In The Bleak Midwinter

These are the shortest days of the year, and the longest nights. Here in bitterly crisp Ottawa, it’s pretty noticeable.

Darkness has expressed itself in my life a bit too much of late – I’ve had some tough, tough days recently. A lot of that’s been due to factors outside of my control – a husband with a busted leg, a sleepless son, ever-increasing chores, errands and plain old work  – resulting in no end in sight of stress.

Hardest of all has been feeling these factors and stressors all chipping away at me, feeling them prying off my hard-won armour and tunnelling through to my molten core. And not being able to do a damn thing to stop it.

I know what I need to do to maintain my mental health. And I guard these things fiercely. Fiercely. But I just simply cannot maintain my family’s health right now without giving up mine.

So, I’ve had ample opportunity of late to see the inner me – the self, if it is a self, that’s left when patience and energy and positivity are all long gone. Deeply, darkly, gone.

I haven’t enjoyed the sight.

I haven’t been able to be the mother I want to be – that I work so hard to be. It’s been months. Months of too much studying, too little sleep, and way too many demands on my time, my attention, my patience and my body. And absolutely no investment in me. Not only am I not eating right – I’m often not eating at all. Same with sleep. And art, or reading or music or writing or yoga or exercising or peace and quiet or time with friends or ANYTHING to myself at all, isn’t even a distant memory.

Most days, I barely even have words.

But it’s Christmastime, bittersweet or not. And Christina Rossetti, one of my very favourite poets, reminds me that when there is nothing left to give, there is always my heart. And even when that’s all I have – that’s all I ever have to give.

In The Bleak Midwinter

“In the bleak midwinter
Frosty wind made moan,
Earth stood hard as iron,
Water like a stone;
Snow had fallen, snow on snow,
Snow on snow,
In the bleak midwinter,
Long ago.

Our God, heaven cannot hold him,
Nor earth sustain;
Heaven and earth shall flee away
When he comes to reign;
In the bleak midwinter
A stable place sufficed
The Lord God incarnate,
Jesus Christ.

Enough for him, whom Cherubim
Worship night and day
A breast full of milk
And a manger full of hay.
Enough for him, whom angels
Fall down before,
The ox and ass and camel
which adore.

Angels and archangels
May have gathered there,
Cherubim and seraphim
Thronged the air;
But his mother only,
In her maiden bliss,
Worshipped the Beloved
With a kiss.

What can I give him,
Poor as I am?
If I were a shepherd
I would bring a lamb,
If I were a wise man
I would do my part,
Yet what I can I give Him —
Give my heart.”

— Christina Rossetti (1872)

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1 comment so far

  1. Moosilaneous on

    Wow.
    Thanks for this, and all you do, raising a marvellous kid and caring for a pretty cool dude, and then, well, there’s you! Wonder of wonders! Keep on taking care of you, too.
    The world appreciates that work.

    My mantra right now: you can’t wrap love.

    But I hope you can type it!


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