I’ve always had a rebellious side and for most of my adult life, it has made me a bit of a scrooge about Christmas. It’s not that I hated Christmas. I just thought of myself as a realist who recognized it for what it really was: consumerism and gluttony wrapped in forced happiness. “An opiate of the masses,” I would declare it as if I were some sort of Karl Marx Junior.
When I got my HIV diagnosis years ago, I ended up entirely alone for the Christmas that soon followed. No friends available. No family near-by. Not even a partner to hold. A normal person would be traumatized. I (and my realism) withstood it fairly okay. After I opened the few gifts that came in the mail (mom got me socks), I got to have an actual silent night of my own.
In time I landed a partner who totally loved Christmas. And since I learned that nobody finds it endearing when you shit all over the things they love, I put my rebellious ways aside and helped him delight in the whole thing. As it turns out, making your loved ones happy makes you happy. So this became our holiday pattern.
A friend recently organized a small group to go see the local “Zoo Lights” exhibit and celebrate her mid-December birthday. My partner jumped right on it (which he doesn’t often do with social events) while I began to make excuses. Truthfully I had already double booked myself for that evening anyway.
Somehow though the double bookings both fell through. But I kept offering up [legitimate] reasons why I couldn’t go. I desperately needed to work on the blog. Blogs don't just blog themselves, you know. And I also didn’t have much money seeing as how the blog doesn’t generate any income. In fact I pay it.
The day came and I decided to let everyone know that I just couldn’t make it. I absolutely had way too much work to do and it just didn’t make any sense. I sent off the email to notify them all.
Then suddenly a knot formed in my stomach. As the day went on, my throat seemed to get more and more choked up. Eventually I had to battle tears from rushing straight up to my eyeballs. Nothing makes you feel like less of a rebel than sitting by yourself and crying. What in the hell happened?
Well for one thing, I had been making work my priority. I was never a “go-getter” that worked a bajillion hours each week to be successful - not in social work anyway. But once I quit that to pursue my writing, I’ve spent the better part of this last year sitting in front of the computer. I tried to supplement this by working part time as a bartender. It helped me get out but when it came to my close friends, I was still missing out on most everything. And now I was going to miss out on this.
Another thing was the election. It feels silly to admit that it has had this much power over me. But the fact that such a horribly unqualified, ego-maniacal bigot could get elected makes the world seem like a much bleaker place - as though it determines the age old argument on whether mankind is inherently good or inherently evil. (Spoiler alert: the answer is evil)
I somehow have a knack for wrestling with the darkness from within myself. But when it comes to wrestling with the darkness of others (on this massive of a social scale), then I struggle to cope. Alcohol, weed, and Xanax don’t seem to drown out the fear and frustration of the whole thing. Believe me, I’ve tried all three… at the same time.
If Christmas was indeed any kind of opiate for the masses, then I desperately needed to take a massive hit off the holiday bong. It didn’t even matter if the Christmas cheer was forced or not. I just needed the positive energy from the smiling faces and the pretty lights and the happy music (as terrible as it is).
But now because of my work, I was going to miss out on the thing I might have been needing the most. When my partner got home, he could see my distress and thus he made his final ruling: I was going with them to the zoo lights. He helped me tie up some loose ends so that I could go get some “me time” at the gym first and then meet them there.
When I showed up after all, my friends’ squealed with joy. Their excitement gave me more warm fuzzies than the zoo’s seven-dollar hot chocolate ever could. Seriously though, seven dollars for hot chocolate? I mean yeah it came in a collectible cup but when would I ever use that? Anyway…
The lights were lovely. The laughter was plentiful. The air was fucking cold. It didn’t matter. I got to be with the people I loved and see the things that brought them joy. And the world didn’t seem so bleak when I allowed myself to just stop and live in the moment. When my life comes to an end, these are the kinds of things that are really going to matter.
After the evening ended, my work seemed to have magically piled itself up higher than before. I did end up missing my deadline for the next blog posting. But like a total junkie, I unexpectedly didn’t care.
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