Claim Your Own Mental Fitness

xmas 2014 jade tree
Fake Fir (12/04)
Always the scent of pine pitch
In the chill night air, crushed out
Of the carpet of needles lavishly strewn
Over the corner tree lot.

Always the hunt for the quintessential
Tree-of-the year, just so tall,
Just so irregular, just so fluffy.
Often in the rain, always in the dark.

Rebellion crept in slowly over the years,
First, with fewer gifts mailed out,
Then no more German Honey Bars,
And last, the ultimate sacrilege.

There it was on sale at McLendon’s:
Frankly artificial and just the right size.
Up a week earlier and not so prickly,
With hardly a needle to sweep.

No trunk to cut or water to spill
Or worry about how dry it was.
Lights and angels, toys and bells
Sparkled serenely unaware.

Now Christmas is more of spirit,
Of ancient carols heard with thoughtful ear,
Of Amahl and the Night Visitors
And homemade frosted butter cookies.

No rush to finish before the tree dies.
Time to write and talk to friends,
To savor the season of celebration
And rejoice in the new birth of Love.

Who knows what contumacy is next?
Wrapping paper thrice recycled?
Ready-made pie crust and frozen hors d’oeuvres?
A cuddly, cream-colored fake fur?

Reflect, revise and renew is a simple, unadorned phrase that can lead to poetry, compassion and humor in your life. It’s a short- cut for FORMULA. I used it again a few years ago when I tossed my fake fir in favor of the 25-year-old Jade Tree pictured above. This season has brought lots of wonderful change for me as I’ve connected with the wise and loving people in the Tillamook United Methodist Church. We assembled gift packages for five families in our area. I got to shop for tiny children’s clothes again and share with others equally delighted to give in this way.

In the past couple decades I haven’t made time for church participation. I was disappointed with what I judged (note that word) to be un-Christian behavior and attitudes in the mainline Protestant churches I visited. Their lack of wisdom about how to work with each other and their communities had led to their decline into shells of what they once had been. I loved the energy of the thriving Fundamentalist churches who interpret the Bible literally, but they promote gender discrimination. At least the mainline churches tend to respect the impact of our human brain for interpreting what God communicates. For me anything that contradicts the Golden Rule is heresy. Nearly all religions promote men’s rights over women’s, and that’s something all mentally fit people should recognize as a human tragedy.

It seems in my absence the mainline churches have begun to reflect, revise and renew. They have our human nature to contend with all along the way, the denial, the defensiveness, the turf struggles that come with brains wired for fight-or-flight. I no longer need to judge them, because being a therapist has taught me how hard it is for people (including me) to manage ourselves. Compassion is the only possible answer, that and the FORMULA that allows our souls to shine through our human brains.

  1. I enjoyed your Christmas blog and re-reading the poem you shared with us at Wesleyan last week. The Christmas jade tree is perfect for your lovely home.

    • Hi Gen! Great to have you check into my blog. I’m glad you enjoyed my poem and tree of continued rebellion.

  2. What a thought-filled approach to thinking about the holiday season. So many of us are invested in annual traditions because they represent and store our personal history, for better or worse. Having the ability to honor history without being controled by it and chart new traditions that are meaningful to your truest self – that would be the best of all .

    • So glad to hear from you! Your phrase “having the ability to honor history without being controlled by it” definitely belongs in our Wise Parent files!

  3. I’m reading this on Christmas day, after the usual christmas melt- down. I very much need & appreciate your words, Dr Rea. Compassion & generosity don’ have to be complicated. But we need to be reminded.

    • Thank-you for your loyal support and I’m so glad you found this message valuable.

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