If We Choose Then Everyday Can Be Like Christmas
During the Christmas season I think about the song "The Most Wonderful Time of the Year" that one of my favorite singers, Andy Williams, sings so beautifully. I agree wholeheartedly with the lyrics but I like to take it further. My second most favorite Christmas song is "Why can't everyday be like Christmas?" sung by Elvis Presley. I have decided that if we choose then everyday can be like Christmas. Of course, one of the nice things about Christmas is the spirit of giving. I have come to believe that there is much magic in giving. We have all heard the saying that it is better to give than to receive. I personally do not believe that. After all, did beloved Jesus not say for us to love our neighbor as our self. We are somebody too, and yes, I wholeheartedly agree that it's honorable and very loving to give to others. But it's equally loving and honorable to give to ourselves.
This can be difficult for some of us to learn and internalize but it is something we need to learn. I do not believe that the magic of giving and receiving can exist if it is one-sided just as I don't believe we can love anybody else if we don't have self love. I also believe it is possible to overdo the giving and I will share a personal story to illustrate that. The Buddhists teach about walking the moderate path of temperance. I try to do that but to those of us who can be a bit obsessive compulsive, walking the path of moderation is not something we are always successful at. I suppose obsessive compulsive can mean different things to different people and even to ourselves at different times and in different circumstances.
My inner child is crazy about Christmas and I make it a point to get into the holiday spirit bright and early. When the radio station started playing their Christmas carols in early December, I listened to and taped a bunch of them. At night I turned on my indoor display of Christmas lights, snowmen, santas, and such and enjoyed Christmas carols and a few Christmas movies. This year I went all out even more. This could be because a very dear friend of mine died on May 9 of this year and Christmas was also his favorite holiday. He had been sick for a long time. I would go visit him in November for a few days and decorate his room. We'd listen to Christmas carols at night, turn on the Christmas lights I had strung about and play cards, Monopoly or Payday.
This year was very hard on me because I missed him terribly. Still, I would not let my grief keep me from enjoying Christmas and I felt that Terry would want me to celebrate. I also went to the shed and dug out some outdoor decorations and placed them in front of the apt. where he and his room-mate lived. I felt like he wanted me to buy him some candles and have his room-mate light them and the little indoor tree that Don had bought. I wrapped the candles and I stayed there for three days from Dec 17 to Dec 20th. Mother nature was very cooperative as it snowed each day I was there. "Terry would have been downstairs in a heartbeat", Don had said. "How he loved snow and the Christmas season."
I did my best to keep my spirits up during the holiday season, though I still cry everyday because I miss my friend of the past eight years who died at the young age of 53. Terry was a big grown up kid and in many ways I felt like his parent. I always looked after him and watched out for him as did his room-mate. Beginning December first I wore a red tee shirt everyday and I had a half cup of low-fat eggnog each morning. I had wrapped up three small fruit cakes and I will have a small piece each day once I unwrap all of my presents from me to me. I always get a laugh out of this for it reminds me of the Chipmonk song where, Alvin, I think it is, says "this is a gift from me to me." I also bought candy canes, and would have a piece each day as well. My friend Jane made me some chocolate and peanut butter fudge. Terry loved peanut butter and I'd have a small piece for him daily as well.
This year I began my holiday shopping in late October. The fact that the stores practically all showcase and display their Christmas decorations this early makes it more of a temptation. And the fact that my den is my own version of my mini North Pole, and I keep it that way year round, also makes it easier for me to get into the Christmas spirit. This is not a bad thing at all, but this year I may have gone overboard on the giving end. First of all, my heart was in the right place. I love looking at the Christmas bright colors of red, green, yellows, white and blues and I buy many rolls of wrapping paper with different designs of Santa Claus, Rudolph, snowmen, elves, Christmas trees, ribbons, stockings, bows, peppermint sticks, candles, wreaths, presents, holly, mistletoe, Christmas bulbs, tinsel and more. I love looking at the designs and colors and I get as big a kick out of wrapping presents as I do presenting them to my family and friends.
I think of the Mae West saying 'if some is good then more is better.' That describes me in certain ways. For several years I did not get my family any presents because I just didn't want to bother to be perfectly honest and I had not fully healed from a very sad Christmas we had when I was thirteen.
The social workers came over with presents for us kids and my mom and dad were passed out at the table with beer bottles all over the place. I frantically rushed about to put them in the beer case. Two weeks later we kids were off to foster homes where I stayed in a different one each year for the next four years until I graduated from high school in 1975. Time is the great healer one of my favorite quotes say. I decided I needed to work through that old hurt and move on. I worked with my therapist and she had me relive that sad awful Christmas and write a story about it. I was to keep nothing hidden. I was to ask my inner child and my subconscious to recall every detail, and feelings of hurt, fear and anger that the situation entailed.
To my astonishment when I got through and relived all of that pain, something magical and very healing happened. There was something about going down memory lane and honoring the pain turned out to be a mighty catalyst of healing for me. So a few year ago I decided it was time to completely be the new me. I had worked through enough that I was able to have decorations up all year, but I had not balanced out the giving factor with the receiving. Last year I went all out and to all expense buying lots of presents for my family. They were not expensive, but I bought useful things and treats that they could enjoy. I had a blast wrapping each and every one of them and watching the surprise and delight as they all opened their gifts. My sister laughed and said that only I would wrap up canned goods, candy bars, potato chips, chapstick, notebooks and such things. Then she added why not wrap up things like that as everything you got us we can use. I say who makes the rules for Christmas etiquette and says you can only wrap up DVD's, computer games, clothes and such items?
Not only did I buy all kinds of items, last year was my clearing the clutter year. I wrapped up cooking ware I had never used, sheets, dishes, silverware, towels that had never been used and lots of household items that I had never used. It gave me much pleasure this year when I saw that my sister was using the cooking ware I had given her and the towels and sheets were in use as well.
This year of 2009 I had no household items to clear up so I compensated by buying lots of treats and various useful things for my family which comes to two siblings, a brother-in-law, mother, four nieces and one nephew. On Tuesday Dec 22, I woke up at 5 a.m. and got up to sort out all the presents. There were just as many wrapped for myself (my inner child, Little Michael as I call him) and I knew it would take some time to sort through them all. It actually took two hours to sort them all out and to bag up the ones for the family. Then it took me two more hours to unwrap all of my presents. I have to confess that although I only bought little things for myself: treats, toiletry items, snacks, vitamins, canned goods etc. it was very fun to unwrap them all. A neat thing is that I forgot most of the things I bought for myself so the unwrapping was a true Christmas surprise. It may seem silly or even ridiculous to wrap presents (and insignificant ones at that) for oneself, but I do not care. Looking at the colorful wrapping paper and presents brings much joy to my inner child.
By 2 p.m. I had five very heavy bags to take down to the car. I was thrilled to be playing Santa Claus to the hilt but as I headed out, a little voice inside me told me that something was awry this Christmas. "Oh dear," I said out loud. "I wonder what that could be all about?" I knew that nobody was sick or anything, but something would be different this year, and it would not be to my liking. What to do? I wasn't about to drag five big bags of gifts back upstairs, unwrap and take them all back to Walmart, Walgreens, Big Lots, the Dollar Store, and the other places I had shopped. So I just tried to dismiss the feeling and away I drove, singing Christmas carols all the way to Mt. Washington, KY.
I had talked to my sister the day before and reminded her that I was bringing lots of presents. She said that she and Jeffrey (my nephew) would help me carry them upstairs. When I arrived two hours later and pulled in the driveway two things surprised me: The first thing was that there were very few Christmas lights and decorations outside. My brother-in-law always puts lots of lights on the outside of the house and even around the windows, and on the bushes as well as the lit up candy canes he puts out along the sidewalk. Secondly, my three great nieces were not there to greet their uncle Michael. They are always so delighted to see me when I come in and make it a point to have my niece drop them off at their mamaw's to see their uncle Michael. Not this time. They were at a friend's house. Secondly, neither my sister nor nephew Jeffrey were home. I went inside (as I have a key to their house) and walked upstairs. My mother (who lives with my sister) was in the living room watching T.V. She said that Linda was at a job fair applying for jobs. I checked my voice mail and Linda had left me a message saying that she would be home in an hour or so. She and Jeffrey would help me with the presents then. I decided to cart them upstairs myself. I took one big bag at a time and I gently placed each present under the Christmas tree. That took over an hour. Then I visited with mom. I looked in the frig and as usual it was pretty bare. There was not even a single soft drink.
To each their own as the saying goes but I have to admit I found it a bit irritating that my sister and brother-in-law have money to feed five horses, six geese, several chickens, two dogs, a house cat and two barn cats, but can't even keep the pantry and frig stocked. I know 'mind your own business' part of me told myself. Since I was put in charge of buying pop, dinner rolls, and dessert for Christmas I went to the dollar store and bought a mountain dew and two pepsis. I knew they would not last very long but at least I'd be helping out a bit. After all it was the Christmas season and giving is a big part of my nature anyway. I'd buy some more pop tomorrow when I bought dessert.
The next day Linda asked me if I'd look after mom while she took her daughter to the doctor for some test results. And also would it be okay if my great nice, Amber, came over along with Lisa's boyfriend's three girls. That part did not thrill me but I reluctantly agreed. I told Amber she could go ahead and open her presents if she wanted to or at least part of them. Her eyes got big and she was all for opening them plus I wanted to make a dent in the huge pile. Opening presents kept Amber busy for about an hour, plus the three other girls, all under age 10 helped Amber to pick the presents out. Then we went downstairs in the basement and watched a scary movie. Lisa and Linda returned about two hours later and shortly thereafter three small boys showed up. Lisa took her gang back to the house and Linda was babysitting the three boys. Amber asked me if I would go upstairs to Linda's bedroom and read while she and the boys watched a movie.
I decided it was time to give myself a gift of standing up for myself. After all, giving and receiving wear many faces. We can give to our self and to others in many ways not involving material exchanges. Linda knocked on the door awhile later and I told her that bringing in a second set of noisy kids was not my idea of a bright and merry Christmas. I reminded her that I drove the two hours to spend holiday time with my family; not to entertain and put up with a house of noisy kids. She apologized and said they'd be gone soon and promised that tomorrow would be a quieter day. I accepted her apology and was proud of myself for speaking up. In the past sometimes I have had a tendency to bite my tongue and just put up with things other people do that hurt my feelings or irritate me. Then resentment and anger build up which can lead to a fight. We all need to learn to become assertive and to stand up for our self. Usually, everybody feels better and things can be worked out. Now that Linda and I had talked and worked things out, I could tell my inner child that he was no longer justified in ranting and raving to me about my feelings and needs not being considered. And that, no, I did not need to pack up and go home. Learning to be assertive can take some work, but it gets easier with practice. It can save a lot of hard feelings and prevent fights.
When all of the kids had left, Linda asked me if I wanted to do a little shopping with her. She had to return a couple of things at Walgreens and wanted to do some shopping at the new Kroger. I was glad to go because I could do a bit of shopping as well. Linda had already told me that finances had been tough this year since she had not worked since last March. She would find another job but things would be rough over the holidays. I felt badly for her. I wasn't concerned about me having a gift from them. I was more concerned that she and her husband Buddy were able to get the grandkids some gifts. Since there were several presents under the tree when I unloaded mine, I concluded that they had been able to purchase a few gifts. Plus mom always gives everybody money for Christmas and lord knows, I had enough presents for each of them that could have taken care of two or three more families. I didn't mind and had even told myself that I would buy them more this year since they were having a rough time. The canned goods, treats, jelly, pasta, au gratin potatoes, cheese crackers, candy etc. would keep the pantry stocked for at least a few days.
Linda returned her things at Walgreen's and bought a few items. She said Buddy had given her $50 and when buying for three girls that does not go far, plus she had to buy some turkey roast, bananas, vanilla pudding and vanilla wafers for Buddy to make his popular annual banana pudding. At Kroger's I bought a pecan pie, some nut brownies, three packages of rolls and three liters of pop. I had asked Linda if my sister-in-law, Letha, was going to be making her popular sweet potato casserole this year. She said she didn't know but would call Letha later. I told her that I had four cans of yams wrapped up as presents for Buddy because I know how much he likes sweet potatoes. If Letha did not bring any, she could just open up a can or two of Buddy's. I would buy the marsh mellows. Linda got Letha on the phone and Letha said she was not making a sweet potato casserole this year, but she'd bring over yams. So that settled getting into Buddy's yams. Linda then asked me if I had green beans wrapped up under the tree. I said no. She looked at the turkey roasts and said she did not have enough money to buy them. I was tempted to buy them but something told me not to. I had already spent a lot of money on their presents and bought things for the Christmas meal. I thought a bit more and told Linda that I could put the two turkey roasts on my debit card and Buddy could pay me the ten dollars. She agreed and loaded them in the shopping cart.
Well, I had passed another assertion test. In the past I'd often buy food when I visit, because like I said, the frig are pantry are never stocked up when I visit. I usually eat out at Subway or Arby's so not to eat whatever little food they have in the house. Plus they are big red meat eaters and I don't eat red meat so it's just easier for me to have my turkey subway. When we got home Linda informed Buddy that he owed me $10. He looked at me and said, do you need an oil change? I always pay Buddy to do my oil changes as he's an excellent mechanic. I looked at him and said, 'nope, don't need one, but thanks for asking." Again, it would have been easy for me to cave in and give him money for an oil change I didn't really need. But I stuck to my guns. One more test down. How many more to go?"
I still felt badly and I kept saying to myself. I really wish they had some money and could have a better Christmas. Nobody should have to be counting coins like Linda had to at Walgreen's for her purchases which exceeded by a few coins the value of her return card. Nobody should have to count coins and experience lack especially at Christmas time, or really any other time, I kept thinking. Then to my wondrous surprise, a little while later Buddy came back from the tobacco store with a grin a mile long on his face. He had won $300.00 from a lottery ticket. "Thank you, spirit angels and guides," I said after I congratulated him.
I was a bit sad the next morning which was Christmas Eve. Lisa and her girls still had not come to visit. Well, actually, they had stopped by last night around eleven p.m., but by then I was pooped and had gone to bed. Buddy and Linda went to Walmart and the grocery the next day which was Christmas eve. Linda had wanted to get a couple more things for the girls and something for Lisa. I stayed at the house and sipped hot chocolate and visited mom and Jeffrey. About two hours later they returned with presents and groceries. I was about to head out for my subway, but Linda said, "Michael, no need for that. We bought turkey, chips, dip, cottage cheese, fudge and candy. Just help yourself." That made me feel good and I took her up on the offer and enjoyed having lunch with them as I seldom do it.
A little while later Lisa dropped my fourteen year old great-niece off. We visited a few minutes then I invited her to open her gifts, which she was very happy to do. Then we all piled up in Linda's PT cruiser and headed to the country to visit Buddy's mother and father. We sang Christmas carols and I enjoyed looking at the lights on the way back as it was getting dark when we got back to the house. Lisa brought the girls over around seven p.m. so they all opened their presents. I watched the movie, The Christmas shoes awhile later then went to bed.
The next morning I woke up feeling rather perky and chirpy. It had been delightful seeing everybody open their Christmas presents and for the final round I had presents for my brother and his wife and three girls. We had our Christmas meal around 1 p.m. then they opened their presents. Mom handed out Christmas cards. The children got $50 and the grand-children twenty-five. This was half of what she gave us last year, but I figured, oh well, maybe mom is even having to watch her money a little bit more carefully. When I opened my present from my brother and sister-in-law it was an oriental candle set and the price tag of $5 was still attached. "Boy, they were sure cheap this year," my inner child protested to me mentally. They usually spend at least $15 to $20 on me. "Maybe they are having some rough times as well," I told my inner child. My niece usually gets me something. There was no present for her and my sister got me a dark blue sweat shirt/pant outfit. They did not fit, and they were 85% polyester so I had to take them back to Family Dollar for a return gift card as polyester makes me itch.
About an hour later, my brother Steve's girls, wanted to go home so they left. "We sure know who's the boss around that house, don't we?" Buddy said after they left. I totally agreed and was a little irritated that Steve didn't just drop the girls off (they only live about 5 miles away from my sister) and come back to socialize like families are supposed to do on Christmas day. But I bit my tongue and didn't say anything. By four p.m. Buddy had had enough of Christmas and saying " I'm glad it's finally over," he proceeded to take down the indoor decorations. By now my inner child was fuming. "You know how I love Christmas," I wanted to tell him. "You could have at least left the decorations up another day." But I bit my tongue.
I had planned to stay until Dec 27th but now I decided to go home the day after Christmas. My inner child was disappointed that this Christmas where I gave so much, turned out not to be so giving to me. Some good news is that Buddy won another lottery ticket, his second in two days. This time he won $500.00. I was happy for him, and something told me that my goodwill and good wishes to him and his family just may have prompted the good fortune spirits to help Buddy win his money. At least they could pay on some bills.
My inner child rant and raved all the way back to Cincinnati, going on about how cheap everybody was and how busy with their friends the great nieces were to spend much time with their Uncle Michael. Then I told myself that they are no longer little girls. Britany is 15. Timberly is almost 14 and Amber is 11. At that age kids girls usually like to spend a lot of time with friends and think and talk about boys. This did not make my inner child feel any better. We need to nurture and parent our inner child as much as any real parent needs to parent and nurture their children. When I got home on Saturday, around noon I said, "Yes, like Linda said, Buddy was pretty much a scrooge this year." Christmas was not at all what I had expected it to be. But maybe we need to not be so expectant for things to go the way we want and plan, for how often do they when you really think about it?
There was one thing I learned from the experience. I was full of the spirit of giving and I have also acquired the spirit of enjoying being on the receiving end as well. For years I'd give and give and never want anything in return. Sometimes I'd even turn down gifts and not allow friends to treat me when they wanted to. I, at least, gave myself credit for working that out. Hours in the therapist's chair can help us work out a lot of unresolved issues and conflicts if we 'do the work' as my therapist used to say. If we work the therapy it will work for us. No truer words have ever been spoken.
I accept that I may have gone overboard this year. Maybe receiving so little this time partially was to teach me that it's not necessary to load up three hundred gifts, al be they, small items and indulge your family. It is I who will be paying the three or four hundred dollars I ran up on the credit cards. Next year I will not be so extravagant. Everything is a learning experience. I am not sure why I felt so obligated to buy so much for everybody other than maybe I was feeling sorry for my sister and their financial woes and tried to help out. I guess charity to one's family is just as important and significant to giving charity to strangers.
From this experience I was also reminded that our perceptions determine what we experience and attract to us. My brother-in-law thinks that Christmas is a lot of hard and perhaps unneeded work, expense and effort, and he's glad for it to end. I, however, choose to perceive that Christmas is a magical time of giving and receiving even though I had to have a few talks with my inner child this year about the spirit of giving and receiving. I know that I gave out of the goodness of my heart and my guides and Destiny will see that I am blessed and rewarded financially this year.
I reminded my inner child of how I'm always blessed when I give and then said, "yes, next year we won't be giving so much to the family." I then decided that I would make sure to make each day from now until New Years' day special and magical here at my apt. and I set out to do just that. As though to confirm this, the next day big snow flakes fell and for the next few days there was about an inch of snow on the ground every day. I looked out the window as I'd sip my eggnog and enjoy the fudge, and candy canes each day. I wore my red tee shirts, and my favorite pair of red and green boxer shorts. I played Christmas songs during the day and watched some movies. I enjoyed looking out the kitchen window each night to see the colorful and snowflake lights that some of the neighbor residents had strung on their condominium balconies.
To top off the magic I opened my new book I am working on and the story I came upon was a story about encountering a snow gnome I had written back in 1994 on December 18th. That was one of the most magical and marvelous Christmas' I had ever had. Then to top it off again a friend from Indianapolis came to visit me. We had breakfast at I-hop and the satellite was playing Christmas carols as the radio stations tend to cease playing Christmas songs after Christmas day. Christmas is meant to be magical. It is not just for children. It is for children of all ages like the song says, "to kids from one to ninety-two." We all have an inner child that is very real and alive inside us and it can bring us much magic and wonder in life if we don't shut it out. I totally and wholeheartedly believe that if we choose then everyday can be just like Christmas.
Michael Dennis (513) 281-5696 - author Halfway to Heaven, Dawn's Kiss, a collection of nearly love 200 poems that explores the many faces and facets of Love, and Morning Coffee With God, coming out from Ozark Mountain Publishing in early 2010. Cincinnati, OH. Profile: Psychic, Spiritual Medium, Author as seen on Fox, CBS, Jerry Springer, heard on MOJO, MIX, Q-102 radio in Cincinnati, Michael Dennis offers a variety of Psychic Readings to meet your needs. He offers In-Person, Telephone and Email Readings. To order his books or to book a Psychic Reading please contact him directly. Please visit his website at www.mikethepsychic.com for more information or email him at firstname.lastname@example.org