Opposite action


My camera sits gathering dust on the dresser, a talent set aside in a busy season of new work. Meanwhile, the world gathers snowflakes and dresses herself in snowy down for the long winter. This beauty called to me, but I turned a deaf ear in favor of more sleep.


The manual of skills I took home with me from the psych unit gathers dust, too. A treasure trove of ideas for fighting depression set aside as depression mounts in the dark cold night. I skipped the entire section on emotions, because I don't have emotions. When something hits close to the wounded heart, I simply feel a pervading ickiness that defies description with words like "anger", "sadness" or "hopelessness". I scrounge for a mindless distraction until that burning in my chest recedes and I can put my happy face back on again.


All of this detracts from holiday spirit, and for the first time, I don't want a Christmas tree. I loathe shopping for Christmas presents, a task that seems insurmountable, out of reach of our budget. I am overwhelmed with the mere thought of baking.

I drag my cold and dormant body out to the tree farm with reluctance. The beauty there washes over my cold soul like waves of wonder, and there is a spark of Christmas cheer lit somewhere deep inside. We shake off the perfect tree and bring it home to decorate.


The kids are sick with the requisite early winter head cold, crabby and uncouth, snotty and snide. Aaron home on an unexpected vacation and I newly emancipated from my job, we try to parent pleasant, but the words are often angry and the temper fuses short.


All this is undone by the wonder in one tiny snowflake, caught on the drift and showing it's fingerling crystals in the snappish December air.



Undone by the beauty of a loved ones smile, the cuddles on the hay wagon, the peacefulness of the warm shed and hot cider on a quiet Monday at the tree farm.


And as the snowflakes fall in a beautiful cascade, covering caps and eyelashes of these beautiful souls we are blessed to parent, we are reminded though our sins be as scarlet, He will wash them white as snow.


It is a slow repentance, turning of the mind under the blinking lights of the Christmas tree heavy with ornaments. He brings me back to Deuteronomy 30 in my therapist's words on a bleak Thursday evening. Opposite action: identifying my emotion, naming that consuming ick that is slippery and hard to label, and choosing something I don't want to do - something I fear will make it all worse - throwing myself into it body, mind and soul until I realize that I am stronger than I think, better mother than I imagine, perhaps even a wife worthy of husband's pursuit.

For this commandment that I command you today is not too hard for you, neither is it far off. It is not in heaven, that you should say, "Who will ascend to heaven for us and bring it to us, that we may hear it and do it?" Neither is it beyond the sea, that you should say, "Who will go over the sea for us and bring it to us, that we may hear it and do it?" But the Word is very near you. It is in your mouth and in your heart, so that you can do it. I call heaven and earth to witness against you today, that I have set before you life and death, blessing and curse. Therefore choose life, that you and your offspring may live, loving the Lord your God, obeying His voice and holding fast to Him, for He is your life and length of days... (Deuteronomy 30:11-14, 19-20a)
Today, I want to hibernate under my down comforter, under the streaming sin, watching the nightmares and pleasant dreams play across the projector behind my eyelids. Instead, a Christmas craft - with paint! - throwing myself wholeheartedly into this mothering I so often neglect and children I often disappoint. Today I choose to be the mother I wish I was all the time. Today I choose the opposite action, so that fear and shame may dwindle and Christmas be merry and bright once again.