Well it is that time of year again. The shopping is insane with people going further into debt, people everywhere are traveling to spend time with family and friends; arms laden with wrapped gifts, a pot luck dish, and hope that the new year will bring us everything our little hearts desire.
It is all a wonderful thought. I guess during this time of year, the older I get; the more cynical I become. Maybe a little of that just comes from age, but some is simply experience. With all the “happiness” of the season – people sure seem to be more miserable than ever.
The “war on Christmas” rants, the skeptics reminding everyone that Jesus wasn’t born on Dec. 25th, the multitudes of people spending thousands of dollars to visit family that hate them simply because “it’s the holidays” and for some reason the “holidays” means we have to torture ourselves. With all the various traditions around this holiday season; regardless of how you celebrate it has become more of an expectation rather than a celebration of the year past and the new year to come. Everyone has to fight now. It’s Solstice! We need a Yule Log! Christmas Trees! Jesus in a manger! Santa climbing down the chimney! The Elf on the Shelf insanity…
Maybe we need reasons to think about family and the holidays are an easy way to reconnect with those we ignore 364 days a year. Of course, more often than not when we “reconnect” we simply realize why we spend those 364 days with our ignore button on. Of course this doesn’t start at Christmas, it starts at Thanksgiving and ends when we can drink ourselves into oblivion on New Year’s Eve; hoping for a better year.
The things is, we don’t get a better year unless we do things differently then we did the year before. It does no good to live your life all year, then suppress it all for a few days/weeks to spend time with family who may or may not support your life during the rest of the year just because it’s expected.
Personal story time: The only “family” by blood I have left is my brother and his family (wife + 4 kids). I don’t have nice things to say about my brother, or his wife. I don’t have fond memories of either of them, and we honestly don’t really know or like each other. We simply have different values. My brothers wife seems to focus all her attention on what I can buy for her children – which is pretty much nothing; but when I make the effort it isn’t good enough. When they had their last child, I was in Afghanistan and only found out about it through my brothers Aunt. I sent a gift basket. The “Thank you” I received let me know that the stuffed animal included in the gift basket was not age appropriate. It was a fucking teddy bear. Instead of “Thank you for thinking of us and our happiness while you are in a combat zone” I heard how a teddy bear wasn’t the best gift to give. Fuck them. I also sent my niece a $50 gift card when she graduated from High School – the only reason I knew she was graduating was because I had a friend with a daughter who was in the same class. I made the effort, and I haven’t heard a word about it. Seems like my niece took on the ungrateful attitude of her mother.
My last Christmas with my Brother and his family was right before I left for active duty service. Oddly enough – it was during the holidays. I left CA for Fort Drum, NY the week after Christmas. I spent my last few dollars on Christmas presents for my nieces and nephew and my Brother and his wife. When I got there with gifts, they left the house – ran to the Exxon station down to road and bought me a bunch of crap from a gas station. I don’t care what they got me – it was the simple fact that they didn’t even think of me until I arrived with gifts and they had nothing for me. If that container of maps, Slim Jim’s, and a $50 gift card were under the tree when I showed up – I would have been ecstatic. However, they did what they did out of guilt not love.
So how much of our “holiday spirit” is actually from love? I mean, isn’t that really what this season is about no matter how you celebrate it? Isn’t the “family” part supposed to be about family and not what you can purchase for one another?
I don’t have family. I have people I am related to. Well, I do have family – but it sure as hell isn’t the family that I was born into. When my Mom and Grandmother passed, that was the end of family as I had known it. Anyway – back to Christmas.
My family now consists of Stephanie, Paul, Bibi & Xena (the dogs). We have a love for each other that is real. I don’t miss having family to spend time with because I DO have family. I have these amazing people and animals that don’t ever have to purchase a gift to let me know they love me. They do that everyday. Today – Christmas Eve; is just another day. We didn’t get a tree this year, nor did we buy gifts for one another. Tomorrow, I am going to attempt a Prime Rib dinner that we will all enjoy together. I imagine that tomorrow will be one of my best Christmas’ ever. No gifts. No expectations. Just family. Just love. Just the simple pleasure of enjoying the company of the people you are with.
If you can’t enjoy your holidays, or find yourself sad – my simple advice is to find something that has meaning for you during the holidays. If your family doesn’t support that – find a family who does. Blood doesn’t make us family – our actions do.
I can’t even express how thankful I am for my chosen family. The family that loves and supports me 365 days a year. The family that shares in my joys and sorrows. The family that doesn’t care that I can’t afford a gift this year. The family that enjoys my cooking. The family that I spend everyday with because I really really love them and they love me.
This just may be the best Christmas ever.