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 become better able 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 parents to create that 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.  And 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, lived 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 more than a decade.  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 merely to uplift and inspire, to offer hope and provide explanations for our existence and the world around us?  Afterall, 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 knowing that there is an actual list on which Santa keeps track of all 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 chances 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?

So when you tell kids about Santa’s lists, of course they will ask how Santa will even know whether they’ve been naughty or nice.  Simple.  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 Lambs 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??    Except, I picture heaven now as 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 sorts 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 viewed as being 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 young, my family and I would travel the distance to Buckley, Illinois on holidays.  It would always be late and the sky would be dark driving home.  If I was lucky, the sky would be packed with stars, all seemingly waiting in line to be the brightest, some so faint yet you could sense their existence nonetheless.  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.  I knew the drive home would be a quiet one because nobody in my family talks to each other; car rides are often silent.  Which suits me fine, I’d rather be in my own head, entertaining my own thoughts, daydreaming.  In fact, daydreaming has always consumed most of my time.  So I looked forward to being in the car, gazing upward and pondering the celestial sky, transcending my current vessel to some other place and some other time.  Driving home those nights I’d make a wish.  It would be the same wish, always.  And I wonder now if the expression on my face 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 pleas; 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 throw my wish out there 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 somebody who is willing to see me through all the bullshit, who understands me and where I’m coming from.  I wish to be with somebody who I can share a special laugh and a certain look with.  A look that says in seconds, “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.  But not when he’s around.  He makes the world a brighter place to be.

That’s all I want.  That’s my Christmas wish; my humble plea to anyone who can point me in the right direction.   Please send him to me.  Release me from this prison.

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 some mail he had received at my house. However, I think my ulterior motive was to prove to myself that he is real, that I didn’t just make us up.  But 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 hallowness.

It’s one year ago, I’m at the mall, standing in line to buy my son a softshell chicken taco from Taco Bell. I look over and see my dad, standing in another line with no lines between us. 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 maybe it’s always just been easier for him to deny my existence than to take responsibility for it.

Allowances

“Be kind for everyone you meet is fighting a great battle.”
-Ian Maclaren

As I get older I find that it’s hard to say very many things with such certainty, but one thing I do know is how very lucky I am. This is something that I’m always aware of. Constantly. But sometimes it’s just rhetoric. I’m so lucky to be alive, to have two amazing (seriously amazing), incredibly loving, thoughtful, caring, and creative kids. The only reason I care about anything is because I care so much about them. Everything else is just… filler. It’s passing the time. It’s wishing I got half as much fulfillment from everything else as I do just being their mother. But knowing this can be very different from feeling it. So I forget sometimes how much worse things could be. I throw my very own pity party. And wouldn’t you know? I’m the only one who shows up. Every time. Did I forget to send out the invitations? Nope. It’s just that NO ONE CARES. Because everyone else has their own shit they’re dealing with. No one cares that I feel sad and lonely most of the time. And no one cares why. No one cares that my love life is a disaster. Or why. I think of times during my divorce when I thought of shutting myself in the garage with the car engine running and ending it all… all the pain of being left behind. All the pain of feeling unwanted. And unloved. Like no one cares.

And then I wonder what my life would be like if I had never met him, if he had been successful at ending his life. Did he feel like a failure when the noose was loosened and air again began to pass through his lungs delivering blood to his heart and back through every vain and capillary? Who would I be without his presence in the world? Without the intertwining of our lives for the comparatively short time we were together? Whoever that person might have been, I’m so glad I’m me. Even if I am alone now. And also very importantly, I’m so glad he’s him. Maybe that means he’s better off without me. I’ll allow that. Because when you love someone, you want what’s best for them. I’m just damn glad he’s alive and hopefully happy, though I really do miss him and long for his friendship.

And while I can say to myself, “Straighten up–you made your bed, now you have to lie in it” I also see that he and I both had a bit of maturing to do. Even though I was married for almost 7 years, as my counselor pointed out, this was my first adult relationship. I met my husband in middle school. We got married when I was 23. I started dating my recent ex less than a year from the time my husband left me for another woman and got her knocked up. One short year. And things just rollercoastered from there. He took me by surprise and it was great. But looking back I can see that I was still dealing with a lot from my marriage and the stress of my divorce. Jesus Christ. Not to mention, right before our relationship began I was semi involved with a “recovering” alcoholic who had LOTS of issues and made me feel like shit. I still had so much healing to do when I met the one who got away. And still so much more to learn.

On the other hand, he went from being single for four years to being in his first serious, committed relationship with an older woman (me) who was divorced and had two kids. That’s a huge paradigm shift and a lot to take on for anyone, especially someone with as little experience and maturity as he has. But like I said, we weren’t prepared, either one us.

I’m willing to allow this.

I watched him mow the lawn every week, taking such pride in it and the fact that we had a yard, that it was ours. I watched him with my kids and the way he took such pride in them, too. And the fact that they were ours, even if they weren’t born to him. It was amazing to see someone just jump in the way he did, the same way he learned to swim after his mom threw him in the water as a child with no prior experience, just faith in his will to survive. But I’m not so sure I had as much confidence in him. My frustrations in our relationship stemmed from the resentment I felt all my life over the fact that my dad didn’t do shit to help out. And my mom continues to hold his hand through everything, even when it comes to ordering food at a restaurant like I do when I take my kids out to eat. She may as well wipe and powder his ass, but I think that may be the one thing he does do on his own… for now.

No one should expect that much of a person and then take it all for granted. So when it comes to household and parenting responsibilities, I admit to being pretty sensitive. I have a short fuse when it comes to that. Even with my kids. I lecture them all the time on how I’m not their maid and it’s not fair for them to expect me to pick up after them all the time and do everything for them. That’s one thing I have absolutely no patience for.  But then you have to remember, I was already a person before my kids came along.  I’ve had a life’s worth of experiences and challenges that I am naturally affected by.   And when I met him, that was true even more so.  I wish he would allow that.

For my ex who wasn’t used to caring for kids or running a household, I can see how overwhelming it must have been. And with my communication style, which is at times passive aggressive, and the fact that I have a hard time accepting help from other people, odds were not in his favor. I give him credit for that. But of course I expect for my partner to also have a sense of things that need to be done around the house (and the motivation to do it). I don’t think it’s fair to be the only one who thinks about going to the store and what to get, planning and preparing meals, cleaning the house, paying bills, all the shit that grown ups do. Whenever we went somewhere, I drove. Everything that was planned, I planned. It’s one thing when you’re on your own and taking care of your kids to do all of these things without question. But when there is another adult in the picture, I think it’s natural to expect for there to be some collaboration and cooperation. And when there’s not, resentment builds and emotions flare.

But I will allow this.

When we moved in together I think we were both under a lot of stress. First of all, moving itself is stressful. Getting situated and finding places for not only my things but his things was part of it initially. I certainly have a clear idea of how I want my home to look and how I want it to feel. I can be very particular and OCD when it comes to my space and I’ve always been that way. In fact, it used to be much worse. And he is similar in this regard, he’s very protective of his things. Sometimes it felt like his things were more important, like he didn’t trust my kids with his stuff, especially when it came to his books and video games (another example of fantasy seemingly having more relevance in his life than reality). I’m sure it was hard for him to feel comfortable in his own home when he was constantly concerned about something happening to his belongings, a concern he grew up with amidst various step-siblings, and a concern that stressed me out unbeknownst to him.

Then you add the mounting pressure I felt knowing how demanding kids can be and the fact that he still didn’t seem entirely prepared for getting woken up by my 5 year old crawling into bed with us In the morning before he was ready to wake up, or all of the questions kids ask and things that they need. I hated the idea of cramping his style or being a burden.  I think I just wasn’t ready to accept that someone might be willing to spend their life with us, to devote themselves to us and never turn their back.  He said he was ready, but my experience told me I should be skeptical.

In addition to all of this pressure, there was the stress of starting a new job just a couple of weeks after our move.  Our new location meant new schools for my kids and all of these changes meant a different schedule for all of us to adjust to.  He had never seen me through a major transition and all of a sudden we were going through so many together, simultaneously.  And while to others I generally seem to keep my shit together and stay cool at all times, I take whatever I’m really feeling out on the people I’m closest to… all the stress, anxiety, insecurities, loss of control…  Needless to say, I end up feeling like a bad mom at least once a day.  That’s because when I’m around my kids I am in a safe environment.  I take things out on them because I know I can, I know they’ll still love me.  That doesn’t make it right.  It makes me human.

And I can see how better communication would have benefited us greatly, though I did voice my concern over some of these issues at times. I still had a lot to learn, though, namely with allowing myself to speak up when something is bothering me instead of letting it build up inside. Because then I just blow up and overreact and put up walls that no one can get through. I have yet to learn how to indicate to others that I’m hurt without pushing them away. But I don’t think I would have learned the importance of overcoming these things or the importance of forgiveness were it not for him. Because now that I’ve lost him for good it’s like my whole world has shattered around me. And I’m not willing to let that happen again. And while he may have decided we’re not worth the effort, eventually, regardless of who he’s with, the same effort will be required. Guaranteed. But that’s for him to figure out.  I can’t say I blame him for turning his back on us.  I’m capable of doing the same thing when I’ve been hurt.  But sometimes walls are for building.  And sometimes they’re for smashing down.  

So he tells me he doesn’t love me anymore. He’s found someone else he’d rather be with. I’m learning to allow this.

Duck, Duck… Goose!

So whad’ya think, are you ready to grab a bite?
No.
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.
Okay.
And I can already tell, never going to fight for you. Soo sorry.
We just met.
I know. Sad.

This was a conversation between the leading lady in The Answer Man (starring Jeff Daniels. The movie was slightly cheesey with it’s take on God, but still pretty relatable) and a man she just walked out of a theater with during their first date.  Coincidentally, I watched it last night after having a talk with the man 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. And while some people are open books in that respect, I have a harder time being real because I tend to feel like certain aspects of me will be disagreeable to everyone (and which aspects are disagreeable depend on the person) and that people will judge me. This is risky business for someone who learned the importance of being pleasing to others and fears the threat of rejection.

What I’m figuring out is that I feel less alone when I’m by myself than I do when I’m with most people. 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 the irresistible 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 storyline, and it is, but what’s so moving about it is the way in which Lars slowly begins to let people in and discovers how to love, though the object of his affection cannot obviously reciprocate 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 gets to the heart of what the film is all about I believe.

What’s so heartbreaking about the film is to watch as 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 she 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.

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.

It’s difficult, I assure you, growing up in a house that never felt like a home, with a family that didn’t feel like family, having loving feelings, feeling compassion for someone (a parent) who never shared their loving feelings or expressed compassion for you all while living right alongside of them. It’s like living with a stranger, or even a plastic dummy. And to me it’s so damn obvious that as an adult 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 so dear. Unfortunately, unrequited love has become the most romantic idea of love I have.

In my entire life I never saw an exchange of love between my mom and dad, the lead examples of love 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. So 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 love 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. I sabotage every chance of love and happiness, not that I’ve had many. When you grow up with an idea about what love is supposed to be but find that that is not at all what love is for you, you tend to idealize this fictional “love” that you sense is somewhere “out there” and you hope to one day stumble upon. So in my real life it is as though I am compelled 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 created 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.