Thursday, December 25, 2008


Tonight, we watched It's a Wonderful Life, from beginning to end. I haven't watched it that way for a long time. You see all the awkward editing cuts, you spot the few ludicrous moments (she swoons!), you really notice details like "Ernie and Bert," and where the end-credit logo for thirtysomething came from.

And yet that Capra optimism, that sweet message, can't be dimmed by its sincerity and lack of ironic distance. It is a wonderful life, just having it; having the cold winter rain outside and the warm blankets inside; having the family members who make you want to pull your hair out, because they are family members whom you love dearly and want the best for; having trivial frustrations that feel large, like a bump on your tongue, and then walking with your dog by the marina at sunset and watching pink-gold light flood the masts.

During chemo, I would gaze at my own hand sometimes, waving my fingers and thinking about the complex miracle of chemistry and consciousness that made the bones move and the tendons stretch. Of course, I was thinking about how that stops, someday. And that's part of what makes life wonderful, too: that it hasn't stopped yet.

I'm not a religious person, though I was raised celebrating Christmas, and each year the holiday does become a bit removed, for me, from its religious intentions. But this year, when our whole country has decided to unmoor it from commerce, when my household is giving gifts of water buffaloes and debt reduction, when we're quiet and contemplative and watching It's a Wonderful Life on Christmas Eve, the meaning creeps back in.

So let me wish everyone out there--those who know me, those who don't, those who are dealing with active cancer right now, those who are fervently hoping or praying it doesn't come back, those who have lost loved ones, those who are holding on to them--a deeply enriching and peaceful Christmas. I hope you have a day in which you can be fully alive, and rejoice in it.

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