January 2005

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The Spirit of Christmas.

I've been putting off writing about the holiday season for quite some time to the point that the actual holidays have finally passed me by, but the spirit of the holidays, the reason why I can't seem to bring myself to move on to other things has lingered, and remains close by, just an arms breadth away, seeming to haunt me, and seeming to ask of me, a closure, an acknowledgement at least that I felt its presence, the subtle yet undeniable change that it sinuated in my heart.

I've been immensely reticent about writing about the Christmas Spirit because I felt as if the holidays can be too much of a good thing, a painfully bittersweet miasma of good feelings and happiness which is a passing fancy, the loss of which can leave one embittered and wanting.

At the beginning of the season, when Christmas lights were slowly yet surely starting to adorn the streets, and talks of gifts and good cheer, and wish lists were sprouting around the internet like crab grass, and what I still think are annoying commercial jingles which lay waste to the subconscious in the guise of Christmas carols were being played in groceries to induce the consumers in us to splurge more with the preparation of holiday feasts in sight, I felt as I have these past few Christmases, which was indifferent. I haven't felt the Christmas Spirit in countless years, and had no reason to expect that this year would be any different as I have resigned myself to believing that the Christmas Spirit was nothing more than a childhood dream. Mind you, this wasn't a conclusion which I came to accept easily. I tried, during the past few years, numbers of ways to feel the holidays, to smell the 'chestnuts roasting on an open fire' even if I don't eat chestnuts, and even if there are no chestnuts nearby, not to mention that nuts of any kind make me feel nauseated, to hear the sleigh bells jingle, even if just in my mind's ear. I drew the line at parading around like an Eskimo or a penguin to envision snow. The weather just wouldn't permit me to don a snowsuit, and I simply refused to cross the thin line from desperation to lunacy. It was bad enough trying to will myself to be happy just because it was Christmas, when what might otherwise seem like mere melancholy during any other time of the year becomes more akin to depression.

Anyway, the closer the Christmas season dawned , the more my inertia and my listlessness increased, I simply could not imagine feeling that kind of joy and lightheartedness, that innocence and excitement which make a child's eyes sparkle with mirth. I felt as grouchy as ever, and was reluctant to spend my thirteenth month pay on Christmas Shopping. I felt then that I wouldn't even have bought any gifts if I could help it. I mean, why bother? Not only was I feeling stingy, I just didn't see the point. And I figured that if being Scroogy was good enough for everyone else the whole year through, then it was certainly good enough for me this holiday season.

Life, though, can spin us on our backsides with exquisite jocularity and dexterity during one of its more good humored days. Like a long lost friend deliberately deciding to surprise me with an unannounced visit, none other than the Christmas Spirit snuck up on me the afternoon when the slip of paper with my name printed out on it was picked out of the many rolls of paper still remaining in a box containing the names of those who were included in the exchange gift which was scheduled for our office's Christmas party by none other than the love of my life, my husband. How can anyone, even the most reluctant and hardboiled person in the world, possibly resist that kind of coincidence? How could someone remain grumpy given that circumstance? Actually, during this time, the Christmas Spirit must have just been breathing its chestnut-smelling breath down my nape, as I didn't know yet then that Qs had ended up with me as his Exchange Gift manita. All I know was that suddenly, the most indifferent, the person least affected by special occasions and festivities of any sort was suddenly excited about buying gifts and gift giving. Seeing Qs that way was what really thawed me out. His enthusiasm and his good spirits were contagious, the final straw that broke down whatever resistance and reservations I had left, and for the first time in years, what could only be the Spirit of Christmas touched my soul.

I know nothing else to call it, no other way to describe it. All I know was that it was just the Eighteenth of December, and when it was Qsez turn to present his gift to his manita, he gave me a 'special' mention of sorts, thanking me for helping him pick out the present, and actually fitting the shirt... before walking over to give the very shirt we had painstakingly chosen for his fictional manita, along with a novel he thought I would enjoy, to no one else but me. The joy I felt was overflowing, and I was reduced into a state of slightly stupefied paralysis. With my immunity to good cheer brought down to a critical level, the Christmas Spirit was able to take full possession of my body. Or maybe it was Qs who consumed the Christmas Spirit as he seemed to be brimming with it.

Affected as I was by then by what I could only perceive to be the good will and benevolence from almost everyone I encountered as I went about the usual holiday activities, having made a good case of justifying to myself that the loss of my thirteenth month pay to gifts was a worthwhile cause, and none too painfully making an appearance and greeting relatives during the Christmas dinners i've come to dread given what i've been through over the past few years, it took me a while to fathom the implications of the lack of tension by which I had attended what used to be painfully agonizing and awkward evenings to which I often found myself dragged, kicking and screaming, and the sincerity by which I gave and received the good wishes of those who were there. It slowly dawned on me that it was the first time in three years that I felt welcome, that for the first time since the upheaval which shook my life and which made me a subject rife for rumor and disapproval, that I didn't feel persecuted, that I didn't feel as if I was being judged, that my every movement was being scrutinized, and that every murmured whisper was about me, that for the first time in a very long time I was able to feel the spirit of Christmas as I haven't done since 'Santa' still used to leave me gifts under the tree, though it wasn't the Christmas Spirit of old which I felt as a child which pure in form as it was could only be rendered generic by my age. This was a Christmas Spirit which has been fused with another entity entirely, making it all the more potent and infinitely more powerful, certainly well worth keeping for a while longer than the sparkling lights which have already been returned to storage, and the other ornaments which are now, as we speak, gathering dust.

It could only be that the cheer abounding from every well wisher, the goodness which made everyone a kinder, nicer, more gentle version of their everyday selves, the sense of well-being which enabled us to treat others with more compassion and more empathy than we normally would could only have been made to stand out in high relief by the realization that during the course of the year, i've finally come to feel at home.

And this, ladies and gentlemen, is when I can finally begin my new year. A belated Merry Christmas and an exquisitely Happy New Year to everyone in my life. May the coming year not only be filled with new beginnings, but with the possibility of the comfort bequeathed by closures to issues which still need resolution in your life.

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