~ notes from an uncommon journey ~

How We Do Christmas

I don't know exactly when it started, this disgust I have for what Christmas has come to mean in our culture. But it's been recurring for a few years now, like that sinus infection some people get every year like clockwork. And it only grows stronger, year after year. It's definitely not the only reason the season can prove difficult for me, but it's up there.

Somehow, Jesus came to Earth as a baby, born to save the world has become We "must" buy each other things (and for many, do a lot of unnecessary stuff). Ugh.

Now, I get that many do not believe in Christ's deity but still choose to celebrate the holiday in ways that are meaningful to them. Of course, that's their right, and on the face of it I have no problem with that. But when one holiday "starts" before one or two others have even occurred in the year, and when people in shopping centers get trampled on Black Friday...it makes me throw up in my mouth a little.

Oh, and honestly, I'm not without any materialism--I can't say I haven't thought, on Christmas Days, "I hope I get a lot of really cool stuff." And, truth be told? There is some stuff I'd really like, though it's often way more expensive than any of my family can afford to spend on a present. ;)

But seriously? There's a lot of stuff I just plain don't need. I don't even use all the stuff I have. I need to get rid of a lot of stuff!

And the things I really want? Well, they tend to be things no one can buy.

For as long as I can remember, we've done wish lists in our family. But, of course, "If you could go back in time and prevent my most-cherished dreams from shattering, that'd be awesome!" is not something I write on mine. "Could you replace my depression/grief/loneliness with nothing-but-happiness, infuse energy, line up a life partner, increase professional satisfaction?" Yeah, I don't write any of that either. I don't even write world peace or an end to war, poverty, and devastation--as much as I would LOVE those! 'Cause  yeah, none of us can just magically give these things to each other.

Yeah, I know, this post is starting to sound like this song:

...but I wouldn't say that's a bad thing.

Fortunately I'm not alone in my family in feeling some of these things, and we've already started talking about scaling back, about including charities in our giving. I hope we make it a regular part of our holiday traditions.

* * *

About a month ago, I discovered an Internet gem called A Christmas Letter From Jesus. Now, usually, contemporary people claiming to speak for God make me roll my eyes. But I have to admit I like this one. Here's an excerpt:
While I am grateful for expressing your concerns, I must admit I have some concerns of my own. Even if you choose to say “Merry Christmas” instead of "Happy Holidays", you weren’t honoring me back on the day after Thanksgiving when you knocked over the person in Wal-Mart trying to muscle your way to the front of the line. I know you didn’t see her; that’s my point. And yes, that was a very nice letter to the editor you wrote when the city removed the creche from the front of town hall. But do you really think you are keeping Me the reason for the season when you spend more money than King Herod ever thought about! Folks, you spend more than 250 billion dollars a year on Christmas!!! During a recession!!!!! You could provide clean water for the world for only 10 billion, and you’d still have 240,000,000,000 left for presents. That’s a lot of 0’s and a lot of presents.

Speaking of Herod, he killed a lot of kids hunting me down. Now I’m not trying to be rude, but you need to hear this. You kill me - me, the Son of Man - every time a child dies from a lack of clean water. When someone dies because they didn’t bother going to the hospital as they didn’t have any health insurance; well that was me who died. When you spend billions on yourself while I lack a crust of bread, how can you think even for a moment, that you are keeping me the reason for the season? Folks, it's about time you learned that I spend my time worrying about more than “holiday” trees and nomenclature.
You can read the entire letter here.

* * *

How can we keep Christmas from getting so out of control every year? Is that even possible anymore? What if anything do you do to keep it in perspective in your life?

Wordless Wednesday 11/14/12

Surviving Presidents

So we now know who will be president for the next four years. Many are delighted; many are dismayed. Me--I'm just delighted it's over.

With as crazy as this campaign got and as our political climate has become (more about that later), it was certainly easy to become distressed by it all. And I succumbed to that my fair share. But you know what? I also reminded myself often: "We will survive whoever wins this." We survived Nixon, Ford, Carter, Reagan*, GHW Bush, Clinton, GW Bush, and the first four years of Obama. (And I'm only going back as far as I've been alive.)

And--we will survive another four years of Obama. Barring the end of the world...we will very likely still be here in four years.

I'm not saying this because I voted a particular way and now need to console myself. (Actually I'll not be sharing how I voted--it's beside the point; plus, I don't think it's anyone's else's business). My concern here is the lack of perspective by many, the depths of despair by some, the outlandish claims by others.

So here's a little perspective for ya: Barack Obama is neither a god nor a demon. Same goes for Mitt Romney. Same goes for every political candidate of all time.

On the despair front: the photo on the right. I mean, seriously?? Besides the fact that those look like a man's hands on a lady's body...it seems a bit much to me. (It appears this was created before the election, but I've seen it posted a few times in my Facebook feed within the last day.)

As for outlandish claims, there's always "I'm moving to Canada if my guy loses." Well, first of all...in 99% of the cases: no, you're not. But...if you're serious, you might want to prepare yourself for the fact that it ain't easy. And by the way, like that article says, Canada has universal healthcare (so it gives health screenings to immigrants and rejects those with conditions it deems too expensive), and gay marriage has been legal there for about 7 years. Oh, and in case you're thinking Australia:

Just an FYI.

What concerns me even more, though, is the way many people are treating those who disagree with them politically. It has gotten way out of hand. In this regard, you gotta listen to this, the most recent episode of This American Life:

I'm thankful for the bright spot in Act One, the politically-opposed authors** who've looked for techniques that those with differing views can use in talking with each other. But on the whole: Ugh.

One of my friends posted this on Facebook today:
Love is wise; hatred is foolish. In this world, which is getting more and more closely interconnected, we have to learn to tolerate each other, we have to learn to put up with the fact that some people say things that we don't like. We can only live together in that way. But if we are to live together, and not die together, we must learn a kind of charity and a kind of tolerance, which is absolutely vital to the continuation of human life on this planet. -Bertrand Russell
And I can only say: Amen and yes, please.

How do you think we can better tolerate differing views--and those who hold them!, to improve our country's political climate and our relationships? If you have ideas for this, please share them in the comments.

*Reagan only made the list for completeness; I happen to think he was one of our better presidents.
**I've not read this book, so I'm not recommending it here, just pointing to it.

Wordless Wednesday 11/7/12

I Will Hold the Space For You

I will hold the space for you...

When the dark days come
And leave their everlasting mark
When past hurts
Color your everyday...
I will hold the space for you.

When small things
Unlock large wounds
When large things
Become just too much...
I will hold the space for you.

When others crowd the air
With words
When no words
Could possibly do...
I will hold the space for you.

When they offer
Unsolicited advice
Uncalled for platitudes
Unfitting verses...
I will hold the space for you.

When nothing will do
But strong coffee
And a thorough unburdening
And a listening ear...
I will hold the space for you.

I will be there
Allowing the pain
I will sit with you
And I will hold the space...
For you.
© A Road Less Traveled

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