Friday, December 20, 2002

As recently as two weeks ago, Christmas carols made me want to hit something (or someone). But, little by little, the season got to me. It started with whistling. As an experiment, I started whistling a carol, even though my mood was black, just to see what happened. Sure enough, it lightened my step just enough to make me stop and wonder what in the hell is wrong with me that a simple song can do that?

Tuesday night, I put on a carousel of carols, including the custom CD of Christmas songs Carrie and I chose together, the first CD of Christmas music we bought and listened to as a couple. But it didn't break my heart, didn't even crinkle it. Instead, it lightened. There really is something about this time of year.

I know. Christmas is too commercialized, I'm a tool of the corporate taskmasters, allowing their propaganda to wash my brain into putting my shoulder to the wheel of the capitalist machine of Amerika. Yeah. Whatever. Have a cookie. They have sprinkles. You know you love sprinkles. Did you notice there's a fire in the fireplace? Deforestation! Shut up, the wood came from a mulberry tree in a neighbor's yard that died of natural causes and took out his shed when it went. Have some cider, eat a cookie, and just let the vibe was over you. Did you feel that? If not, then I can't help you. You're doomed.

I've been broke as hell, where for Christmas my family got handmade cards in which I'd written long explanations of what I loved about them. And then there was the year that I had a ring made for Carrie, and the price kept going up, but I just didn't care. What I love about this season is that it's the one time of the year that we all sit down and make a list not just of things we want (which I do believe has some spiritual value), but of who we love and what we have to give. Sure, we do it grudgingly at times. In fact, other than shopping, the one thing pretty much everybody does this time of year is bitch about shopping. But we still do it. And now matter how foul our mood, there's still that one moment (maybe out of four hours, but it's still a moment, and you can find eternity in a moment if you look) where we picture the face of somebody we love and all we're thinking about is making them smile.

A friend recently ranted to me about the dysfunction implied in trying to make other people happy by giving them material things. Absolutely true. Couldn't agree more. Spiritually very suspect, and introduces the dangerous possibility of confusing stuff with love. But dangerous as it might be, shopping for my family lures me out of my own head and asks me to put myself in the heads of people who are very different than me, and to imagine what they might like to receive. Given that I'm a selfish man, unlikely to leave the safe confines of my own head except under duress, I consider it worth the risk.

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