I swim at 6 a.m. on Monday and Wednesday every week and have been for the last year and a half. I’ve rarely missed a swim day. Even when injured I still show up and do what I can. Water has healing power. Some days I’ve been physically hurt and the hot jets have comforted my aching muscles. Some days I am frustrated and use the emotion to smash my 800m time. I love being in the water, but I’ve never loved swimming laps. I find it boring. I don’t meditate well. I fight with my thoughts as I blindly navigate the lane through my foggy goggles. To combat this, I’ve started using the time to solve work problems, compose poetry, write play scripts… I’ll solve almost anything to pass the time.
Wednesday morning I couldn’t come up with a good swimming brain project, so I jokingly told my swimming buddy I was going to solve world peace. I didn’t realize that meant I was actually about to attempt to solve personal peace. After the first eight laps, the best I could come up with was “let’s all just be nice to each other.” Seems simple enough until you realize you can’t control other people. So that meant Peace on Earth starts with the peace I bring to it. I kept swimming.
I’m not peaceful at Christmastime. Yet, peace is a word used over and over in a whole bunch of Christmas songs and stories. I pondered this as I hit lap ten. In the Christmas story it says a heavenly host appeared to a group of shepherds as they were watching their flocks by night and said to them:
“Glory to God in the highest, and on earth PEACE among those with whom he is pleased!”
Hmmmm. If I don’t have peace, am I not pleasing to God? Made me think. Hmmm. So, I can bring some peace to the Earth and to others, but I can’t have it myself. Hmmmm. I didn’t like where this was going. I was pretty sure there was some twisted logic here and my graduate school rhetoric teacher would have scolded me by now for such a conclusion.
Splash. Turn. Lap twelve.
Peace, MY peace, or lack thereof, is almost always attached to my judgment of myself—not meeting the impossible expectations I’ve set. And Christmas brings out the worst in me. It reminds me of my failure and of the injustices I have or am experiencing and sets me up for failing again or, at the very least, having little trust in any goodness to be found in the world. I can’t succeed at Christmas….not the way the songs want me to anyway. Splash. Turn.
But maybe MY peace has nothing to do with God being pleased with me and a bunch of shepherds. He has already forgiven my imperfect self. That is the point of Christmas, after all, isn’t it? I conclude again that I’m the one with the problem. I’m the one who isn’t pleased. I’m the one who can’t forgive myself or cut myself a break. Splash. Turn. Lap fifteen.
I’m pretty sure peace for the entire Earth is impossible to solve. But maybe, just maybe, Peace on Earth for me is possible, some days, even during, or maybe especially during, Christmas.
So now I’ve got something else to try not to fail at—personal peace. I wonder what that looks like? I think it may look like trust…or faith…or simply letting go.
Splash. Done. Guess I’ll need to wait until Monday to finish solving this one.