I heard something on the radio yesterday that made me really angry, then really, really sad.
Turns out retail giant, Best Buy won't be able to deliver a lot of their orders on time this year and people are furious. Reports are, no surprise, that customers are saying, "Christmas is ruined!"
This is nothing new. Every year we hear stories about people squabbling over and even killing over gifts. And every year the chastisement of, "This is not what Christmas is all about" comes up and falls on deaf ears. I see increasing arrogance and aggression at which one person holiday is shoved another person's throat. Those who scream, "It's "Christmas," not "Happy Holidays," don't strike me as very Christ emulating and they certainly don't seem to have much love for their fellow man. Every year it seems that the lack of gratitude and absence of empathy increases. It's a season about, "ME,ME, ME, ME, ME! Oh and did I mention, ME? "
It shouldn't matter that it's, "Christmas." Whatever winter holiday may be meaningful to you, Solstice, Yule, Kwanza, Hanukkah, Festivus, or Saturnalia they all are events meant to bring us humans together and sustain us through the remaining dark of winter! Even though gifts are traditionally given during this season, the intent is togetherness, temporarily putting differences aside , warmth, sharing, family, and community.
After weeks of seeing the ugliness that is "Christmas, et al" as well as being inspired by my friend Jeremy's blog and other things friends have said or written, I felt the need to comment. I have to admit, I had to stop several times while writing this because I started to sob both due to sadness AND gratitude.
Well, I don't celebrate Christmas, however, I do try to keep the spirit of "Christmas" all year 'round. That's really what it should be about, right? So many people that I know have been stressed out this year because they might not be able to have the "right" holiday meal or money for presents or time to do all their shopping. It's unnecessary stress. I shouldn't even have to mention how many people in this country and throughout the world have so much less than you do. Look around. Who do you know that's having a rough time right now? Chances are people you care about are hungry, lonely and struggling. Adding the hubbub and commercialism of the holiday season is like rubbing salt in a wound.
Then there's the agony about the kids. "Christmas is so important for the kids!" Last night I heard a story about a big fire in San Francisco. The firefighters went in afterwards to try to salvage a family's presents but they were ruined by water and soot. The Firemen saved the day with their "Toys for Tots" bin! Part of my heart was warmed by this. Then I got to thinking. Really, this whole "presents" thing has gotten so out of hand. We as adults are the ones who have bought into this commercialized feeding frenzy and enabled our kids to become addicted to it.
As a child, I was regularly disappointed because my parents would let me go through the Christmas catalog and ask Santa for things which I almost never, ever got even if they weren't that expensive. (I'm still waiting for my stuffed Lassie dog. In fact, I seem to have a history of receiving gifts from family and loved ones that are clearly things that they, not I, would like or that they think will impress me and don't suit me at all, but the concept of an actual "thoughtful" gift is a tangent for another day!" ) Regardless of disappointment, I always got some things I liked and I certainly got things I needed. And, I quickly learned a lot of my joy came from watching others unwrap their gifts and from the little family traditions that made me feel connected.
Even when kids whine about toys, what they really want is to feel secure, know they are loved and have their basic needs met. Sure they might have a fit at first if they get a little less, but if you've raised them right, they'll rally. Will that Angry Birds toy really make your child feel loved?
When I reflect back, it's clear that the things that really made the holiday season special were very simple things. Helping in the kitchen; actually preparing a meal together and then eating together. Picking out the Christmas tree as a family and decorating was better than any of the presents under it. One of my favorite moments was the year, I convinced a beau to set aside the artificial tree and get a real one. He really got into it as we checked out various tree lots looking for the "perfect" tree in our price range. It was so rewarding seeing him get to be a bit of a child again by introducing him to this holiday tradition. On Christmas eve my family would spread a sheet out on the living room carpet and have a "picnic." We would have all kinds of yummy snack foods and watch Christmas specials on TV. I loved that better than the big Christmas dinner because we were all together and not fighting!
I wish more people would use the holiday as a chance to teach their kids and themselves about helping people who have less than themselves. Take them with you to pick out warm coats and blankets to donate. Check out volunteer opportunities. Usually when you volunteer to serve a Holiday Meal at a soup kitchen, you get to eat too. Think about what you and your child could learn about empathy, gratitude and compassion by sitting down to eat with a homeless family.
I can't tell you how to live your holiday season. I can't make you pull your head out of the "Me Space" and live your life with compassion and kindness all year round. I can plead with you however, to stop for a moment and think about the following:
- Though I am ranting here about thinking of others, I want you to think of yourself. It's not selfish to take care of yourself. While you are stressing about what you should be doing / getting for others stop, and be kind to yourself You can't do anything for anyone if you make yourself sick over it. Remember, you and your inner child deserve a happy holiday too. And, don't think it's not okay to ask for something if you need it!
- Be grateful. If you have a roof over your head, a job, warmth, transportation, food in your belly, and loved ones in your life YOU ARE BLESSED! If you have more, you are doubly blessed! Spread that gratitude. Volunteer. Find out how to help those in need. If you see someone who looks like they need help, ask what you can do. Pay it forward! Smile and look a stranger in the eyes. Give a compliment. If you know someone who is alone over the holidays or hurting, Reach out!
- Give what you can. Say something. Listen. Make something. Offer something. Last year I managed to scrape up $30 and I made 2 kinds of glycerin soap. I made ritual soaps meant for "mindful cleansing" made with colors and scents designed to evoke the intentions of bringing in creativity & prosperity (Or to be enjoyed as yummy smelling soap that just gets you clean) . I gave these out at a New Years Celebration where I knew a lot of people who I cared about would be. I don't know if everyone used it, but it felt so good to be able to give something I had made and filled with loving intentions back to people who had made me feel loved and valued,; people I admire. This year I don't have any money but I am offering to cook a meal for anyone who needs it, I am offering my company or any assistance I can give, I am doing my best to make sure people know I love and care about them. I am offering my thanks via this blog. Some of you will be receiving personal messages from me and maybe some from Pandora, if she's willing. Myself, it's all I have to offer and I would hope you think that's a pretty good gift.
This time of year is always very difficult for me, but the last couple of years have given me some helpful perspective. The more miserable things get, the greater I find the depth of my gratitude. I am in a situation you would think few would envy, however, many in this world would because they have even less and every day is a struggle for life!
I've been dealing with homelessness for nearly a year now. I suffer with P.T.S.D. and a potentially fatal neurological illness that afflicts my motor skills and causes severe pain, I have relentless insomnia that makes it difficult to function, I have had to depend on unstable people, I've had to borrow a lot of money that I thought I would have been able to pay back by now, I am hungry a lot of the time, I have very little income, my once thriving pet care business is stuck in the doldrums, I struggle to keep any kind of communication going, I had to give up several of my pets & grieve the loss of others that died shortly before I lost my home, I've lost most of my possessions, and am about to lose the rest, I got mugged at gunpoint last week, I am on the verge of losing my repeatedly vandalized car and I am often very lonely. I think about death a lot. It's true.
There are moments during this holiday season where I've broken down and cried over helplessness and sometimes because of attachment to yes, material possessions. Even walking into Target to buy toilet paper and seeing all the crappy decorations makes me think of all the holiday stuff I have locked in storage that is about to be auctioned off to strangers. Irreplaceable photos, things I've made with my own hands, ornaments from my Grandparents and my Great Grandmother's house! If I could have just one or two of these things they would light up my room.This Christmas, I will be caring for former neighbor's pets for a few days. I will have to walk their dogs past my old house. Part of me will want to curl up under the big pine tree out front and mourn.
It's not like these things are lost to me due to fire or flood. It's poverty, pure and simple, circumstances beyond my control. One of the worst things for me is that these circumstances seriously undermine my ability to do things for other people for that is what makes me feel useful and truly gives me great joy!
Wow! You may say, how can you possibly have room for any gratitude with all that difficulty in your life? Well, there is the obvious. Even in my dubious situation, I am better off than a large percentage of the world's population and every day all I have to do is walk outside to see people in my own community who are literally living on the street to know how lucky I am. Despite not having a permanent home, I have a roof over my head and for this I am so very grateful. I have been able so far, to keep my beloved cat Li Li with me & she is healthy. That alone has probably saved my life.
Despite my circumstances I have still found ways to be involved in my community and to be helpful to others. Because of the recent loan of a car I was able to actually offer someone else a ride home from a ritual for a change and that small act put me over the moon with joy and gratitude! I have even been able to manage to make some art and do some singing in the midst of all this chaos! I have many friends who make me laugh when I desperately need it, even if it's just through silly Facebook posts. Even though I often get those insecure pangs of feeling like an outsider I really am part of an amazing creative magical community & I am loved and appreciated by them. I know some amazing people and I am really really lucky to have them in my life. Ultimately, I'm not dead yet and I still have my sense of humor.
This holiday, I received one of the most generous gifts I have ever received. The gift of safety, warmth, privacy, peace, security and freedom for nearly 2 weeks! One of my friends is away for the holidays and generously gifted me & LiLi an apartment in the city and the use of a car! The car meant I could take a few jobs that I would have otherwise been forced to turn down. It's warm, sunshine streams through the windows and I have a place to cook. I am thrilled to see my cat so happy!Life may be difficult, but even when my status is defined moment by moment, life is good!
I would like to thank some specific people who have been such a big help to me this past year. Actually, a lot of people! Some of us may not have the best relationship right now but that does not change my deep gratitude. Some of you barely know me but make me feel like we've been friends for years! Some of you have thought you were giving me the smallest kindness, maybe you don't even realize you said or did anything that helped, but in reality it was huge to me. Some of you have just kept me sane. Some of you have just listened when I needed it or offered me wise advice when I asked. Many of you have helped me with money, transportation or food when you didn't have that much yourselves! Some of you have helped keep me sane. I love all of you so much and hope I can give to you even a little of what you've given to me even if it's by paying it forward instead of directly to you. Thank You so much!
I'm probably missing some names but this tremendous list is of people who have been gifts to me this year!
My family, Amelia Hogan , Amir Rabiyah, Anata Fiddle-Hooper, Andrew Kaluzynski,Anita Rogerson,Antero & Sylvi Alli, Barry Perlman, Belinda Fullmer, Bob & Lisa Spickard, Brenda Starr,Brian Feraru, Brian Kenney Fresno & the beautiful Felix,Bruce Romanoff, Bunny Holmes,Carolyn Anhalt,Carroll Flowers,Catherynne Valente,Cherie Barstow & Michael Cull,Cheryl Attoe-Bennett,Cheryl Brink, Christia Katz-Mulvy, Chrisje, Cross Sidhe & Maia Mermaidian, Dan Shull, Dan Wilson,Dana Morrigan,Dara Dehnicke, Dave "Haaz-Baroque," David Campbell,David Gessel, Derik Cowan & Hayden Reynolds, Di Di Gordon, Diana Paxon, Dori Daniels and Andrew Lowe, Dragonfly & Kirk,Drezdeny,Elizabth Branson,Elizabeth Dougherty,Faye Mays Casperson, Firefly, Grey Wolf & Marcus,Heather & Barry King and their adorable boys!,Heather Verver, Hummingbird, Ignacio Zulueta, Iris & Jack of Bears,Ivy,Jade and all the staff at the former Mama Buzz,James Nelson,James Tuttle,Jennifer Norton,Jeremy Triggs,Jess & Peter Sadaichney,Jey Johnston, Joe Bell,Johanna & John White, Jolie Pearl, Jonathan Carroll, Kathryn Seabron,Katie Novotny & Michael Klinge,Katie Young,Kenne Mackillop,Kenneth Winter, Kerry Mason,Kian & Thora, Kim & Melanie, Kismet Conrad Kris Chappell, Kyros Starr & David Williams, Lois Brady,Lauren Banister,Libby Mclaren & Robin Flower, Loren Davidson, Loreon Vigne, Mable Estella, Maddie P.,Marcia Diaz, Manea Trinicrea & James Goodin, Marcus Lorenzo Penn, Mary Leeking, Matt Hairfield,Matthew Newman,Megan Killian, Meghan Corman, Molly McEnerney,Morpheus Ravenna,Morrighan Bigelow, Paul Giomi,Persephone, Charles, Dark Moon and all the Solace gang!,The Fabulous Ms. P-Raw!, Pixie,Rabbit Matthews & Albert Robles,Raven Leary,Rebecca Wilson,Richard Becker (and your generous friends who gave me a great 4th of July!), Robin Dolan, Robin Maskiell, Sarah Astarte, Sarah Nash,Shawn Lesniak, Sooz Baraclough, Sparrow, Susan Peevy, Stacey Tindle & Stacey Tindle,Shannon Burla, Shannon Way, Shelia Chandra,Sofia Acosta,Temperance De'lonkcra, Teresa Walker,Tex Allen,Tammy Patterson & Rick Shibata,Tiffany & Nicholas (and Scout)Black- Darquea,Tigris Dancing Joy, Todd Hodes,Vicki Soloman,Waziana, Wil Viharo,The Wildes (Rowan, Zo, Constance and Duncan!),Yansumi, & Zane Stein!
And of course, I must express my gratitude to God & Goddess, my ancestors, spirits, guides, elementals and benevolent forces that have helped me through this so far!
Bless you all! Happy Holidays!