Thursday, December 01, 2005


So, here we are again. Holy wow. I think I'd love it even if I hadn't been born in it, but as it stands, I was. In that weirdo, associative way that my brain works, December is like coming home after the longest day through bustle and bluster, rounding the last corner to see the light spilling from the windows and then closing the door behind you and stepping into the warmth and comfort and the shining faces of loved ones. Home.

Admittedly, the Scrooges and parade pissers have it right, to an extent, there's a great deal to be disgusted by about the Christmas season: it's commercial gluttony, it's social vacuousness, it's cultural vapidity, it's unrealistic pressures, it's propensity for exacerbating bad family dynamics, it's socio-economic inequality. Yes. These do abound. And having severely borne the physical, psychological and emotional brunt of all of those elements, I understand fully how much the season can suck.


And I do mean 'BUT': We have a choice in how we perceive and react to our environments. For example, with a birthday nine days before Christmas, believe you me, it was a well-reheased exercise in hope, guilt and let down as child. Later, in high school and through university, it was frequently an irritating speed bump in the flurry of other activities and obligations. For several years, I personally remembered the day itself only because of birthday calls. Most of which I would miss.

One birthday that I did then and do clearly now remember, was spent at the Cloud Room, a favorite bar of mine in Seattle. It was a Sag birthday celebration and the piano singer was sitting with us after having sung a swingin' "Happy Birthday" to the group. He commented that it 'must really suck having a birthday in December', citing the usual litany of complaints.

If you've never been to the Cloud Room, as the name suggests, it grants a fairly amazing view of the city. Probably less so these day, but time was when you were afforded fantastic sights.
Listening to him talk, I looked out window at the city and through gaps between skyscrapers, across the bay, then around at the group assembled, many of whom could be here only because they'd come home for the Christmas holiday. In that moment, something I'd been trying to articulate for quite some time clicked and I replied, "How could I possibly complain when the entire city is wrapped up like a huge present and all of my friends and their friends - who would not otherwise be here - are celebrating for so many different reasons, right here, in this room, beside me? This is like being a guest of honor at the best party of the year. And I don't have to do a thing make it happen, just show up and enjoy it. Not too shabby, so says I." And so I still say.

As regards the holiday season on the whole, maybe it's the lucky star I was born under or the right slice of life scenario I've been dealt, but especially in the holiday season, my experience working with the public has been largely positive. Often, overwhelmingly so. People are a bit more prone to stress, but given the opportunity, their best behaviors surface more often than not and a little bit of grace extended goes a long, long way in this season. Just as it should and what I know is this: it's less about perfection in the material sense than genuine presence in the personal sense. It's about the spirit in which it's performed and the ability to appreciate the 'moment', however long that moment lasts or whatever form it takes.

All of this to say that I think what is most important is the filter that one chooses to draw their experiences through. The holidays, especially, are one of the weirder passages of time on this planet, but there it is, and so you have it. Nothing about that is going to change anytime soon but despite most circumstances, there is still a choice to be actively made as to whether the holidays are woeful or wonderful. And that choice is yours. So, things sucked before, but this is now and the beauty of this now is that it doesn't have to suck anymore. How 'bout that? I won't deny that it may require some effort and there are no absolutes, but I can almost guarantee that the investment and payoff will be well worth it.

If only for five minutes, reclaim the holiday. Hating it is too easy. Own it. Make it yours. Start turning it into what you always wanted it to be. Rewrite the damned tradition if the tradition doesn't suit you. You may be surprised to find out how many others disliked it as well and didn't have the courage to take a chance on mixing things up a bit. Or a lot, for that matter. Do whatever it takes, but whatever you do, don't settle. There truly is wonder out there to be experienced. You simply have to remember how to see it.

And go make a snowflake too, while you're at it.


What are you waiting for?

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