Meet the holiday season on your terms…

Maybe it’s just me but I swear with every passing holiday season, I find that people are far from jolly and joyous during this so-called magical time of the year. In fact people are downright rude and hostile and it drives me crazy. Now that marketers have convinced us that the holiday season starts on November 1, it means we have almost 2 months to drive ourselves crazy manufacturing joy and hunting for the perfect gifts for the ingrates (just kidding) in our lives.

Seriously, the holiday season is filled with pressure and tensions and like so many others for years I tried to go with it until last year when I decided stop the madness. For years I tried to create the perfect holidays for my family because of my own issues with holidays. Growing up working class, I remember that the holiday season always seemed to be filled with tension, now that I am an adult, I get it. The struggle of surviving is hard enough than you add in what is supposed to be a magical time of year. Yet magic costs money and when you are living hand to mouth, money is far from magical.

So as an adult I brought my own baggage to the holiday season, killing myself to have the perfect dinner, oodles of gifts, the perfect tree, you get the idea. Now? I don’t give a fig. Oh, we will have a tree and there will be gifts and some food to eat but for me, my biggest gift is in my daily work. Several years ago at my job, I took a small in-house holiday program and turned it into a larger community event that now involves a fabulous breakfast, kids picking out gifts for their loved ones and even Santa drops in. This event takes up hours and hours of my time as I get local banks and businesses to sponsor the breakfast, donors to give gifts and a zillion volunteers. This year’s event will be held this upcoming Saturday and while we are running low on gifts, I am walking in faith that the event will happen as it is meant to happen.

Yet the joys I get from orchestrating this madness is my reminder of what I want the holidays to be for me and mine…giving back. Last year, my agency didn’t have enough sponsors for the breakfast so I personally chipped in to make sure it happened and I was glad I did as I watched over 200 people, some beaten down by this journey we call life, have just one morning where they had no worries.

In making this choice last year, it meant that our personal family celebration was stripped down but in the process we created a new tradition. We had no fancy dinner instead I made a simple Christmas brunch and for dinner we ordered Chinese takeout and sat around together watching holiday movies on our TV trays. Yep, we know how to do the holidays in style.

This year’s Christmas will be a repeat of last year except the college boy won’t be joining us until after Christmas Day and that will be fine.  Instead we will continue the new tradition of a downsized Christmas as we all learn that the holidays can be whatever we want them to be instead of listening to the cacophony of voices that try to dictate what they should be for us.

The beauty of being a grown up is learning that actually coloring outside the lines can be a valuable thing and that we can do that in all areas of our lives. So if the holiday season is getting you down and you haven’t even gone to see the family yet, remember you have a choice, you can decide what to do. Enjoy the holidays or lack of holidays on your own terms.

Tis Christmas Eve

It’s Christmas Eve and I am tired, the past week has been non-stop chaos. I love my new job but I am reminded of why I stopped doing direct service work, the agency I work at is small so even though I am the director, titles and position mean jack when work needs to be done.

The population I work with is poor folks, and in this current economic climate when many of us are feeling rather broke, a job like mine helps me to keep a healthy perspective. After all I was able to go purchase my Christmas dinner and gifts, I did not have to call a million agencies to get help. I have a roof over my head, my basic needs are met. Its a shame that one of the folks who saw swindled by ole Bernie Madoff, didn’t have my perspective.

See, I awoke to the sounds of NPR reporting that some cat who Bernie took for 1.5 billion dollars had committed suicide. To be honest that story pissed me off as I was getting up early to go into work today because I had a few families that needed some holiday help so even though it was technically my off day, the alternative of enjoying Christmas Eve knowing I had folks in need was not an option.

Yet to hear about some man so distraught over losing a billion dollars that he would take his own life seems strange, after all I am sure the dead man wasn’t broke…cat lived in Westchester County so I suspect even after the ride Bernie gave him he still had a few pesos. Perhaps this man should have visited a food pantry or homeless shelter to gain a better perspective on the situation. Seeing folks with no food and no roof over their heads has a funny way of making your personal shit look pretty good provided you have the basics.

Anyway rant over, to my Christian brothers and sisters I wish you a Merry Christmas as we celebrate the birth of our Lord and Savior. To my brothers and sisters of other faith traditions, I wish you a Happy Holiday.

Perhaps in this tough times, we can start to refocus on what’s really important.