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Monday
Dec172012

Christmas Letters

I have been reading a stack of annual Christmas letters lately. Maybe you have too. I notice that I tend to do what my mother warned against... comparing myself with others.
 
Yet in another way the comparison is a measuring stick. Friend Y chose to mention their summer trip to the lake, the status of kids in college, and the irresistible appeal of grandchildren. Friend Z elaborates about her husband's health, and the acquisition of a new beagle. Friend W reflects on the death of a close friend, and her daughter's engagement.
 
These are what sifted to the top after twelve months of macaroni and cheese, schlepping to work on frosty mornings, and whittling the piles of papers and dirty socks. She or he left out any details about angry outbursts or bounced checks. The polite Christmas letter is mute when it comes to discouragement, even though the Real Christmas story is thick with fear.
 
Perhaps no one would even open Christmas letters if they droned on about dinner fare, or laundry tips. A lengthy diatribe about our struggle with finances does not seem worthy of the stamp that ferries it.
 
Although the particulars differ, the lives of my friends are not vastly unlike my own. We have a daughter in college, and a son who got married, although we do not have a beagle. Perhaps we are still on the right road. 
 
When I take long trips I look for reassurance that I am indeed on track. Even as the silent signs report that yes, this is still Route 80, I calm down. If the terrain is unfamiliar, and I am tired of driving, I am grateful that someone I have never met planted this sign forty years ago to lessen my sense of abandonment on this isolated stretch of faded gray pavement.
 
The appearance of GPSs has hacked a chunk of the uncertainty away. Now a little screen stuck to the windshield does the reassuring. 
 
"Yes, this is still Route 80. Keep going."
 

You are traveling along a road called 2R1. You may be still looking for the on ramp, or you may have turned so many corners you are unsure if this is still the same route. The terrain has changed drastically, as have the skies.

 
But I am here to calm you down. Even though the horizon is unfamiliar, and you are tired of the journey, you are not alone. You are still on Route 2R1. Keep going.