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A Carole Christmas

November 23, 2011

I was having dinner with my children and we were discussing potential plans for the holidays.  For most my life, this time of the year has been nothing but pure stress.  Financially, emotionally, physically, mentally and saddest of all, spiritually, my holiday celebrations have missed the mark of anything you could ever see depicted on a Christmas card.  OH … how I longed for those utopic festivities but instead experienced mostly “dystopic dysfunction” — that is “almost” traditional.

Utopia: an ideal place or state

Dystopia: a place or state characterized by human misery and dysfunction, 

Traditions (or rituals) are hard to break, whether they are good or bad.   That’s because … they require “commitment”, and commitment requires “belief” and at the foundation of function, (or dysfunction), are knowing what you believe and value … in other words, TRUTH.

From time to time, my son will ask me, “Did I ever believe in Santa?”   And the answer is “probably not” because I never really emphasized much about Santa after he was born.  With my daughters, I did try to do the “Santa” thing, but since they had to split their holiday between my house and their dad’s house and it varied from year to year, traditions or rituals were soon dismissed.   The same went for my own childhood holiday celebrations.  We were always split between one house and another, and we just never were able to embrace anything that lasted.  I tear up now thinking about how chaotic and stressful this was to me then … and that I passed that same “empty-ness” on to my children. It’s not what I wanted, but I was obviously (for whatever reason) powerless to keep from falling in to it.

As I ponder on this today, I’m reminded of the Dickens’ classic,  A Christmas Carol, and how Ebenezer Scrooge was haunted by the Ghost of Christmas Past.   He allowed the dysfunction and disappointments of his past affect his whole life … his present and surely his future if changes were not made.

As I said before, knowing “TRUTH” is the foundation of function.   It does not have to be logical, for logic would completely destroy the wonder, the magic and especially “the miracle” of Christmas.  Likewise, I don’t want to impress that TRUTH should be “relative” for that can be circumstantial and faulty.  In this particular case, I think TRUTH must be a CHOICE, and let me explain what I mean.

Regardless of the circumstances that led to Ebenezer Scrooge’s heartache and indifference, he had let the pain control him.  The truth is that it is not an easy thing to just “let go” of the influence of dysfunction and heartache.  Some of these matters cause deep scars. They certainly create a faulty grid if only because these are experienced through the eyes of a child who has not mastered discernment or how to “not make it about them.”   Much of Ebenezer’s faulty grid was established in his formidable years.  

He had obviously tried to suppress the pain by building the defense of a cold, hard wall around his heart, which only led to further rejection and pain caused by loneliness. It was only when TRUTH was revealed by the three visitors that he began to “face” the TRUTH and experience healing.    Ebenezer did really WANT to feel so lonely and angry.  But because the pain and dysfunction of the past was so overwhelming in his heart and mind, I don’t think he really knew that he had a CHOICE to live another way … that is, until his epiphanic “dream-like” experience.

So in my conversation with my children, I started to suggest hosting a gathering during the holidays in hopes of avoiding some of the stress that is so greatly associated with our “ghosts of Christmases past” (Where to eat, where to go, who to see, what to buy when you can’t afford to buy, etc.).  My daughter, offering “logic” felt that it would only cause more stress, and ultimately disappointment because “our family” simply does not “know how” to “get past the past.”  This is true and regardless of the fun-filled functions or festivities you hope for, it still comes back to “CHOICE.”

So … if given the choice between “dystopia” and while maybe not complete “utopia” but at least something that veers off the course of dysfunction, why would one not try to make a better and more pleasant choice.   That’s where the Ghost of Christmas Present comes in to play.  Once you recognize the “faulty grid” through which you’ve been sifting experiences of the past, you ought to be able to say, “HEY … we’re going to do a little better than that this year.”

Here are some “epiphanic” ideas for you:

  • Ask your family members what they got for Christmas last year.  If they can’t immediately recall, then perhaps your stressing over gifts and presents was a waste of time.
  • Remember how angry you became when you could not find a parking space at the grocery store or mall, and kept driving and driving and finally found one nearly a half-mile from the entrance.
  • Remember standing in line for 45 minutes, waiting for a table at the restaurant, only to be served by a snarky waitress who called you “Hon” while shifting her weight from one foot to the other because she is so tired and aggravated by equally “snarky” customers.
  • Remember overspending your budget and convincing yourself that “you’ll worry about that in January.”
  • Remember pulling out the Christmas tree the day after Thanksgiving in hopes of “getting” into the holiday spirit … and then taking it down Christmas day because “you’re over it.”
  • Remember crying through those Hallmark Christmas movies that always turn out good in the end, and cynically thinking, “yeh, real life is not like that.”
  • Remember the checklist or calendar entries you made so you would not forget all the school, church, and extra-curricular events you had to attend.
  • Remember rushing to the church Christmas communion and then hurrying to the next place because you had to make all the rounds on Christmas Eve or someone would be mad.
  • Remember last year when you said, “We’re not going to do this next year. Things are going to be simpler if it kills us.”

CHOICES!  Ebenezer made a profound choice after he visited his past … and realized his present situation.  Here we stand at the threshold of our future holidays (and life).  Are there choices that you can make to ensure these “days ahead” are met with hopefulness rather than dread? 

Personally, I am tired of my heart sinking when this time of year rolls around.  I’m ready (and have been for so long) to dispose of that faulty grid from Christmases past.  In this “Christmas present” I want to embrace what I know to be TRUTH and share that with my friends and family.  I would like to experience a holiday … right now … that will create happy, joyful blessings and memories for all who will partake. And again … PAR-TAKING must surely be a choice for each of us.

Happy Holidays (Happy Holy-Days) and “God bless us, every one.”



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