Saturday, November 24, 2012

Finding Christmas

It's 11:58 p.m. on Black Friday. I just found out about the farty noise that squeezy cheese makes when it has run out and you are still desperately craving more squeezy cheese. I completely understand that sound. That is how I feel right now, at 11:59 p.m. on Black Friday with the wheat thins, the can of squeezy cheese that petered out, watching Fishhooks on Disney XD because I have forgotten to change the channel.
  I have no Christmas spirit. I haven't had it for years, to be quite honest. I've been faking it. And I bet a lot of other people have been faking it for a long time, too.
   It's gone. Completely gone. I realized it today when the one thing that is usually my saving grace, putting up the tree, didn't even stir my interest. I mean at the very LEAST it's putting sparkly, glittery, shiny things up for everyone to see... it's gravy... it's a no-brainer... it's not abnormal for me to be salivating by now. Nothing. Nada. Numb.
   I said it today, too. I told my mom that I had lost my Christmas spirit. "Well," she replied, "you better find it because this might be the last time you get to have Christmas if the Mayans were right."
  So I went shopping. Everything was the wrong color, too expensive, just like one I already had...
  I left the mall empty-handed. I left Marshall's empty-handed. I left Ulta empty-handed.
  It was when I got in the car and turned the key that the tears came. Now at this point, I know what you are thinking... that I am equating the Christmas spirit with shopping and getting and giving gifts. And you're right. The sad thing is, so are you, so are we all... and I think that it has finally sunk in.
  I know what REAL celebration is. I know what REAL joy feels like. And so do you... I have had that... and so have you... I remember the laughter that started on Christmas eve and served as the soundtrack to the background of our Christmas holiday when I was a kid. I remember that chest-bursting joy that was the catalyst for celebration on the first birthday of my miracle boy... how it had felt like I held my breath for a year and I was finally, finally allowed to believe that he was real and he was mine and he was going to stay. I remember sitting in the waiting room of the surgeon's office and literally jumping up and down and screaming and crying when they told us that they had gotten all of my brother's cancer and he was clean. I remember 3:17 p.m. on the first day that I taught high school, that overwhelming feeling of belonging and relief, of the good kind of fear and the deep exhale that comes with finally finding your spot in the world.
  I sat in the parking lot of the mall and just bawled. People walked by and looked at me and gave me that impatient frown or the furrowed brow. They kept walking. I was glad. I didn't want to tell a stranger that I was okay, I didn't want to lie anymore.
  Then I heard it, as audible as if someone was sitting right beside me. It wasn't the still small voice. It was the voice of a frustrated, annoyed parent. It was the voice of impatience tinged with mercy. It was the "why don't you get it yet?" voice. It said this: "It didn't get lost; you let it go. You did this." I actually jumped at the audibility and at the brutality of the truth.
   Materialistic as any person with my income can be; a liar; a hypocrite and a hell of an actress. I had never been more ashamed and shame hates company; I had never felt more alone.  The entire year, up until that point, had been nothing but loss in strange and obsequious ways. I had let it go. Not on purpose, but in the ways that people slowly become unaware of the obvious, I had not only let it go, I had sent it running. The panicked last minute shopping trips on Christmas eve because that's when payday fell and I felt obligated. The dread and fear as people opened the presents I had gotten them. A gift is not a requirement. A gift is not an obligation. And a gift is not something that YOU want, but something that someone wants you to HAVE. As a child Christmas wish lists are fun; as an adult they are selfish and sad. I haven't taught my child that yet... I need to because I can see the signs that he may be becoming as selfish as I am.
  I had also neglected to keep in touch with the people who knew me before this thing happened and it occurs to me that those touchstones might have been the saving grace that I needed. But yet, there they lay, the piles of Christmas cards that lay half-filled out because I felt obligated to send cards. Literally hundreds of people in the continental United States are STILL waiting on Christmas cards from me... it was a sobering thought... and it reminded me of what a failure I was when it came to Christmas... Because I had not lost the Christmas spirit, I had banished the Christmas spirit. And it wasn't going to come back. I was going to have to find it.
  And as I thought about how to find it, I realized that it was going to be like looking for anything else that I had lost: it was going to be work. And it wasn't going to be simple because as I drove home, past homes decorated with lights and nativity scenes it occurred to me that to get back to that love, to get back to that joy it was going to take two things that I am personally not very good at: it was going to take sacrifice and service.
   So here is what I'm going to do: I'm going on a quest to find Christmas for myself. But there are rules, because I'm going to follow the best example I can think of: I'm going to follow the example of sacrifice and service of my higher power: God. Here they are:
  • I can't just write a check or give money. 
  • I can't perform the service in a place where I am "usually" found like home or the work place. It has to be effort to GO somewhere and DO something.
  • It has to be a service and a sacrifice on MY part. But it can't affect anyone else's happiness or well-being. 
  • I have to share what I have done each day to keep myself accountable. You are invited to come along on this journey with me by checking in or posting suggestions.  Or maybe even trying it out with me. But there is no obligation.
So starting now and everyday until Christmas, I am going on a great quest to retrieve the Christmas spirit that I have shooed away. I know that it is out there. I know that it can't be found on a store shelf. I know that it is buried somewhere deep under layers and layers of false happiness. And I know that it's going to hurt to find it again, but I need it back, and I'm going after it.

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