Will it Ever Feel Like Christmas Again?

This is the extent of our decorations..and it's still 80 degrees..

This is the extent of our decorations..and it’s still 80 degrees..

The older I get, there are more sad associations build up around holidays. Especially this year because it’s 80 degrees, my nuclear family is a few thousand miles away, and hearts are broken all over my home state of Connecticut. The holidays just don’t feel as good and innocent as they did when I was little.

I remember being young and asking about Santa. I asked if he could get us anything, and my parents nodded, knowing that the huge box of markers I had in mind was already a done deal. I asked if he came to everyone’s house, they said he did. I asked why people who need money don’t just ask for it then, instead of presents. They didn’t have a good answer. Maybe they said the elves couldn’t make money in the North Pole, I’m not sure. I just remember that it seemed awfully unfair, but I didn’t stop believing just yet.

That’s the thing. The unfairness was harder to handle than disbelief, in some ways. It was awful, and yet there was nothing I could do. The elves can’t make money and toys don’t pay bills, so suffering would happen and my fleeting notion that I had solved the world’s poverty problem was thrown out the window.

The Difficulty of Grasping “It’s Just Unfair”

When it came to learning Santa was fake, it was far more simple. Okay, there is no Santa. Not a huge deal, I sorta saw it coming anyway. Being a big fan of magic, I was just happy that they taught my brain to believe in magic at all (Yes, that’s the kind of stuff I’d think about as a kid). It was harder to feel and hold the sadness and anger that I could get presents, but not get money to give to everyone that needed it.

Let’s go to the Connecticut tragedy for a second, because that feeds into this too. In the midst of conspiracy theories and extreme religious people saying that God planned it or something like that, I can’t help but feel like these mentalities are held by those trying to run from that feeling of how horrible it is that someone could do such a thing without being brainwashed or part of God’s master plan. Murder of innocent people is happening in so many places, so much of the time, and yet we can’t always picture it or feel sorrow. For me, it’s easy to picture a suburban Connecticut town in December right before Christmas; that was where I came from. Maybe if it happened in the high plains it would seem farther. But having the ability to visualize it and relate with the situation makes it feel more powerful to me, and I’m not going to feel guilty for that. I can use the high impact of the tragedy in my consciousness to lead to more empathy when I hear of the many deaths of children around the world, but the ones that are “close to home” are going to hit harder, I would imagine.  It’s just how it is.

Back to the holidays, though.

Sure Doesn’t Feel Like Christmas Time

It doesn’t feel like Christmas and I don’t know if it ever will. Even if I was with my family on the East Coast, there is less of that feeling. Perhaps the holiday joy gets deeper and less sparkly as we age. Maybe it gets grainy and raw, a holiday feeling that has Sam Elliot’s voice and the grumble of a diesel engine. Maybe it isn’t light and fluffy like movie snow, but resistant and firm like a wrought iron crowbar from hundreds of years ago, being dug up from the dust.

Who knows.

But it’s okay. It’s fine. It doesn’t need to be any certain way, it just has never quite dawned on me that perhaps it isn’t just “this year” that feels off. Maybe the holiday spirit has taken on a permanent new form for me. The amount of friends I have who have lost parents or people close to them is growing, my heart goes to them as the holidays roll around, and there is sadness. It’s not just about trying to wish hard enough for new markers or crochet a dozen last-minute scarves. It’s about realizing that the holidays are as much a trigger for pain for some  people I love as a reason to celebrate for others.

The Roots of the Magic Becoming Transparent

Part of it is the decorations and consumer-based nature of this beast.

Cute plush stockings are our only decoration this year, but I know that the places where they were made would probably make me a bit sick. There are so many illusions, all trying to support the idea of love, but distracting from it, too. Cut down trees, buy gifts, buy insane amounts of decorations. I imagine being in some faraway factory, bracing for the time when Americans go nuts for cheap treasures.

What am I saying here? I’m not quite sure. I am having a hard time thinking normal thoughts since the Connecticut shooting, and anything else seems rather trite. I wonder if other people are feeling the difference in holidays as they get older, and if this holiday season will feel like other holiday seasons to anyone who felt a connection to Connecticut and the other recent tragedies.

Are you having a good holiday season, whatever holidays it is that you celebrate?

Are you finding the joy in these times, even with the pain happening?

Do you feel like the holiday spirit changes as we get older, or does it change as a product of the times, with technology and blow-up decorations taking the place of hand-made presents and simple ornaments?

Any thoughts you have related to the above are completely welcome.

I hope you are all well!

Stuff, Gifts, and Heartbreak: The Holiday-Mixed-With-Moving Blues

Pot Pie with the Most Important Phrase

Right now, the value of “stuff” and the torment it can bring is taking up the bulk of my attention. The thing is, it’s the holiday season. The time you are supposed to buy stuff for other people. The other thing is that I’m packing to move to Austin, Texas from Connecticut.

I’m moving out of the home I grew up in, which has steadily accumulated the things that I have cherished throughout  my life. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve left this terribly boring state many times. For the last ten years I have not been living here. However, each time I would get a new fantastic idea of where the wind was telling me to go, I would stop here and drop off everything that I wasn’t taking with me. So now there is a great pile of everything from My Little Ponies to little stones from India to stones I gathered while hitch hiking to letters my dad sent me from prison. All of these things are here, accumulated, and, for the most part, irritating.

On one hand, I love them. I cherish them. I want to keep them forever and ever so that I can remember the glorious moments of my childhood when I was playing. So that I can remember the thrill of catching perfect rides on the 80. So that I can remember sitting in random towns, with random people, feeling like the world was a big and exciting place. There’s even a love poem that some stranger wrote for me in Albuquerque while I was making jewelry at a coffee shop, and for the life of me I cannot throw it out.

On the other hand, I don’t want all this stuff. It takes up space. It takes up time. It causes me to remember the past and prevents me from living in the moment. I can live in the moment while remembering the past, but, well, that’s just not the same now, is it?

So what do you do with this stuff, how do you decide what to get rid of, and how do you decide what to get for people? They are just going to throw it away someday, heartbroken over the trash can, putting it in and taking it out, trying to not feel like they are insulting you by throwing it out. Or at least, that’s how I feel.

All of these gifts that have been bought for me over the years, they amount to guilt right now. The more expensive the gift, the more horrible I feel admitting that I have never used, worn, ate or burned it. If it’s something like a candle, I can do my best to burn it now, but there are only so many candles you can burn at once. And sometimes, you have to move to Austin. And sometimes, there is nowhere to leave all. that. stuff.

Some people suggest taking pictures of the things that we love. This is a great idea. But that quality of touching the things is so critical, at least for me, in truly remembering the times that they invoke. This is a magical process, and one that I am not easily willing to let go of. However, is it worth it? This is my big question. Is it worth it to have the memory? If I was stuck in a convalescent home with nothing left to live for, then yeah, maybe I would love to hold the things from my adventures and remember all the feelings involved. But there is no way that these things are going to make it THAT long. And there is also no way that I can predict whether or not I will end up paralyzed with nothing to do but rummage through my tangible memories. So what do I do?

Throw them away.

It all gets thrown away.

Every wonderful gift you ever made, bought or stolen for someone you love eventually gets thrown away. Maybe you get them something huge for their house that they cannot possibly fit in the trash. In that case, they are going to get sick of it and secretly resent you for making them feel guilty for even considering hiring someone to throw the damn thing away.

This is the problem.

Each year at this time, we are expected to get obscene amounts of gifts. Personally, I make my presents each year. Mostly because I’m consistently rather broke. However, the thought of someone feeling guilty and brokenhearted for throwing away or donating a thing I made for them is not a good feeling. Yet, I still want to give something to each person I love and am geographically close to. How do you win?

I don’t know. All I know is that dealing with stuff that has been accumulating for years is very stressful. So to all the people that have bought me heartfelt gifts over the past 28 years, I say, thank you. I love you. I love you independently of the things you have bought for me, and I hope that throwing them away does nothing to detriment our friendship and the quality of connection that we experience.

I also say that it is a great idea to think of things that add to someone’s life without ever taking up space in it. A gift certificate for a massage or to their favorite restaurant. Some hand-made bath salts. A candle. Some edible undies. It doesn’t matter. Anything that can be used without taking up extra space on this little planet.

Because the only time to live is now. And the only thing that memories offer you is the nourishment of the past. Sometimes, this nourishment is invigorating. Other times, it bogs you down. And there is no way to predict the future, to figure out whether or not this or that specific item is going to eventually  nourish you. Sometimes you have to take a chance. Sometimes you have to throw away what you are sure of, and walk into what you are uncertain about.

Your whole life is waiting. The memories will be there, they just might take more effort. And your friends do not need you to go broke spending money on more stuff for them. They are just going to throw it out. Make them something that will break, give them something they can use. Make a good impact on their future by not going out of your way to add heartbreak to it.

And perhaps in this there is a deeper lesson. A lesson about walking away from what you have been holding onto too tightly. A lesson about letting to and feeling free in the present moment as you walk into the unknown.  A lesson, even, on spending time with people without relying on your ability to find them gifts as a representation of your true feelings.  But personally, I don’t even have time to reflect on it, because I have to figure out which journals to burn and which Pez dispensers deserve a spot in my allotted boxes.