Santa Christ

Warning: This blog may offend.  However, what I am about to suggest is not meant to attack Christians personally but merely challenge their beliefs.  Afterall, what good is your faith if you don’t allow it to be tested?  Friends (if you’re reading), please know that I respect you regardless of our differences.

With that said, Christmas is a time of wonder, a time for peace and goodwill toward others; it is the most joyous time of year (or so they say).  Christmas is the celebration of the birth of a King.  It is somehow also the time of year parents try not to go broke trying to put presents under the tree as we strive to keep the legend of Santa Claus alive.

Now, while there are those who are strictly opposed to teaching their kids to believe in Santa, and I understand their rationale, I happen to delight in the joy my children get from putting milk and cookies out (and carrots…they usually insist Santa have a balanced snack on his busiest night of the year).  Kids get so frickin’ excited about Santa comin’ to town!  It’s incredible to watch these little minds at work as they create a world in which one man, along with nine flying (yes, flying) reindeer (one with a light bulb for a nose bright enough to guide Santa’s sleigh in the dark) travels the entire globe in one evening, delivering presents to every home of every girl and boy.  Security systems are no match for Santa.  Neither are deadbolt locks.  Santa’s preferred mode of entrance?  A chimney.  No chimney?  No problem.  Santa will just use his magic.

As kids begin to get a little older, however, they begin to think more logically about everything they grew up believing.  How does one man make it to every house in the entire world in a single evening?  How can his sleigh carry that many presents?  If elves are responsible for making the presents Santa brings, how come they look just like the toys you find in the store (and sometimes have price tags stuck to the package)?  Furthermore, how can Santa see everything that every kid does every second of every day to know whether they’ve been “naughty” or “nice”.  Would Santa really deprive some poor kid for making a few poor choices? Etc. etc.

The reason I have supported my children’s belief in an immortal Santa Claus is not because I want to keep them in line with the threat of receiving nothing but coal in their stocking, but because kids’ imaginations are meant to be encouraged.  And that’s what Christmas time does for them.  As adults, we can relive those days when life was simpler and magic seemed possible.  And that is because it is now our job as someone who has grown up to re-create the magic we felt as kids when we could hardly sleep the night before because the anticipation of Santa putting presents under the tree made it the most exciting day of the year.  Knowing we could count on this one day allowed us to defer the gratification of having things our parents told us we couldn’t have throughout the year.

Indeed, children are told a myriad of tales to explain how presents mysteriously end up under the tree and under what conditions those presents get delivered (only to good girls and boys).  What they aren’t told about Santa Claus is that he once truly existed as a Greek bishop in the third and fourth centuries and was known then as Saint Nicholas, a man who delivered gifts to children in need.  And over centuries..centuries!..he has inspired various cultural interpretations of what has now become an international icon.  The original St. Nick wasn’t really fat and jolly.  He didn’t have a long, curly white beard.  His stomach didn’t shake when he laughed like a bowl full of jelly.  But to every child in America, that is exactly what Santa looks like.  In other parts of the world, while the memory of Saint Nicholas lives on, the traditions surrounding his legend are not always consistent with ours, nor is his image.

And so it seems the bishop Saint Nicholas who inspired an international holiday (named after him originally and celebrated on December 6th), and Jesus of Nazareth who put the Christ in Christmas, actually have a lot in common.  Jesus, for example, was born in the Middle Eastern part of the world and yet, as Westerners, we insist he looked just like us (well, those of us with white skin).  The images we see of Jesus Christ only reinforce this myth.  But chances are (hate to break it to you) he actually looked very much like the people we’ve been at war with for decades (unless he was just a freak of nature?!)  This, I’m sure, isn’t news to any of you.  Surely, if you’re a believer in Christ, you’ve thought this one through.  But what about the stories we’re told from the Bible and lessons we’re encouraged to believe?  Is it possible that while once based on true, historical events, so much of what Christianity is founded on today is nothing but a constantly evolving, retelling of stories originally meant to uplift and inspire, to offer hope and provide an explanation for our existence and the world around us?  After all, the stories surrounding Santa have only become more elaborate and detailed over the years and no longer mirror Saint Nicholas, an historical figure, but are rather based on fantasy and trickery.

One of these fantastical tales children are told is that if they’re not good, Santa will put them on his naughty list.  Yikes!  No kid wants to be on that list because it means they won’t get any presents at Christmas time.  And every kid wants presents.  Heck, even I want presents.  Who doesn’t love presents?  So believing that there is an actual list on which Santa keeps track of this information is usually enough to keep kids in line.  It’s pretty easy to get them to do what you want when you take away their chance of getting toys.  I’ve witnessed it with my own eyes, though I don’t employ such tactics with my own children.  That’s too much pressure for a kid.  I’d rather my children learn to make good choices not because of what they’ll gain materially, but how it will impact themselves and others.  Perfection isn’t attainable for any adult I know.  Why should it be expected of kids?

When you tell kids about Santa’s lists, they will eventually start to ask how Santa could possibly know whether they’ve been naughty or nice.  So grown ups have come up with a simple answer: SANTA SEES EVERYTHING YOU DO.  He sees you when you’re sleeping (creepy!), he knows when you’re awake.  He knows if you’ve been bad or good… AND he’s not only watching you, but he’s watching every other girl and boy, every second of every day.  WOW.  Sounds silly, doesn’t it?  Yeah, well so does the existence of a big man in the sky looking down on all of us “sinners” and keeping track of our discretions.

Supposedly, Jesus makes note of the  “naughty” and “nice”, too (naughty being defined as anyone who doesn’t confess him as their God).  But his list is written in the ‘Lamb’s Book of Life’.  And if your name isn’t in that book, may God have mercy on your soul.  Do you know what having your name in that book does?!?  It gets you into heaven.  Heaven!!  Who doesn’t want to go to heaven?!
This seems to make heaven out to be some kind of exclusive night club that only the most distinguished guests can enter.  There’s probably a dress code.  I hate those places.  Of course, in order to make heaven a place where people would want to go, you have to create a place opposite of everything heaven is promised to be.  And it has to be governed by an entity who is strictly opposed to the Ruler of Heaven.  That place is hell and that being is Satan.

Santa Claus has an adversary, as well.  His name is Krampus.  Krampus was derived from alpine folklore dating back to the 17th century.  He is often depicted as an atrocious horned beast with a long monstrous tongue, though other frightening images of him also exist.  He is responsible for dealing with all of the naughty children, providing them with lashings, throwing them in his satchel and taking them through a tour of hell where he devours them, among other horrible things. Can you imagine a parent who would want to put these types of ideas into their child’s head?  No wonder you don’t hear much about Krampus anymore.  It’s not even real and yet people have used the threat of this hideous beast to hang over children’s heads to scare them into behaving.  Is this sounding familiar?

Agreeably, the real Saint Nicholas did a lot of good in his day.  And so did Jesus.  I will not dispute that.  But the truth of who these men were is hardly known to us.  The magical powers we have bestowed upon them reflects less about them and more about some hidden agenda people picked up along the way that the rest of us just never stop to question.  For centuries Christmas was controversial even among the faithful.  It was considered to be a Pagan holiday, so Puritans refused to join in its celebration and it was even banned for part of the 17th century in places like Boston and England.  It wasn’t until Charles Dickens came along in the age of the Victorians with his story, A Christmas Carol that people began to accept Christmas as a time of goodwill and merriment; a time to spend with loved ones and feast until their seams came unstitched.  Imagine that, a story teller has been credited for helping to define Christmas as we know it.

Oh by the way, it’s been posited that Jesus wasn’t even born on December 25th.  In fact, the Bible doesn’t ever mention a date.  Historians and scholars place his actual birth somewhere closer to April 17 (6 BC), though no one really knows for sure.  And according to the Bible, he may not have even been born in a manger.  The book of Matthew recounts an alternate version of Jesus’ birth, or at least one that’s never been popularized.  But what’s one more lie going to hurt the Christian faith?

crazy is as crazy does

I like the holidays for this reason: there are a lot less people around.  not to come across as completely asocial, but i can get into my own world when there are less people around.  i can remember my own crazy.  i can hear my own voice.  it is a low, solemn voice.  it harnesses a concern for things and a deep knowing.  maybe i am just a little bit crazy.  better my own than somebody else’s.

My Two Front Teeth

When I was younger I spent a lot of time gazing upward and pondering the celestial sky, transcending my current vessel to some other place and some other time. Some nights the sky would be packed with stars, all seemingly waiting in line to be the brightest and some so faint, yet you could sense their existence nonetheless.  But those aren’t the ones I’d wish upon.  No, I’d look for the most brilliant one, twinkling in such a way that gave some glimmer of hope that this star might be the one to grant my wish, at last.  And on those nights I’d make a wish.  It would be the same wish, always.  As a mother with children of my own, I wonder if the expression on my face then was similar to the one on my son’s face when he blew out his birthday candles a few weeks ago–intense, yet smiling, with a sense of knowing.  There seemed to be no doubt in my mind that if I wanted something bad enough it would manifest, the Universe would respond to my plea; all would be forgiven and I would find love.  That’s all I’ve ever wanted.  That’s all I’ve ever wished for.

So this Christmas, I cast the same wish in hopes that I don’t wear it thin. I want to be forgiven.  I want to be loved.  I want to find someone.  I want to be found.  I wish for a partner who is willing to see me through all the bullshit; who listens and understands.  I wish to be with someone I can share a special laugh and a certain look with; a look that instantly says, “Hey, remember all the crazy shit we’ve been through together? Don’t nobody have nothin’ on us!”  A look that says, “You’re the only person I would travel to hell and back with.”  Hell is a place on earth and it’s buried deep inside me.  I wish for someone who takes me back to Heaven.

That’s all I want.  That’s my Christmas wish; my humble plea to the Universe. Afterall, I already have my two front teeth.

To Be or Not To Be

Yesterday I found myself standing in the café.  My purpose for this visit was concealed by the intent to deliver his mail that was sent to my house. But more than that, I went to prove to myself that he is real, that I didn’t just make us up.  And more importantly, I went to prove to myself that I am real.

Do I exist?  Or is it that I possess the super cool super power of invisibility? It sounds cool anyway. But I’m here to tell you, it gets pretty lonely being the only person that nobody can see.

The last time I was standing in his presence he glided right past me, looked right through me, as if I wasn’t there. So maybe… I don’t exist. Maybe I’m just a phantom here to roam this world in perfect seclusion haunted by my own hollow reveries.

Flashback to one year ago… I’m at the mall, standing in line to buy my son a taco at the food court. I look over and see my dad standing in the distance. Our field of vision is clear. His eyes wander the big, open space, scanning the row of people behind me, in front of me. I know he sees me, yet he pretends not to. He looks right past me, my own father, his own flesh and blood, like I’m not even there. Like I don’t even exist. I suppose, to him, maybe I don’t. I suppose perhaps it’s just always been easier for him to deny my existence than to take responsibility for it.

Go Duck Yourself

So whad’ya think, are you ready to grab a bite?
I’m sorry?
No, not ready.
Is something wrong?
No, no. No, everything’s great. You seem great. It’s just..if there’s a strong reason for me to have someone in my life, I’ll fight for them.
And I can already tell, never going to fight for you. Sooo sorry.
We just met.
I know. Sad.

This was a conversation between the leading lady in The Answer Man (cheesy but decent) and a man she just met during their first date.  Coincidentally, I watched it last night after having a talk with someone I have been dating concerning my inability to move forward in our relationship.

I mean, I’ve only been single for a few months. And while meeting and getting to know someone is exciting at first, the new wears off and you’re still left with a broken heart. I’m still licking my wounds to be quite honest. And it’s like, what the fuck!? I kicked him out. Shouldn’t I be moving on by now? Don’t I want to be happy? Yeah. Of course I do. I mean, I think I do, even though my tendencies toward self destruction suggest otherwise. But I also don’t want to pretend to be someone I’m not. This is risky business for someone who learned the importance of being pleasing to others and fears the threat of rejection, as well as the fear of being alone.

But what I’m figuring out is that I actually feel less alone when I’m by myself. Because with most people I feel I have to pretend to be someone I’m not. I have to pretend to be happy when I’m not. I have to pretend to know what I’m doing even though I don’t. I have to be pretty at all times and smart and witty at all times. I have to talk when I don’t feel like talking and be interesting and interested when I could really give a shit.

So I won’t pretend any longer. I’m wearing my broken heart on my sleeve and I don’t give a fuck whether it ever gets mended or not. If I’m going to be sad and alone, then I’m going to be the best sad loner anyone has ever seen. I love loners. And I love me (when I’m not busy hating me). Fuck romance and fuck auto correct for making me type duck when I’m clearly trying to say FUCK. I may have already met the only person in my life worth fighting for (aside from the obvious, my kids). And that ship has sailed. So ducky ducky duck duck. If he’s not willing to fight for me and my kids, he can really just go duck himself. But I’m not gonna go around ducking whomever just to fill some void. The void is all that’s real. So is the pain. And no fight is without suffering.

What’s Not Real Lasts Forever

“And so he solaced himself with pacing up and down the little meadow and writing and carving on the bark of the trees and on the fine sand a multitude of verses all in harmony with the sadness and summoned praise of Dulcinea. But what distressed him greatly was not having another hermit there to confess him.”
-Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra

One of my favorite movies of all time is Lars and the Real Girl starring Ryan Gosling and a life sized, anatomically equipped doll which Gosling’ s character, Lars introduces to everyone as his girlfriend. It seems like a bizarre story line, and it is, but what’s so moving about it is the way in which Lars slowly begins to let people in while discovering how to love, even though the object of his affection is incapable of reciprocating feelings the way a human being can. In an interview, Gosling says of the film that “Love doesn’t need to be a transaction. It’s something you can just…give”. I think this is so poignant. And it really does speak to what the film is all about.

What’s so heartbreaking about the film is that Lars repeatedly misses or simply does not know how to respond to queues from his real life lady interest, Margo.  She is clearly dying for some positive feedback, but he can barely say ‘hello’. His social ineptness is soul crushing. And as his imaginary girlfriend is brought into the picture, I think Margo sees his pain, she knows his loneliness and she totally goes along with the whole thing, acknowledging Bianca (the doll) as real because in his mind, she is real. Bianca is there to help Lars communicate what he couldn’t say for himself; to signal to the world, “Hey, I feel lost and alone! And I don’t know how to let love in, but I’d like to try!” Before Bianca came along he was a hermit who kept to himself and shied away from any and all contact with others. It felt safer that way I’m sure. Attempts made by his brother and sister-in-law to invite him in and get him to open up always fell short. I think it was the non-judgmental, non-demanding love of Margo that sparked something inside of Lars, to get him to that place where real love could be possible. Bianca was just a conduit through which Lars could express himself and his desire for something real.

But to love someone regardless of whether they love you back creates a very weird sense of loneliness that only those who thrive on misery are capable of managing. I think it takes a lifetime of yearning and longing in order to love without restitution. Because that’s all you know of love–yearning and longing, emptiness and sorrow, disappointment and despair. There’s something about the pain of loving someone who is just out of reach that I find most beautiful and tragic. And I think I may be addicted to that pain.

For me it was difficult growing up in a house that never felt like home, with a family that didn’t feel like they should be my family, having loving feelings and feeling compassion for someone (a parent) who never shared loving feelings or expressed compassion for me all while living alongside them. It’s like residing with a stranger, or even a plastic dummy. And now as an adult it’s becoming so damn obvious that I put up walls and push people away to be in that familiar place where I long to feel the love of someone I hold dear. Not to mention, being attracted to people who are somehow unavailable and withholding seems to be my forte. Unfortunately, unrequited love has become the most romantic idea of love I have.

In my entire life I never saw an honest exchange of love between my mom and dad, the lead examples in my life. My dad withheld his love from my mother just as much as he withheld it from me and my brother. When I got married the one piece of advice my mom gave me was, “Never stop saying, ‘I love you'”, something that ended for her just as soon as my parents wed. I think what I learned from that (unconsciously) is that love is a one-sided affair. True love is something to be desired, never to be realized. I thought it was something you were supposed to keep hidden, like a big secret; something felt for someone who remains closed off, inaccessible.

And while I carry on with this recognition that what I grew up with is not at all what I want, I can’t help myself get what I want because I sabotage every chance of love and happiness. When you grow up with prenotions of what love is supposed to be, but look around and find that that is not at all what love looks like for you, one thing that can happen is that you idealize a fictional love that you sense is somewhere “out there” and hope to one day stumble upon. I’m driven to destroy by my desire to create the greatest love story in the history of all love stories. It’s full of heartache and tragedy, passion and mercy. I’ve forged in my mind a world in which love is enough to transcend space, time, and humanity.

But I understand now that that’s just a fantasy, a delusion… a fairytale. And I’m no Cinderella, I’m just a fool. There is no prince sending out a search party for me. He’s off galavanting with some other fair maiden. One night of forever with me was enough for him.

Goddamn this lonely life.