A Christmas Unlike Any Other
The Gigs of Christmas Past
I’ve never held what you might call a “typical” view of Christmas. During my years as a freelance musician, there was no time to enjoy the holiday season. Endless performances, including midnight masses followed by morning services, meant it would be after one pm on Christmas Day before the madness stopped. More than that, it was a time that somehow struck me as hypocritical: people streaming to stores spending money they don’t have, changing the way they treat each other for a few short days. I know. I know. Someone else felt the same way. “Are there no workhouses?” Yeah, right. . . Trust me; it wasn’t that bad. My Christmas spirit was a “just in time delivery.” I’d find it once my work was done. . . At the absolute last minute.
Treasured Sights and Rituals
Some of the Special Things
Even for a curmudgeon such as me, there were Christmas rituals: Mae West’s Wild Christmas album (“Put the Loot in the Boot, Santa” & “Santa Baby”; my two favorites), the Provincetown Monument Lighting and our famous Lobster Pot Christmas Tree. I’d know the spirit was arriving when I’d feel the urge to haul out my favorite recording of Handel’s Messiah and Vince Guaraldi’s A Charlie Brown Christmas. And of course, our annual viewing of Scrooged with Bill Murray. (I only really watched it for Carol Kane as the Ghost of Christmas Present. . . my kinda ghost.)
Our home has traditionally been decorated (some might say over-decorated) from top to bottom: candles in the windows, glass ornaments strung from the mantle, an enormous Christmas tree that takes a couple of days to decorate. Over decades, our family rituals have been created and enhanced. The holidays are important when to quote Edie Beale from the musical Grey Gardens, you spend “winter in a summer town.”
This Christmas is Different
We’ve made a conscious decision this year to dispense with these traditions. We’ll see some friends and exchange presents over New Year’s, which is a time our “logical family” joins us. Christmas will be quiet, with our nephew and niece; a tradition that is too important to forego. Our reasons are not what you might think. It’s not about being sore losers or some childish petulance that Hillary didn’t win. Nor is it a reaction to “he who shall not be named” and his “making Christmas great again.” The choice is about stepping back. Maintaining focus on how to move forward in the next year.
This is not the time to get caught up in a whirlwind. It’s time to decide what I value and how I help unravel the mess brought on by corporate media, Vladimir Putin, and legions of angry, old, baby-boomers. Rest assured. I’m not advocating anyone else take this approach. This is personal. As I assess this moment in my life, I want to create a marker—something I can look back and point to as the point in time where I harnessed the energies needed to rise to the occasion. I don’t feel I’m giving anything up; rather I’m focusing inward in order to give more in the future. It’s the quirky way that I operate. A voice inside is telling me to remain apart and consider. In truth, I’m not totally sure why. But it feels like the right thing this year.
And Then Comes the New Year
My only decoration this year is a single candle in the window of my writing shed. This is intentional in every sense of the word. I am focusing my energies on that ray of light and envisioning the words and deeds that will spring from its solitary glow. I’m imbuing it with all the power of my intentions. There’s no room for equivocation. No time to be wasted. 2017 will be a transformative year fraught with challenges that must be turned into opportunities, and I shall celebrate its arrival like none before—as a warrior before a battle. That light will grow and grow, encouraging my compassion, enlightenment, and greater awareness. It is a reminder of the goals I have promised myself to fulfill: to be the best writer, friend, partner, neighbor and human being I can be. Please hold me to this.
The litany of pain and the potential loss of rights that loom ahead must not intimidate us. We can’t shrink from them. We must fight them, maintain our vigilance, and push back at every opportunity while always showing compassion for those who will suffer inevitably suffer after having been duped by “he who shall not be named.” We can change things by staying connected to ourselves, our beliefs, and the principles that built this country. We must. There is no other way.
I urge you to consider what your transforming moment might be. Is it looking at the smile on your child’s face and setting out to ensure their future remains bright? Is it making a new connection with someone with whom you thought you had little in common? Supporting, with time and treasure, organizations that have an impact, such as GLAD? Making the extra effort to step out of the echo chamber and connecting in “real-time”? Standing up and just saying, “This is not who we are”? You have so many options at your disposal–choose one or more and commit to them. Please don’t give in to negativity, vindictiveness or despair.
Here’s what my hero James Baldwin had to say about the human condition under duress. “You think your pain and your heartbreak are unprecedented in the history of the world, but then you read. It was books that taught me that the things that tormented me most were the very things that connected me with all the people who were alive, or who had ever been alive.” Think of what he experienced and how his words have triumphed over the horrible experiences he had. Work on those connections. Find the commonalities we share and embrace them.
It is not my intent to be a “downer.” Far from it. I send my sincerest best wishes to you for unsurpassed joy. Not just over these holidays, but throughout the “very things” that connect us–the journey we call life. You will not face this alone. I, and others like you, will be at your side. Together, we are unstoppable.