Well, the calendar has turned to December, and we are firmly stuck in purgatory. We must go here every year as we finish our last plate of leftover turkey, and no amount of blinky, colorful lights, Yankee Swaps, or 24/7 assault on our ears by songs of the season will redeem our souls and grant us release. No, we must simply do our time and endure. As part of my penance it seems that I should be writing the obligatory and cliché holiday blog.
Perhaps I should preface this by confessing, if you haven’t guessed already, that I am not a big fan of the holiday season. Over the years, I have manufactured a host of reasons for my Scroogelike attitude: familial dysfunction, disdain for organized religion, or just the false-face that humanity puts on for the advent season. Whatever my reason of the season, I celebrate January 1st when all the bullshit is over!
You see, I have spent the vast majority of my life looking at the glass as half-empty. I have always harbored a not-so-secret intolerance and disgust for those pollyanna people who see the world otherwise. You know the ones, they become their most annoying in December when they are sprinkling their holiday cheer all over your soggy Cheerios. They have a smile for everyone and an energy about them that is almost painful to be near.
June of 2017, when I lost the love of my life, should have been the proverbial nail in my holiday hating coffin. Last Christmas was my first without Kristin and the pain of her loss was so debilitating that there was no chance that I would be visited by three spirits bent on saving my holiday soul. But this year…
After a year and a half of grieving and healing and pushing away the clouds of pain, I am discovering something wholly unexpected. Kristin’s love for me was transformative. She changed my heart and along with it, the way I am starting to view and experience the world. It is as if her love opened my heart to love for the first time and now I can feel it where once I could only observe in others and think it fake.
But love isn’t fake! It is real and has the power to transform lives. Kristin had to leave me, but her love resides safely in my heart, opening me to experience the world, and yes, the holidays in an entirely new way.
I hated the holidays because my family wasn’t perfect despite our love for one another, I hated the holidays because gifts seemed like an exchange of “stuff” rather than an expression of love, I hated Christmas because it was perpetuated by organizations who promote intolerance in the name of religion. They miss the whole point of the story of Jesus! At every turn, the story of Jesus is one of love, the greatest love if you subscribe to the story. A mother’s love for her child, a man’s love for his fellow man regardless of station or condition. A love of students for their teacher, and his love for them. A love for all of humanity in its oneness and a love beyond self, a love story of sacrifice.
Now, I am not elevating Kristin to that of a messiah, although she was my miracle. But, I am drawing a parallel in this sense. Love is the most powerful force known to humans whether you experience it through your chosen belief system or in the merging of your heart with another. Thanks to my wife, I not only see the glass as half-full, but I also understand that I can just fill it up again should it ever become empty.
Instead of feeling disappointed by the imperfect nature of my family, I have come to celebrate that we are all born into a tribe of souls who signed a sacred contract long ago, in a place we don’t understand, to always love us. While that love may get battered and worn, tested and tattered, it endures. We may not always feel it, or want to feel it, but it’s there, it has to be, that’s the deal.
I have long ago accepted that organized religion is not my pathway to realizing my best and higher self, nor does it help me to achieve a connection to that which is greater than us and to that which binds us together. But, the messages and the teachings of all belief systems are of love, charity, and acceptance which we can all agree are what make the holidays so special. As a species, we humans are the best versions of ourselves at this time of year. The skeptic in me used to see this short-lived expression of peace, love, and goodwill toward humankind as fake. I no longer think that way. I think that the holidays bring out our best. It is a brief period of time when our collective consciousness is in alignment and through the power of our intention we make the world a little bit better.
So, if you are one of those holiday fairies sprinkling your good cheer all over the place, please, sprinkle away! The world needs more of it. But, also please remember that there are alot of people who feel like I used to. They carry Scrooge-like chains that are very real and very heavy. Try not to feel dismissive, angry, or hopeless for them. They are most in need of your love now and throughout the year. Happy Holidays, Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, or anything else you celebrate and hold dear!
Christmas, oddly enough, used to be the one time of year that my family could get its act together. It was the time when I could let me guard down and know that my older sisters and brother would be filling the house and life would seem incredibly normal, even magical. My mom would bake endless cookies with my older sisters, we would shop at the local discount store on route nine halfway between Spofford and Keene. I would wind my way around the countless aisles piled high with overstock items and dust and feel encouraged that my $20 budget would be more than enough to get something for each of my four siblings, their spouses, and children and even my mom and dad. It didn’t have to be fancy or even something new and exciting. No matter what I wrapped, whether it was soap on a rope or a bag of beef jerky, the gift was always opened with a huge smile and nod of gratitude. My earliest memories of giving and the emotions received from doing so have been with me since those days in the seventies.
We had a fake tree for most of my early years. My sister and I always fought over who would hang up the golden teapot, the first ornament purchased by my parents in Connecticut when they were married. It was already ancient by the time we were old enough to be able to hang it. There were years when my older sister talked my mom into using white lights, but there were still those when we had colored and my sister and I would lay on our backs under the bottom branches looking up into the tree just imagining all of the magic of the season and how it would unfold.
Christmas was good. There were rarely spells of silence, hurtful words, flying objects, or holes being punched in the walls. Somehow it was protected in a bubble even as we grew older. Holiday cheer and warm wishes always showed up and nestled us in for at least one magical time in December. We were all one, connected, united, and sharing in the very brightest light. These are my very best childhood memories and I will forever treasure them.
All that magic seemed to create a Christmas Troll in me. I needed homemade cookies, gingerbread houses, lots of gifts wrapped in real satin ribbon, multiple trees carefully chosen and cut down from local tree farms, movies by the fireplace with the logs ablazed and roaring insync with the soundtrack, and music filling every nook and cranny. Somehow in needing to create that perfect holiday magic year after year as the responsibility fell on my shoulders and my one child turned into three and then a blended family of family, I traveled farther and farther away from the the true essence I enjoyed as a child and moved closer to the purgatory Kevin so aptly learned to despise.
Instead of being in the oneness of the season, connecting with friends, family, and loved ones, I allowed myself to be caught up in the fancy of it all leaning more on commercialism and less on the spirit within that wants to be reminded that love is not only the season it is the reason. This year I have been quietly turning down the noise in my life, consciously choosing to focus on what feels good and move in its direction instead of dwelling in shame, fear, or guilt. I’ve chosen to give myself a second chance, a third when I don’t get it quite right. I believe that I am a good person and eventually I will be even better at being a human that chooses kindness over comparison in each and every moment. I will get there. Practice makes perfect. That’s something we’ve all experienced in life. This season that has landed upon our shoulders, crept up on us while we were busy trying to get life done, gives us that bubble to be kinder and gentler not only with others but also ourselves. We are not a divided being, unapproachable, distant, and unaffected by another. We are one and when we are focused on the light in others we are focused on the light in ourselves and somehow that feels so very right to me here in my mid-late forties.
The lights of the trees, the window candles, and the silver balls on the wreath cookies are not where the holiday magic resides, they are just beautiful reminders of what has always been residing in each of us. I’m a good person. You are a good person. We both have room for improvement but who doesn’t. Let’s cut each of us a little slack this holiday season and be a kinder, gentler version of our self.