not an overly joyful time for those who are suffering inwardly, battling their demons or feeling hard done by, or dying of cancer. All share one thing in common: a chance. A chance even for a nanosecond to be happy. A chance to say, "well, it ain't perfect but I'm still here and by God, I'm going to fly, even for a brief moment in time!"
Dear reader, time is just as illusion. The things that change, the things that matter, the rising and setting sun, are all inside your heart.