This has been a somewhat reflective holiday for me thus far.
After going to see the movie “Yes Man” (and, yes, a Jim Carrey flick can have some meditatively redeeming value) I started to look at how I treat my own life. Just the day before I went to see it, I got a call from some friends of mine asking to hang out and I claimed I was sick and couldn’t go. However, they were extremely persistent and also had a car, so I went with them. Turns out I had an excellent time. The beginning of “Yes Man” shows Jim Carrey’s character Carl making excuses to not hang out with his friends, and shows how he dictates his life by not taking advantage of any of the opportunities at his disposal. Of course, he becomes a “Yes Man” and starts to do many ridiculous things (like sing “Jumper” by Third Eye Blind), but realizes that it’s about striking a balance: not saying yes to everything, but to open himself up to opportunities and ideas. It made me really question how I’ve been living my life.
Then, I decided to write a “16 facts” note on Facebook. The concept is simple: once someone has tagged you in one of their notes, you write 16 “random things, shortcomings, facts, habits or goals” that people don’t know about you. So, among the 16, I wrote a few that I’ve been kicking around the past few days, and they are:
1) I’m a very passionate person, even to the point that sometimes I get worked up about things that don’t really matter and really worked up about the things that do.
2) I think way too much about life in general: what has happened, what is happening, what might or could or would happen
3) Sometimes I wish I’d step out of my own comfort zone
4) I’m way too insecure for my own good
I have no want to change #1, but it does concern me sometimes because there’s really no use in getting worked up about things that don’t matter. I would like to change #2, but I’m a thinker, always have been. I think 3 & 4 go together and I wrote them because of how I’ve thought about the ways that I limit myself sometimes. I’m a very careful person, and I think that has its benefits, but I also think that it’s caused me to miss out on some chances that I might never get again.
Which leads me to Christmas and the events preceding it.
I went to confession on the morning of Christmas Eve and one thing I mentioned was that I felt sometimes I didn’t feel anything when I went to church, and I was told that the fact I was going to church was a good sign, and that I should try to find some meaning and reflection when I go to Mass. After the fact, I thought of a friend of mine who had written her own “16 things” and mentioned that she felt she had weak faith, which leads me to…
Mass Christmas Eve and at Midnight. They were both at the same church, and the homily was given by the same pastor. They were remarkably similar and yet totally different at the same time. However, I took some important thoughts from it overall. First of all, he mentioned how, as Catholics, we had been trained to be “spectators”, and he actually called out the old Latin rite, saying that that’s how a lot of people grew up worshipping: not knowing what was going on because it was in Latin and just watching the priest do it. This goes along with his second point that we’ve been taught to live inside our heads. That said, he points to how a lot of people (myself included) pray: you say it in your head, and it’s memorized so it just spits out like rapid fire. He kind of ripped the memorization part, as he indicated that it took a lot of meaning out of the prayer. A good example he gave was about when he used to teach in a Catholic high school; when he couldn’t get them to shut up he would start reciting the Our Father loudly and they’d all join in. What I thought was more interesting was his discussion about those people who weren’t “taught to pray”, because their prayers are still prayers, but they’re from their guts. He said “if you’re on the street, no food, no house, you’re gonna pray; if you’re getting shot at, you’re gonna pray”, whether or not you have the Our Father, or the Hail Mary or the Apostles’ Creed memorized. I guess what resonated with me was that, a lot of the time, we pray when we’re in need, but we don’t pray when we don’t need, even though he mentioned nothing about this, it seemed to pop up; all I know is that I don’t want to just pray when I need anymore. This all led him to his main point: Christmas is supposed to happen every day of our lives. That’s not to say that every day we’re supposed to listen to Trans-Siberian Orchestra or watch It’s a Wonderful Life (or White Christmas or A Christmas Story or Home Alone, etc.) but that we’re supposed to be able to say yes to those opportunities that present themselves that might scare us or that we don’t understand, much like Mary and Joseph did at the thought of the birth of Jesus, because, as much as they didn’t understand and were afraid, they still said yes. One really poignant thing I thought he said was that they weren’t looking for reasons to not participate, which rang true to me, because, as you see, this is all connected. Life is funny that way.
So, I’m gonna try to say yes when I need to, and when I don’t understand or when I’m afraid, I’ll be there to say yes….especially now that I’m done with Music History.
Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays and a healthy and happy New Year.