Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Life is beautiful

People think it's odd when I tell them I like being alone on Christmas.

I see where they're coming from. It is the most celebrated holiday and one that focuses quite pointedly on other people -- you give and receive presents, you go to parties, you go caroling, decorate the tree and use the mistletoe, all with other people. And heaven knows you cannot eat Christmas dinner alone, because you cannot not cook enough food for like 27 people. It is just not supposed to be a solo affair.

That does not faze me because a) I can eat enough food for 27 people; b) I have enough personality swings to not be bored by myself, and c) I don't like Christmas. When I'm by myself, that's fine. When I'm with other people, I feel like I have to be in a good mood. So I fake it. And that puts me in a worse mood. Which makes me dislike Christmas more. It's a dangerous cycle.

But sometimes things happen that change even the grinchiest of grinches.

This year I found some healing waters. As I've mentioned before, the Germans love Christmas, so even though I was there in September, I went to a Christmas store, and found myself confronted with reminders of my childhood Christmases. I found ornaments made of shaved wood that reminded me of the beautiful shaved wood star that I don't ever remember not being in some stage of broken but that we held onto for years anyway. I found these little twirly things in which you light candles and the smoke moves the windmill (or something like that) that we had and could never get to work. I held the fancy nutcrackers gently and thought of the simple one that has graced our home for years.
And I remembered when Christmas was good.

Then two days ago I was watching a movie with a neighbor and discovered she didn't have anywhere to go on Christmas. I knew I'd have enough Chinese for more than just me, and if I let her spend it alone then I would actually have earned the grinch title. So I invited her. And it still left me plenty of time to volunteer at the Salt Lake City Mission's dinner, sweeping up popcorn and picking up clothes as I reflected on the reality that I may not like Christmas, but for all that, my life is overflowing with goodness.

And that's without the yells of "Merry Christmas!" and the nephew-made original ornaments that now grace my tree.

I've been complaining a lot lately, it seems. I've also been fighting a lot more lately, and I'm tired. It, combined with the weather (I hate the cold! I need to move back to the desert.) has led to a general feeling of malaise.

But today, as a woman pointed out the first star in the sky (just above the moon) and as I left the dinner and people thanked me, and one man offered to help me carry stuff to my car (I got leftovers from a charity dinner), I remembered just how happy I am. I have a job that I'm good at and that challenges me. I'm out of debt. I have good roommates. I have faith. I have family. I have good health. I am free of addiction. I know what love feels like. I can read. My nightmares end when I wake up. I had places to go on Christmas.

Driving home today I thought of a Christmas eight years ago. I spent an hour buying gifts. Our gift exchange was perfunctory. We opened presents around a 2-foot tree in my parents' bedroom, ate Christmas dinner perched on their bed and played games on the floor. It was the last Christmas that my family was whole. My dad, who'd spent the holiday in a coma, died two days later.

That Christmas was one of the best I've had. It wasn't about gifts. No one cared what was under the tree. There were no parties. It was all about family and faith because nothing else mattered. We needed those things then more than ever.

I know there will always be a hole in my Christmas. One hole. But if my Christmases -- and days -- are filled with more holes, that's my bad. So here's to a new year, one in which I try to not be alone on Christmas next year.

"Next time... we will laugh more, we'll love more; we just won't be so afraid." Queen Latifah, "Last Holiday"

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