How I finally put the star on top of the tree: a little Christmas story

’tis the season once again for the question and the challenge…do you believe? really believe?

For some it’s tied to a religion, but to me, the believing here applies to everyone, because it has to do with authenticity, forgiveness, trust…with allowing ourselves to open so that the best version of who we are can shine through and manifest freely, beautifully, in our own and shared lives. 

Since I celebrate Christmas, the believing is an image of a jolly Santa handing me a beautiful box and asking: “Will you take this?”

I’ve always smiled to myself with certainty…or so remember. Of course I’d take it, always have, always will. Because, I am one who believes, and does so completely.

I can prove it. My believing covers pretty much everything wonderful. Like the absolute power of love, the kindness of angels, faith unbroken, tenderness always breaking through, planting stars and the sunrise at end of a very long night.

Yes, I believe…and trust in seeing with the heart always, and because of that, in the melting of shackles and shadows no matter how heavy. I believe in moments of truth and healing, in our ability to see just how beautiful we are, in our willingness to eventually stop walking the paths of slaves to self-imposed debts long expired.

Yes, I believe…that no matter how long and hard our journeys, every one of us will recognize our vulnerability as our greatest strength, see that not all errors and pauses are a death sentence, and accept that we are all allowed…yes, allowed…to love, to open, to finally let go of pride, of guilt…and come home where we are loved, wanted and needed.

I believe that dreams do come true, that we can all create a little fairytale in an ordinary, simple life.

But then I woke up today, with three days left until Christmas eve, and ten days left until the New Year, and it hit me like a ton of bricks. In my counting of fears and claims of being filled with light, in my pride and despite my apparently invincible enthusiasm, I almost believe.

Almost.

Which of course doesn’t count.

I seriously panicked. Quick, rationalization to the rescue. Almost believing has got to be better than nothing, right? At least I’m a few inches away from that line, which is close enough…right? I’m brave, and strong, and look, I can still smile the brightest smile. And look, right here in my blog, you can read so many posts that will melt your heart and convince you of what a great and genuine believer I am!

Almost.

Seeking a distraction, I went to put the last decorations on the tree. It looked quite pretty and I was pleased with a job well done. Except that it was almost done. There was one thing left to do…place the red sparkly star on top of the tree. And somehow, this last bit became a metaphor. If I almost believe and put the star on top of the tree, I am a fraud.

I sat down, star in my lap. I applied a poetic filter: “Look, I am sitting with stars in my lap, how beautiful.”

Didn’t work. And so I finally accepted that I was sitting not with a star, but with fear. That fear I tell everyone to embrace and I can not. Because what if…what if I cross the line, and put the star on the tree, and take the box that Santa hands me? And what if…what if when I open it, it will be another box full of darkness?

Yes, I get it, that too is a gift (Mary Oliver quote), but I can not handle another one. I would rather have nothing.

Coward.

I am not a coward. And I do believe in all the things I mentioned. Could it be then…perhaps…that what we receive is a reflection of the uncensored truth inside us? Maybe, just maybe, I got a box full of darkness once because I was then where I am now…I almost believed and so I needed to recognize the almost?

And maybe…maybe I was afraid today because I did learn my lesson, and so I know that I will get another box full of darkness again, if I don’t, once and for all resolve this. My almost, anyone’s almost  is like a faulty bulb. Just like the faulty bulb I can’t seem to find in the five strings of lights I couldn’t use for the tree, lights that almost work.

I allowed myself to imagine my dad coming to sit next to me on the sofa, smoking his pipe as he always did as a holiday treat, and asking me calmly: “So are you going to put up that star or what? Isn’t vulnerability our greatest strength?”

He would have known my next question…“But what if there is darkness in the box?” 

I knew how he would have answered it. “You know very well the gift is not what’s in the box, but in what you believe…who you are, who you choose to be and allow yourself to become.” 

Yes, I know, even though once again I projected my own truth and perhaps earned wisdom onto my father, afraid still to own it myself…afraid to go beyond the almost believing into the real thing. Because like everyone else, I would love a box full of the exact opposite of darkness.

When I finally got up, grabbed the step-ladder and put the star on top of the tree, the angels did not sing, the heavens did not open with some sudden glorious light.

And to be honest, I don’t know exactly what this moment means, but I know what I would like it to mean. Maybe we’re not supposed to expect to be flawless in our beliefs, certainly not in our actions. Maybe being afraid and uncertain yet trying anyway is what truly believing means. Maybe the almost is not in the lack of doubt, but in the giving up.

All I know for sure is that putting that star on top of the tree was the right thing to do. There was nothing almost about it.

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