The other day I was in a good mood. It's the point of November where a chill nips the air, the sun sets earlier settling on the lights of Toronto's mellow skyline and Christmas music floats from the retail outlets.
I had hiked up to Yonge and Eglinton to visit the David's Tea shop there and while there, I ducked inside Future Shop for new earbuds.
Upon hearing It Came Upon The Midnight Clear on the speakers in the store, I immediately broke down. Crying and hyperventilating, I had to take refuge by finding something to grab hold to.
If you read my Advent Tour post from last year, you know that Christmas music is a major part of my life; it speeds through my veins, is much a part of my fibre.... as is all of hymnody and church and sacred music history.
I have never been able to get through Silent Night with a dry eye ( and have had to leave church before because of the overwhelming emotions it elicits); but It Came Upon The Midnight Clear?
In an attempt to dissect my panic attacks and public and private breakdowns after-the-fact, and to have something to report to my psychiatrist in our ongoing discussions and treatment, I will wait until the episode has passed, collect myself ( often ashamedly: in this case having assured two kind shoppers that I was alright--- just emotional over the Holidays--- you can get away with being vague at Christmas: it is such a cornucopia of conflicting nostalgia) and sit for a moment to connect my mental dots.
Christmas music will always hit me and speak to me as most religious music does--- it is partly because I have an ingrained passion (which I mentioned) and partly because no matter how betrayed or disillusioned I am with the more flawed aspects of the religion I grew up with and practice, it remains a pure intercession which metes out grace, poetry and a sense of history that melds hundreds of years of followers together.... it binds.
But, what I am realizing, and what I attribute to the Disease is its waterfall effect. I have a bit of a freaky memory which remains a blessing and a curse. I remember, in detail, vivid and resonating smells, sounds, conversations and moments like photographic snapshots on constant slideshow in my brain.
As I try hard to piece together the fragments of myself now jumbled, muted, spread out like shattered shards of pictures unmoving and forcedly symbolic, I am overwhelmed by memory.
Music has always linked my brain to the past and to specific moments. I have experienced 30 Christmases (well, lets say 25 or 26 lucidly) and with the strains of a familiar song, all of the memories, at once, good and bad: those which formed my psyche, those which perturbed or suggested unending loss all crowded with the chords of a song and the pressure, the weight on my shoulders was intrusive.
It's more than a moment where you softly recall the low-tinted and framed moments of happy memories of a childhood past. In the moment in Future Shop, holding on to a rack of video games, hundreds of pictures crammed my brain while the part of myself who cannot fathom what Christmas will look like now that I have been changed (am changing) and the part of myself that cannot reconcile public events--- even to the point of having panic just thinking of standing in the doorjamb of a church at my favourite time of year: where snow falls softly and the organic chords of my favourite carols waft from within, it left me bereft and broken.
While I slowly become more lucid, while the days of effort seem to, in ways, pay off in leaps and bounds and honesty drips from my tongue and my keyboard, I begin to recognize the price paid, the veneer that left me in ignorant bliss, the band-aid ripped off which forces me, productively yet cruelly, to confront that that always bathed in glorious light has somehow become exposed.... that holidays once jolly and merry and full of warmth are now being seen with a sense of perturbedly quaked and shaken awe---- What will Christmas look like? What can it look like? If it is mid-november and I am avoiding retail outlets after my Future Shop outburst, how will I make it through the next month and a half?
Must the entire world be privy to what I am privately experiencing? No wonder so many sufferers of panic disorder become, as I recoil to admit I suffer from, agoraphobia.
But, I keep forcing myself out, stripping everything bare and trying to turn the scrutiny of the world off...
Because I never could get through Silent Night without crying---- I can bank on my emotions to overflow attuned to melodies that string me in a consciously spiritual, nostalgic, insensitively invasive way....
Sometimes people will see it and wonder..... but I'll breathe deeply, stutter, shake my hand at lightning speed and keep walking.... because Christmas has always been my favourite thing and Christmas music my favourite sector of the Holiday.
So I will be bloody damned if it will tackle and break me in the end.
There will be moments. I will be vulnerable and exposed---- but I will keep walking through it and I will keep assuming that the Peace on Earth, Good Will to Men vibes that sprinkle my city's streets and force wide-eyed gazers to stop outside the candy-coloured toy trains in the Bay windows at Queen will reconcile my somewhat odd public spectacles with a click of a tongue and perhaps a remembrance of a loss that they experienced.... something that snaps at them during the holidays....
Except mine is not a loss, per se, it is a re-opening, a re-programming, a reformation....
My religion underwent it several times ( In fact, the King James Version of the Bible just celebrated its 400th Anniversary, as a semi-related factoid) and so shall I....
If you want something ethereal, listen to the Mormon Tabernacle Choir sing one of the most hallowed and harrowing pieces of music ever composed.... this take very much captures the rare simplicity of one of the most everlasting Christmas Carols