It’s hard to know where the lines are sometimes.
I want to provide the experiences to my children I had as a child. I want them to feel the sense of wonder, security, happiness, magic, and warmth that I am so privileged to have received. At the same time, I want to break away from the traditions that don’t speak to my heart. I want to leave behind the Christian monopoly on holidays. I want to reconnect with the deep celtic roots and norse roots and pagan roots that live in the veins of both my husband and myself.
But I don’t want my kid to wonder why they don’t have any valentine’s day cards to give their friends.
I don’t want to ostracize them. I don’t want them to have to champion my ideals and my beliefs at the cafeteria table. That’s not their responsibility and it’s not the reason for it all.
The reason? I can’t pass on the things I don’t believe in. I can’t do it. Not anymore. Not in a world begging us, demanding us, to step up and be true and make change and move on – move on to whatever is on the other side of this moment. A lesson I’m actively engaged in at this very moment. More on that, later.
I don’t shun or judge or look down on the people I know and love that practice organized religion. An ideal world is one in which spirituality is fluid, radical acceptance. Beneficial practice and action, a daily lesson in kindness. If Christianity is what moves you to be good, that’s good. But I don’t share that belief and I don’t practice those traditions. My relationship to Christianity is one where questions were left unanswered and promises were often broken. The ideals of Christian living rarely seem present in those that preach it the loudest – in their most ordinary moments. I don’t feel what you’re supposed to feel sitting in a pew.
I feel it floating in the water of Lake Okoboji.
I feel it standing on an empty stage.
I feel it when I unlock an ancient family secret.
I feel it when I see my children laugh.
When my husband looks at me and sees who I always hope I am.
I don’t know where this journey with tradition and spiritual practice leads me. What I know right now?
I don’t want my children to think love only comes in a decorated carton or box of chocolates.
I don’t want them to think they owe their lives to dead icons.
I don’t want them to think family means getting things and love means objects.
I do want them to wonder how cookies were eaten in the middle of the night. I do want them to feel wonder and believe in something other. I do want them to listen to warm winter songs and run around spring yards and die eggs and carve pumpkins.
For me? None of that requires Christianity.
In fact, the things I mentioned, and the things I tend to love about holidays, were taken by the Christian hegemony from older traditions or religions, and incorporated into their calendar.
And that’s fine. Because I’m basically doing the same thing.
It means I can take with me what I love and leave behind me what I don’t.
I can make a shoebox for cards with my kid without dooming her to a life of false promises of princes and kings.
With my words. With my actions.
So can you.
So can anybody.
So celebrate what you want. Thank the rest for its service and leave it on the curb.
Vali’s Blot is named for Vali, Odin’s youngest son, who was born, grew to adulthood in a day, and avenged the murder of his brother, Baldr. Vali actually survived Ragnarok (unlike Odin and Thor) and became the poster of new hope for the Norse culture.
So. Not exactly cupid and candy.
But I think about the love I have for my brother. And the love I have for those I’ve joined on this journey with. My friends. Whom I would do quite literally anything for. I think about the protection that love fosters in me. The driving force it creates in my gut to better myself, learn from my mistakes, and be a better global citizen.
And if that ain’t love, honey, I don’t know what is.
As spring creeps its head around the corner, the ground begins to loosen, the birds begin to return, winter dies. This winter seems to have lasted a year. But I feel apprehensive, yet renewed hope for a day, just on the other side of now, where I’m hugging my brother or strolling my daughter through the zoo. A day when I can go on a date with my husband or laugh in a movie theatre with my son.
These concepts are especially important to maintain hold of when you’re sitting across the table from your husband, wishing you could explode.
I could make up an idea of what happened for our first Vali’s Blot. I could say, like the other feasts we’ve experienced this year, that it went well and I felt warm and happy family feelings. But, I promised to be true. To tell the truth. And the truth is Brendan and I got in a stupid argument right before dinner was ready. And I burned the coating on the chicken. We spent the dinner is awkward silence, our son probably also wishing he could get up and eat anywhere else. Our daughter blissfully unaware.
We didn’t say the blessing I intended to say. We didn’t light candles. I didn’t finish my food. Brendan finished his food in a flash. I cried a minute alone in my bedroom and then cleaned up.
- Honey Mustard Pretzel Crusted Chicken (This one’s not perfected yet – stick with me, I’ll figure it out)
- Cranberry Sauce
- Green Beans
- Coffee Ice Cream with Shell Chocolate Coating
After Brendan put Devona to sleep, he held my hand. We told Brau the story of how we fell in love for the hundredth time. We discussed Ragnarok and Thor: Ragnarok and if Vali had been in Thor: Ragnarok who would have played him.
We watched Supernatural.
Later tonight we’ll tuck our tales and crawl into bed and have a really good conversation and cuddle. We’ll apologize. We’ll meet in the middle. We’ll remember that love might not always be candy hearts. In fact, it shouldn’t be. We’ll remember that love is protection even in the hardest moments. It’s acceptance, even of the broken bits. It’s trying. And failing. And trying again.
I think we’re doing alright.