As I blink in twinkling holiday lights,
Have I made friends with Guilt?
Have I welcomed her as the old friend she is?
Have I invited her to make herself cozy, have I poured her a cup of tea while she and I together notice how disappointing I am to others? Have we observed, with stark clarity, that I have not been, will never be, doing enough for my children, my parents, my in-laws, my spouse, my job, my friends, my self?
Have I thanked Guilt for her near-constant companionship?
As I stand in the kitchen, cookies in the oven, pots on the stove,
Have I been crying enough?
Have I let my tears salt the gingerbread? Spill into the pasta water until it’s as bracing and biting as the ocean, like my friend Maddy says pasta water should always be?
As I sip a drink here at a friend’s party,
Have I embraced my loneliness with the same gusto as I hug my friends?
Or is my loneliness lonely, another victim of unearned neglect? How can I make my loneliness feel loved?
As I wrap these presents, have I enfolded into the packages the sorrows of the year? The souls I miss so dearly? The disappointments I’ve caused, or been steamrolled under? The injustices I’ve borne witness to? The keenings of my heart?
As I tear sticky-tape off the roll, am I noticing all the ways my intentions are stuck on my fingers — entangled, gluey, as dangerous as the web of the garden spider outside my window — do I feel the viscosity of all my intentions stuck to my fingers, building up, obscuring fingerprints and whorls, never manifested on the page, or in the world?
As I set the table for fewer people than I’d hoped, or more than I can bear,
Am I asking myself if I’m getting enough rest? If I’ve seen the moon recently? If I’ve left space for joy?
As I turn off the lights, the only soul awake in the house, possibly the world,
will I remember
that I am a Child of the Universe,
j.j. johnson, author