Christmas Day, Perfect for Reflecting…on Disappointment

Almost 20 years ago I went to the Grand Canyon for my second Christmas there.  Two years before I had spent Christmas in a cabin at Bright Angel Lodge with my fiance.

A fabulous, exceedingly indulgent Christmas for a young couple.  Many gifts, big meals, and a steady, but more or less responsible, supply of drinks all dressed up in fine holiday clothes.

bright-angel-lodge-andAnd as if by special order:  Snow, and plenty of it.

I trimmed our cabin with simple colored lights and put a small tree in the corner windows. Warm light inside, cold smoke-scented air from the fireplace outside.  Even a waxing moon high breaking though the clouds.  An admirable set up, I’d say.   A photographer spent a half hour taking photos.  He promised to send a print or two.  Never did.  Nice guy though.

Later that night we found ourselves at the Bright Angel Lodge singing Christmas songs at the bar — in German — with German and Japanese tourists.  The streak of more or less responsible drinks had passed.  And at the end of the night, head pounding a bit in the altitude, I walked with my fiance back to the cabin, stopping to look down into the canyon.  With the bright moon shining and receding to the west, snow all around on the canyon rim, and the deep dark canyon below, the sensation of floating among the clouds finished the night appropriately.

The cabin was warm and smelled nicely of smoke and pine branches.  We didn’t say much.  No need.  We were happy, unmistakably happy.

I felt pretty damn smug and proud of myself; felt like a young boy, really, excited that we planned to stay a few extra nights.  Time seemed infinite and if the future were going to be anything like that night I was grateful and happy to splurge on happiness.

Two years later, however, I was again at the canyon, but alone, broke and not quite divorced.  I had made reservations over a year ago for another Grand Canyon Christmas  that I hoped would be at least half as good as the first.  Alas, it wasn’t going to happen, and even if I were going to do it alone I was stubbornly going back again.

And you know…it wasn’t a bad Christmas.  I wasn’t the proud clown showing off his reckless confidence — it was a bit more subdued holiday, to be sure — I cannot even say it was a very happy time, but it was a good time, if I can convince you that it makes any sense.

SnowabatingfogliftingBrightAngelTrailGrandCanyon_33_656x438It is an odd thing to be alone for a holiday at a place like the Grand Canyon.  You truly are alone in the crowd.  It turned out to be a good thing to follow through however.  Keeping that vacation might have been one of the best decisions I have made up to then or ever since.

My disappointment in my short marriage didn’t go away after that Christmas, but I think I got going forward again.

And so on Christmases since, I have thought Christmas as a good time of the year to reflect — to reflect honestly — on the previous year’s disappointments.  This is a good thing and doesn’t have to ruin anything.  In fact I think it is a key part of a better tomorrow.

All Christmases as good in some way.  I have felt that happy, reckless optimism again.  That won’t happen if you become cynical.  I owe a lot of happiness to people dear to me who have shared their holiday with me.  Don’t think you have a grumpy misanthrope here.

We all spend so much energy focusing on all that is great and wonderful, to set even greater and more wonderful goals for the future, and smile cheerfully through it all.  But it is only part of it all.  Without some balance, happiness can be a bit of a let down, can’t it?  Certainly we are all blessed and have much for which to be grateful and proud, but until you face what might not have gone so well, it might be difficult to fully appreciate all those great and wonderful things you already have…or once had.  Even those good things that are lost are not without good purpose.

Merry_Christmas_1Or maybe more importantly, to see what is going well now and might grow into something more meaningful and good for the future, it is necessary to face what didn’t work.  In short, Christmas might be the season to remind yourself not to give up.

Isn’t it easier to see a snowflake against a black card than it is to see one on a snow bank?

We hear so much about the blues and depression and all of that muck during the holidays.  People really let themselves get down, probably in part because of the big build up and all the expectations that come with it.  But there’s something happy about confronting disappointment.  (It can even be comic, cannot it not?)

Whether it is love, happiness, family, faith — whatever it is — if it really is valuable, it is good to know the good from the bad.  Otherwise you might give up on real happiness.  Frustration and disappointment are not the same thing.  So why not give yourself the gift of past disappointment to better steer clear of frustration in the future?

Plus how are you going to start fresh tomorrow if you don’t get through yesterday?

Anyway…soon I am off for dinner, gifts, family…the best part of the day…but I will look forward to getting home and beginning tomorrow to do what I do, hopefully just a bit better than what I have already done.  It is a good thing, a Christmas thing.

Merry Christmas!



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