Friday, December 20, 2019

I'm wrestling with the ending

At this time last year we had our Christmas tree up and lights on it  - simply because the Boy Scouts came to clean up our yard and do some nice things - and all I know is that they left and we had a tree.  I know, however,  that we didn't decorate it because the day after Christmas - as fast as I could - when I took the tree down, it was a really quick job.

And I have no idea if we had presents last year.  I really didn't care.  I couldn't physically or emotionally care about anything more than getting my bootie out of the bed each day and praying that it would, please Dear God, if you're indeed there... be my last.  

I don't really care this year, either.  But as of today we actually have a tree, complete with a sprinkling of decorations.  And I even just made a batch of fudge - which to the boys signals the season is upon us.  At least there's that.  We may not feel joy but at least we can taste it.

I will also say that by this time last year I had just,  2 weeks prior, stood at the receiving end of a line, 600 people plus,  coming to pay their respects.  And I tried to hold myself together for the sake of just holding myself together.  I was told that I did ok as far as kind words about dead husbands go.  And with a house full of people that night and the Dallas Fire Department escorts waiting outside, I sat in my, our room, alone, and prayed for just enough strength to get through 2 hours.  And I begged again the very same thing the next morning as I had to do it all over again, but this time for the last goodbye.

And people who love me brought over Christmas cookies and other things  - hoping to make this place a little merrier for the boys - as they received things at the door because I literally couldn't get myself out of bed.  And yes, I still have days like that, in case you wondered.  Days that I just might cry right in the middle of the Target - or at work, which is really the HD version of the saddest show on earth - the general reason being that there's so much sadness inside that sometimes the dam just breaks.  And trust it - it doesn't make reservations concerning time or place.

And since I've always prided myself on complete honesty and truth on the blog, today being no different, I have to say it again - that I've never quite understood the whole Christmas thing.  The gifting and shopping and  parties and the idea of a cheer in the air that I never have in all my years, found or felt - at least past the preschool age I think.  

And y'all, despite circumstance, I understand the concept of recognizing the significance of Christ's birth and its impact on the world of believers.  Repeat:  I understand the concept.  And I've voluntarily written on the subject on several occasions, leaning toward that basic understanding, but not much more.  But I don't think I've ever written a piece based on joy that is understood or being any different than just marking off one more date on a calendar.  Maybe I never will.

But I can say that I feel even more now, the confusion over the goings on between November and December.  Because I just want to tell the world to stop running around like crazy people and actually feel - like I do - down so very deep in my gut - the knowledge that life as we know it now could all end any second.  Recently I've heard a couple of people talk about how fast their year flew by.  Words that basically slap me in the face and stop my breathing - and then I consider if I may or may not need physical restraints to hold back me and my words that want to scream how this past year for me and boys has been a nightmare that wouldn't end.  How every day of just waking and getting about what most people think is a given part of their day - owed to them somehow, by someone in control - ... well, it wasn't even close.  And how I hope to goodness that someday soon we wake up to find what ignorant people assume that we already have.  

Last year I was asked to contribute an Advent devotional - a writing that was due well before Thanksgiving and well before the World of Walters lost its mind.  And after all was said and done, I was asked permission to share the piece - though it was ultimately decided that it should only be shared via email and not social media.  I think the Walters were already crowding the airwaves enough without a little Kristi essay added to the mix.

And I found that post today.  I still agree with a whole lot of it, but I'm wrestling with the ending:

Philippians 4:4-5
Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, Rejoice. Let your gentleness be known to everyone. The Lord is near.

By Kristi Walters
When I was tasked with the job of writing something devotionally inspiring, while at the same time sort of biblically sound for this season of Advent, my thoughts immediately went to my most identifiable character from the hit TV show Seinfeld—that being George Costanza and his tradition of celebrating, instead of Christmas, the holiday of Festivus. A holiday made up by his father when George was 9 years old and dad lost his proverbial bananas while trying to shop for a doll for his son. 

In the TV series, Jerry Seinfeld is the snarky stand-up comedian; George Costanza, the grumpy, late 30s, often unemployed man who lives at home with his parents; Elaine Benes, the serial-dating, ex-girlfriend of Jerry, and the only female balance to the men on the show, although mostly through a neurotically skewed lens; and Cosmo Kramer, Jerry’s neighbor who is able to survive mysteriously on short-term, part-time jobs that never last. Add a few here-and-there characters to the mix, and we pretty much have a full person—full of all our natural quirks, idiosyncrasies, desires and disappointments. And the fact that any of us could identify with any or all of these characters depending on the day is, all by itself, a full semester college psychology course. 

The motto for Festivus is “A Festivus for the rest of us!”—a holiday for those who have given up on the others. For Festivus, the usual Christmas tradition of a tree is contradicted with an unadorned aluminum pole, standing in direct contrast to the new normal of holiday materialism. Those attending Festivus also participate in the “Airing of Grievances,” which is an opportunity to tell others how they have disappointed you in the past year, followed by a Festivus dinner, and then completed by the “Feats of Strength” event where the head of the household must be pinned.

For George Costanza’s family, Festivus is celebrated each year on Dec. 23 and, as I learned, has caught on with many even outside the show as a stand against what Christmas has become. I mean by real, live people, who have given up hope on the most hopeful holiday of the year. I may be one of them. 

I think I’ve become more and more anti-Christmas the older I’ve gotten, and my less-than-joyful attitude is starting to spread to pretty much every other holiday, except for the happy fact that I may have the day off work. I can totally understand Fourth of July and support it fully as both a memory and a reminder of some pretty awesome history. I can even understand Thanksgiving, except for the retail portion of the holiday when stores compete over who can open the earliest. Maybe Macy’s will offer a Thanksgiving Day buffet right there in the store to give people more energy to shop. 

And truth be told, Christmas usually makes me sad. Especially Wilshire’s Christmas Eve worship service. But not the kind of sad like when your dog dies, but the kind that I can’t quite figure out so it feels even sadder because it can’t be identified. I’m basically a crier at candlelight anything and at any and all children singing. There’s some buried psychology in that one somewhere, too. Maybe I need to re-watch the entire nine years of Seinfeld with that in mind. 

I also think I haven’t figured out how to calendar the feeling of joy. How to summon it up, to call it to duty for a specific date or occasion. And add to the mystery, the frazzly expectations that the modern version of our Christmas holiday imposes on us before we can even begin to sit down to eat, or in between the million versions of Jingle Bells, and I get a little over the whole thing before it gets started. 

Now enter stage right, the biblical command/request/suggestion to rejoice in the Lord always. Not just sometimes. Not just when I feel like it. And not based upon a previously scheduled event. Just always. Like when I wake up in the morning. When I go to bed at night. When I think I may have serial killer tendencies in the long line at T.J. Maxx in December. In fact, in one translation of today’s verse, the command is to rejoice always and to let our gentleness be known to all. In another version it asks to let our kindness, even our fairness, be evident to all. Because y’all, sometimes it’s just not, and I guess Paul, the author of Philippians, already had a pretty good sense of where our world was headed. 

And I suppose however over the commercialism of the holidays we are, whether we choose to celebrate Christmas or Festivus, or sit this year out as a gap year, the lesson in it all, for me, anyway, is that the promise of Christmas isn’t about the holiday but about the days to come. That no matter how much purchased or created joy we build our traditions on, the real deal about joy is to just jump in somewhere, often and always.  

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