A Shining Christmas

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Contrary to the silliness that usually goes down on my Facebook page (I keep it pretty frivolous there; I’ve found that it’s not at all wise to be otherwise on that particular platform), I have to tell you all: I am actually really struggling with the whole “making merry” thing this year.

If you’ve been following along here for a while, you know that this is the first holiday season in which we are no longer the full-time, in-home, primary caregivers for my mother-in-law, which we had been since 2010. We have thus far had several months of not jerking awake at all hours of the night, listening for footsteps, running water, and other various strange sounds not coming from our cats. We are not responsible for getting her dressed, fed, and bathed. We are not washing soiled sheets and clothes.

The unbelievable pressure we had been under has been lifted, mostly. We are still her caregivers in that we’re regular visitors at the memory unit, checking her room to see that it’s clean, checking in with the staff to make sure she’s set for lotion, Depends, and non-binding socks. We schedule her hair appointments at the little salon on her floor (as I write this, she’s probably getting her perm right now). But this is manageable. This is done without the constant undercurrent of fear that marked the last year-and-a-half of our caring for her at home.

In the depths of my depression and anxiety during that period, I would try and look ahead to this very time. The first Christmas where I could take a deep breath and enjoy myself. I held it aloft as something that would, surely, be a shining Christmas, even with the sad understanding that my mother-in-law would not be actively participating in it.

And here we are and well, I’m just not having it. Any of it. I’m dressing the part and wrapping the presents and baking the cookies. My tree is up, decorated, and lovely. But I cannot muster the cheer. I get home most nights and can’t be arsed to flip on the lighted garlands or the little ceramic “village” on the sideboard. I’ve talked to a few people about this, and the general consensus is that I’m still just emerging from the trauma of that last year-and-a-half, and that feeling completely “normal” is still a ways off. I should go easy on myself, and stop feeling pressure to make this the BEST CHRISTMAS EVER.

So I’m going through the motions while feeling sort of sleepy and intermittently sad. I might also be overcompensating a tad by eating a lot of carbs. I’m sort of looking forward to January 2nd at this point.

And I feel shitty because of this. I feel guilty because I’m having difficulty with getting into this whole holiday thing while my mother-in-law is in a memory center having no earthly clue what day it is, let alone that it’s almost Christmas. And I fall into the trap of clobbering myself for not having perspective. And mostly I just feel stupid. I should have known better to load up on expectations.

As always, humor helps. I bought this mock-ugly-Christmas-sweater not too long ago:

10425438_10102734531932890_7391550646571351082_nA coworker posted that photo on Facebook, which started this whole…trend…where my friends started posting thematic pictures for me:

10418303_2554109775630_706734808926499292_n10850042_10204446332735102_2358759221660275175_n10849935_10154994466605085_2346307634257814993_nSo, as crummy as I’ve been feeling, it did turn out to be a Shining Christmas after all.

HappyMerryWhatever

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A friend of mine from high school posted this on Facebook a couple of weeks ago:  “That wraps up the election, folks. Stay tuned for the War On Christmas.”

I laughed out loud at this.  Not because I am anti-Christmas (I’m far from it, as anyone who’s been to my house in December can confirm), but because it’s true:  people need something to be upset about, and the yearly Happy-Holidays-versus-Merry-Christmas “debate” is as good a thing as any.

Frankly, I don’t get it.  I don’t get what’s particularly offensive about saying either of these things.  But then, I’m not religious (although I’ve made it a point to have at least a working knowledge of major religions), nor am I all that “politically correct.”

I’ll say this, though:  in the years since this became a cultural sore spot that seemingly no one can stop picking at, I’ve never had anyone upbraid, chastise, or otherwise correct me for saying “Merry Christmas.”  On the other hand, I have had my head ripped off and kicked around the block for saying “Happy Holidays.”  Your mileage may vary, but this has been my experience.

To me, “Happy Holidays” is simply a LOGICAL thing to say.  Because:

Thanksgiving + Hanukkah + Christmas + New Year’s Day = HOLIDAYS.

I mean, I’m not wrong here.  This is a perfectly reasonable thing to say, on most days between the end of November and the first of January.

Now, if I happen to know you’re Jewish, I’ll wish you Happy Hanukkah on the appropriate days.  If I happen to know you’re Christian, I’ll absolutely wish you a Merry Christmas.  No problem.  But the fact is that there are going to be occasions during which I’m just plain NOT going to know what someone believes or doesn’t believe.  Trust me when I say I am not kowtowing to some shady “agenda” by addressing someone I don’t know with an all-encompassing (and friendly) greeting.  I don’t hate freedom; I’m being polite.  Like my mama taught me.

There are those who see it as emblematic of a larger issue – an erosion of values, perhaps, or the beginnings of a godless amoral state in which little red books will hang from the branches of Socialism Trees for all obedient children.  I don’t see that happening.  I have enough faith in the safeguards in place, and enough cynicism regarding the machinations of partisan politics, to state this with a more than reasonable degree of certainty.

I don’t think “inclusivity” is in any way, shape, or form an invitation to the Destruction Of Life As We Know It.  I’m not anti-religion (so long as it’s not dictating legislation, I am generally fine with it).  I don’t think we should scrub “Christmas” from the books.  I even agree that “holiday tree” sounds a little, well, stupid.  But I think we should make an effort to learn about our varying traditions, to stop with the sweeping generalizations and name-calling, and try – if only for a few short weeks – to bring out the best in one another, instead of assuming the worst.

It saddens me that during a season in which there are lots of pretty things to look at, things to reflect upon, and in which hot chocolate is tastier than ever, people even have the time or inclination to get ZOMG SO UPSET over a simple greeting.  In this day and age, the fact that someone even bothers to acknowledge you at all is something to celebrate.  If the person at the counter wishes you “Merry Christmas,” or “Happy Holidays,” do you really HAVE to correct him or her?  Can’t you just say “Thank You” and complete the transaction in a way that doesn’t leave anyone upset?  Have we really all become such professional victims that a greeting is looked upon as an attack?

Andy Williams sang about “Happy Holidays.”  ANDY WILLIAMS.  Hardly a harbinger of Sharia law:

And if you don’t get weepy at this scene – whether you believe in Baby Jesus, the Flying Spaghetti Monster, or nothing at all – I pity you:

There’s so much more to celebrate than denigrate.  Let’s just be nice to each other.