When I was a girl, my grandmother lived for a time in Denver. One sharply bitter Christmas Eve, she took us downtown to see the animated shop displays, where dolls moved and the Nutcracker bent and lights glittered. It was unbearably cold, the night air needles on our cheeks, but my soul was enchanted.
I remain enchanted by Christmas Eve. Here in our Western tradition, this is a most sacred of nights. Stars shining in a black winter sky. Blazes of excess on suburban rooftops. Lights twinkling on trees and along the rafters and around the windows of the shops. It is the one night that we are still allowed to invest with purest wonder and possibility, when even the most cynical among us are wont to look at the sky and wonder….what if? What if that was the echo of a ho, ho, ho? What if those sleighbells really did ring? What if, long long ago, wise men traversed the desert bearing precious offerings, and angels sang in the heavens to herald the birth of a king?
And if those things might happen, what might happen in our own lives? One of the most powerful aspects of the Christmas story is the humble images—the simple people bearing a son far from home. A sleeping baby, oblivious to the fuss of trumpets and magi bearing sweet-smelling gifts, a mother humming a lullaby.
So much potential!
Christmas Eve bursts with that potential for each of us. Each of us are born with a vocation, a calling, something we are meant to do. I believe that if each human finds that task and aligns with it, the world, then, becomes a peaceful, productive place.
By “vocation” I don’t mean some Big Dramatic Task You Must Do To Single-Handedly Save The World. Quite the opposite. For the woman who makes the most astonishing cupcakes on the planet, her task is to bake. By doing so, she spreads joy one mouthful at a time. For Santa, that task is to deliver toys on Christmas Eve and sit in scratchy suits in department stores and next to food courts across the land. Steven Colbert was born to poke fun at politics. My friend Christie Ridgway was born to write romantic comedies with a piercing undernote.
What is your task?
It is quite possible that your calling is not writing. We all get distracted from our true path at times, and not a few people toy with writing on their way to something else. That is not a judgment. It isn’t better to be a writer than a chef or a policeman or a teacher (and certainly, writing can be an adjunct to some other calling, a way to expand and further those goals). Since you are reading here on this blog, perhaps writing is your vocation. Perhaps you even know exactly how you are meant to use it—through writing genre fiction or epic poetry. Perhaps you’re still exploring, trying to figure out where your writing will best fit.
In all cases, I ask: what gift will you give to your vocation this Christmas Eve?
I don’t mean a resolution, a goal, some other way to beat yourself up. I mean, what gift can you bring to yourself this Christmas Eve, to honor your talent, nurture it as if it were a precious child, bring it closer to fruition? Perhaps you can buy a book you have desperately wanted and spend some time actually reading it. Perhaps it is a magazine subscription or a really good pen (never to be underestimated) or beautifully smooth paper from Clairefontaine or the promise that you will put something else aside in order to take that research trip.
There are non material things you can give. Probably your calling needs more time than you have currently been giving it—time to play with ideas, time to draft whole pieces, time to noodle around, time to fill the well in whatever ways work best for you.
Perhaps the best gift you can offer is respect. Though it is always pleasant to get respect from others, the primary source of courage is our own hearts. Instead of nervously saying, “Who do I think I am to want this (that big contract, that story published in a prestigious publication, that poem celebrated and sung through all of time)?” ask instead, “Why not me?”
It might be that you need permission to fail gloriously. Sometimes the attempt is the path, and becoming too concerned with end results can mar the pleasure of the journey; indeed, it can mar the work itself.
You might need to offer the gift of friendship, or more solitary time. Maybe the gift is to take a less demanding job so you have energy and time left over for The Work. Maybe you can take a job so you feel more secure and can let the writing lead you.
Whatever it is, let your hunger guide you. Feed your dream. Nourish it. Each one is a point of light, a beacon for joy, and you, my friend, are worthy.
Photo courtesy Nick Owen