The true meaning of Christmas

**Last year, I posted this on my blog after reading The Bloggess’ post about how she gives, and the way she inspires her readers.  It’s worth re-posting, in my opinion.

I’ve long spoken of my disdain for the holidays. The greed. The outrageous behavior. The ridiculous parents who spoil their children (who are already spoiled and misbehaved). The people going further into debt because they just *have* to give that present to so-and-so because “it’s what you do for Christmas.” The fighting between family members. The nonsensical drinking at functions and the following justification because “it’s Christmas” and that makes it okay.

BFF#2 even got me a “Humbug.” This little creature that is ugly and, for me, symbolizes the ugliness of the season.  I love it.

But beyond that, you might be asking yourself, “Why? Why, flame, are you so fired up about this?” I’ll tell you why. It’s a little sad story I like to call the history of my life. It may be depressing in the beginning, but stick with me. It gets better, in the end.

I wasn’t always so jaded. For the first few years of my life, I didn’t know enough to be jaded. That all changed when I hit the ripe old age of 6. I learned, then, that things aren’t fair. And you know what? I was okay with that, for a while.

We were poor. When I hear my friends (who are all doing well for themselves) talk about not wanting their children to “go without,” you’d think they meant food or shelter or something equally important. But no… they’re talking about laptop computers and other bullshit. When I say, “I went without,” I mean that quite literally. At times I didn’t eat. At times we didn’t have electricity. I was even homeless, for a small time, and lived in a parking lot.

By the time I was 8 years old, we lived in San Diego and had it rough. My mother was sinking further into addiction (her drug of choice was meth, but I suspect she did other things, too). She was also struggling with undiagnosed severe hypo-thyroid disease and narcolepsy. My step-father, at the time, was sexually abusing me, and using heroin. We had several other people living with us, all unemployed and all addicted to drugs and alcohol. Both my brothers were working or away from the house a lot of the time, trying to make a living and/or escape the madness. I had no such luck. I immersed myself in books, school, and other cerebral activities. If I was in my head, my heart was less attached to the awful situation I lived in. We got two checks at the beginning of the month, every month. Disability and child support. We lived like Kings and Queens for the first couple of weeks.

The problem is that Thanksgiving and Christmas come at the end of the month. When I was 9 years old, I didn’t eat on Christmas Day. Nothing. Not compressed ham-loaf. Not mushy stuffing. Not even gross gelatinized cranberry sauce. Not. Any. Thing.

When I was 10, we got on some sort of list that delivered food baskets for the holidays. We also got presents that year. I got a jacket. And a toy, I think. I remember my mom asking me what I wanted, and I felt uncomfortable asking for anything. I didn’t know who was giving me a present, and I certainly didn’t think it was right to *ask* for anything when they were being generous by giving me anything at all. I would be happy with what I got. And at the end of the day, that’s something that’s never changed.

When I was 11 years old, I got a bike. Someone, a stranger, bought me a bicycle. A 12-speed. I was floored. When I was 13, I got make-up and a journal to write in. The very first entry I made in that journal was that, someday, when I was older, I would do the same thing for a kid who was in need.

When I was 13 years old, I understood these things:

  • Life isn’t fair. And you had to deal with it.
  • Poverty existed, and I was living it, but “poor” is a state of mind.
  • The best gift you can give or get is love.
  • Regular people had the power to do extraordinary things.
  • Although adults make really bad choices that make their lives the way they are, children suffer. A lot.
  • The kindness of strangers can literally change someone’s life (and it’s changed my life a number of times).

By the time I was 14 years old, I lived with my dad. We didn’t have a lot. I’d even say that we still lived below the poverty line – but we were not poor. We chose to make do with what we had instead of going on welfare. My daddy sacrificed so I could have little things. I did without, sometimes, so my dad still had money to go out and have adult space.

Fast forward to adulthood. Those bell ringers you see? I give whatever change I have in my pocket or purse to them. And my daughter does the same (she’s been doing it since she was 5 years old.  She’s 17 ½ now). I was in line at the grocery store, once, and a woman wasn’t able to pay for her Christmas meal (ham, potatoes and stuffing), so I paid for it.

But the tradition I have that is the most important to me is “The Giving Tree.” (If you don’t know what that is, go to your local grocery store and find the Christmas tree that’s normally near the service/customer service desk. There will be a tree that has little paper ornaments on it. You can choose a name, go buy a present, bring the name and present back to the store and they will get it to the child.)
I go to the store every Christmas, and pick a name off the tree. I look through the names and almost always find a name of a child who reminds me of myself, at that age: a girl about 11-14 who has general interests listed but no specifics. I look, hard, for a gift that matches those interests and bring it back. Sometimes it’s been a diary. Sometimes a winter coat. Sometimes an art kit. Every year I do this.

That is what Christmas is. Christmas is the act of giving. It’s the act of giving to make someone else’s life better, without the expectation of receiving and without the sense of obligation. I do this every year because I said, when I was 13 years old, that I would. If you’re looking for Christ in your Christmas, this is where you find Him. In giving.

Last year, I was amazed to find that strangers who stumbled on to my blog were inspired to give.  So many people, last year, went out and sought out their own local Giving Tree.  Guapo read my post while waiting for his girl.  He went inside the bookstore he was near and bought books to donate.  Right then.  After reading my post.

I only hope to do the same thing this year.  I picked my child to give to this year.  I’m going shopping for her on Black Friday (the day when humanity is at it’s worst, in my opinion).  I hope I inspire you, this year, to give. It doesn’t have to be money. Give of your heart. Give of your time. Be kind. Love people. That is the spirit of Christmas. Everything else is just noise.

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Real mature, America

**Let me disclaim that the following rant has nothing to do with *all* Republicans or *all* Democrats.  Just because people voted one way or another makes no matter to me.  My concerns are the ignorant among us who spread falsities without taking a moment to question what they hear.  I am proud to be an American, whose voice is one in the midst of millions.  The collective becomes the Mastermind, if you will, guiding our country to the future, whatever that may be.  So if you voted for Romney, this isn’t directed toward you, in particular.  But if you find yourself bristling with irritation…maybe it’s a shoe that fits too well.  Time to look at your soles… if you get my drift.

I’ve decided that Americans have the collective maturity level of an 8th grader.  We, as a society, haven’t figured out that life isn’t fair, that things don’t always go our way, and that disappointment is to be expected.  That’s the way it works.  We don’t all think the same, and that’s why there are different religions, different political parties – hell that’s why there are different restaurants.  We’re raising a generation of children who think they should get a participation ribbon for just showing up…. when as it turns out, we, as adults, really want to have our cake and eat it, too.

So what’s got me all fired up?  The election, of course.  But not just the election – the aftermath.  It’s bad enough that I had to tolerate propaganda on Facebook for weeks before the election, not only did I have to listen to whining from the same arrogant assholes when Romney didn’t win, but now I see these same douche nozzles signing petitions to secede from the Union. 30 states are signing petitions.  30!

Are. You. Fucking. Kidding. Me?

Here’s the thing – I don’t have any issue with people voicing their opinions.  I don’t even care that they voted for Romney.  This is a democratic process and the only way it works is if people take action and don’t slip into apathy.  This, however, is one step too far.  From what I can tell, this is tens of thousands of people who are signing their name to what amounts to a cyber-temper-tantrum saying “This isn’t fair!”  Guess what, folks?  This is the epitome of fair.  If it got any more fair, it would redefine what the word actually means.  Obama won, like it or not.  He won the electoral vote and (and most importantly in my opinion) he won the popular vote by a pretty close margin (but certainly not the closest margin in the history of elections).  And so what?  Now you don’t want to play with America because you didn’t get your way?  Too damn bad!  This is a country, not youth soccer!  You don’t get an award for showing up.  There are winners and there are losers.  Guess what?  Not everyone and everything I voted for went my way.  I’m not writing or signing a petition to become a citizen of a different state!  I’m gonna suck it up and figure out where I can focus my efforts to support the cause I believe in.

But you know what?  Let’s follow this silly little plan to the end.  Texas secede and then what?  The Mexican cartel rolls in, obliterating all in their path and now has a vein right up the middle of the country to feed their lawless agenda into.  Why not just put a giant target on your flag that flips the bird and says, “please attack us”, because that’s what you’re doing.

Romney lost.  For better or for worse, it is what it is.  When G. W. Bush won 12 years ago (and again 8 years ago), I didn’t pitch a fit and claim the process to be un-American.  I refocused my efforts on ways I could influence closer to home.  I didn’t waste energy ranting about the uncertain future we face.  Here it is, a week later, and I *still* hear and see people bitching about it.  It’s over, folks!  Move along!

There are real tragedies that need to be handled: poverty, recovery efforts following Hurricane Sandy, drug use, unemployment, or how about the fact that less than half of eligible voters actually voted in the last election?

It’s silly.  It’s so silly that I realize that I should just dismiss it, but I’m so tired of seeing it all and having to ignore it.  I firmly believe that we all have a right to say what we want.  It’s one of the rights that make this country great!  But I am disgusted with the select few citizens of this country having a tantrum because they didn’t get their way.  Move on, people!  Guess what?  There is no chance in the great scheme of hell that you will actually form your own country (I’m looking at *you* Texas).  You’ll whine.  You’ll bitch.  And next week, next month, next year, next election, you will still be an American.  So focus on making a difference instead of protesting the past.

*sigh*  That’s my soapbox people.  Carry on.

Well… that only took…. 34 days

34 days later and things are…. different now.

Let’s start just after that post:

I loved my job but I didn’t love who I worked for.  Nice guy with some serious control issues.  I don’t do well in that environment.  I was making things happen and feeling pretty good about it, but it was never enough.  No matter what I did, it was never enough to make him happy.  So, I took control of the situation and began to look for a new job.  Found one that read “part-time” but ended up being full-time.  More on that later.

Still no Lyrica.  Pain = *way* worse.  I’m currently in the middle of a flare that is a rival to any of the others.  Over the weekend I was pretty much useless.  Which sucks.  I’ll elaborate on that later.

Depression is better and worse, depending on the day.  Overall, I’d say I’ve climbed out of the hole a little.  Which is great.  Somedays, though, it sucks me back down.   I just take it one day at a time… kinda like an alcoholic.  More on *that*…. you guessed it…….later.

Later…

New job.  It’s pretty awesome.  I’m making more money, have more leeway, and have a ton of professional respect for what I do.  Plus, I have my very own office, with a door and everything.  For those of you who have lived (or still do) in Cube-City, you can appreciate the magnitude of having your own space.  I am the Director of Marketing.  I am learning new things and utilizing my skills to make a positive impact, and that makes me a happy girl.

I was going to go back to the doctor in September, but didn’t.  Like a dummy, I figured that the pain would pass and I’d be okay.  Welp….it didn’t.  So the joke’s on me.  The flare I am experiencing is seriously some of the very worst I can imagine.  I wouldn’t wish this on anyone.  Thankfully, the hubs and the kiddo have been indispensable and have been taking very good care of me.  In the very worst times, I can see how lucky I am.

And….the depression.  I would say that right about when I wrote that last post I had hit rock bottom.  I sat on the floor of my bedroom with a bottle of Xanax and a bottle of booze and knew I could end it all.  Obviously… I didn’t.  But the thought was there and it was an overwhelming. I would say that Fear is a companion of Depression.  And you know why Depression can sell Fear so well?  Because Depression talks to you in your own voice.  It whispers all those awful things about your worst fears in a voice that sounds *just. like. you* which makes it easy to listen.  And it almost got me.  By God’s Grace, I was able to hold on and get through.  I’m trying, now, to rebuild myself.  It’s much more difficult than you’d think.

So where am I now?  Here……  I guess I’m here.  And that’s no place spectacular, but it is alive.  And that’s enough, for now.

I caution those who may be reading this and feeling the same empty weight that I was….. reach out and talk with someone.  Accept that you may need help.   Remember, Depression is a lying bastard.  And Fear is his evil companion.  Don’t let them in.  You can get through it.

I’ll get back to more interesting posts…  Lord knows we have enough darkness in the world.  I’m going to get back to shining my light.

Love you all.  Thank you for reading.  xoxo