There is an empty chair at your Christmas table. Maybe you lost someone 40 years ago. Maybe you lost someone earlier this week. Our Christmas celebrations recognize abundance — the gathering of friends and family into our homes, the tables laden with roast and casseroles and treats. Our Christmas trees are rooted deep in piles of gifts given and gifts received.
But Christmas is also about what’s missing. The people we loved, we lost and we need back in our lives. When we slow down to recognize the empty chairs, it isn’t only their absence we feel. There is greater abundance. We laugh. We tell stories. We remember. Their lives fill our lives.
We hug our children. We kiss our wives. We celebrate the long unbroken line that is our family meal. The table stretches farther before us and farther beyond us than we can possibly see. And yet, we each have our plate, our place at this table. For this moment, maybe the next, until one day we too have passed and the empty chair is ours and it is our time to hope our lives have helped make the meal richer for all.
Just two more days until I’m on holiday. I get two weeks off for Christmas. This is my favorite time of the year. I’ll get to spend time with my family. I will eat too much. I will ruin my sleep schedule and completely lose track of time. I will read books in the middle of the morning, when my mind is fresh and eager for new thoughts and ideas.
I read best in the mid-to-late morning, but I don’t often get to read then. My reading time is usually pushed to the far edges of the day, when my mind is numb with sleep. When I read at the wrong times, I read slowly, gradually pressing my way through the pages one centimeter at a time. When I read this way, I get lost and confused. I lose the narrative thread and often find myself sidetracked. I don’t remember things as well and have to reread or just start anew in the middle of things.
When I read in the morning, my day has a kind of warmth. The words find me and follow me through the day. The story percolates in my head and I find it is my companion. The things I read are alive and vital and essential. Reading becomes an active thing. Reading becomes creative. When I read in the morning, I am making something, and the creative act sustains me.
I’m pretty tired right now and looking forward to some downtime. My head is a bit of a mess. Mentally exhausted. Funny, perhaps, that reading is the battery I crave when my mental reserves run so low. I’ve got the stack ready (virtual, for the most part). Just a few more days and I can dig in and destroy my time-sense. I can get a little bit lost. I’m ready to binge myself on books.