Heart Full of Hope

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Christine Geery

Christine Geery
February 17
I've never played by the rules. I was absent the day they handed those out. I believe in being kind, playing fair, laughing often, not judging others and drinking red wine. And I always kiss my Sweetie goodnight. It may lead to other fun stuff. +++++++++++++++++++++++++++++ Life is short!  Break the rules!  Forgive quickly!  Kiss slowly! Love truly, Laugh uncontrollably... And never regret anything that made you smile. +++++++++++++++++++++++++++++ Always remember that stressed spelled backwards is desserts. +++++++++++++++++++++++++++++ Part of the secret of a success in life is to eat what you like and let the food fight it out inside. ~ Mark Twain


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NOVEMBER 30, 2011 10:03AM

How I Learned To Enjoy The Holidays

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It starts in early November, sometimes October or even sooner. The days grow gloomy, clocks get set back, darkness comes sooner. People get grumpy or depressed and can't figure out why. Then reality hits, like a cold winter blizzard. The holidays are coming! And it seems they do so sooner every year. Christmas songs blare on the radio even before Thanksgiving; decorations are abundantly displayed before Halloween. Even though so many people have so little, they are still lured or feel coerced into spending more than they have, caving in to commercialism, while our country is engaged in useless, insane wars. Many stories have been written about how much people hate the holidays, news articles appear about people going berserk on Black Friday, a rash of suicides spikes, drug overdoses fill ERs. Does it have to be this way? My contention is that much can be done on a personal level, by reconsidering our values and outlook.

Why do we fall prey to consumerist “thinking” at this time of year more than others? Sometimes it seems that people similarly use the holiday season as a time to complain about how horrendous the world has become, as if most of us don’t know. It is not terribly hard to understand, and not completely unreasonable. Yet many other people, often with small children, wanting to make it a happy, memorable time for them, somehow manage to do so, without giving into the hype or non-stop giving of things we don’t need. The phrase ”quality time” comes to mind, and I submit that many children would enjoy the season more if they were given the gift of time, well spent with someone they love, rather than a truck load of presents, to be played with and often destroyed in fifteen minutes, or forgotten in a few days. Children often understand the concept of giving generously of themselves more than adults.

There is no law that says we must celebrate the holidays in the manner that chain stores or Wall Street dictates. But I have also never understood why people who claim to hate the holidays feel the urge to go out of their way to make those who like the holidays feel wrong for doing so. If celebrating the holidays doesn't make you feel good, you don't have to do it. A simple enough concept, really. The stores aren't going to stop their luring tactics, radio stations won’t change their songs, but you don’t have to buy a thing there is an “off button” on the radio. So why stress out and waste your breath complaining?

Here’s something of a personal disclosure: When I was eight, I remember opening up presents on Christmas Day, along with five siblings. My mother sat next to my brother--the same one who would beat me up when we had company, because he knew I wouldn't scream then. Mom was watching him open his presents and making a big fuss over every item he received. When I opened my main present, a doll, I ran over excitedly to show it to her. She took a cursory glance, then said halfheartedly, “That’s nice,” while she turned back to my brother. With pain that cut deep, I returned to my seat and threw the doll on the floor. For many years I too, hated Christmas. I was always in a depressed state of mind at holiday time. It seems odd that I never made this connection about my feelings for the holiday season until recently. It's conceivable that I blocked out this particular episode for most of my life.

Years later when I married, I tried especially hard to “get into the spirit.” My late husband, who loved Christmas, couldn't understand my ambivalent feelings. He would shower me with presents, which I was definitely not used to.

As it is in most households, holiday preparations were for the most part left up to mother. As the years went by, so did my feigned enthusiasm. The first few years I enjoyed being the recipient of many gifts, but soon it became much more of an unwanted chore, trying to provide my husband with the celebration and surprises he expected. I wanted simplicity, he wanted glitz. One especially difficult year after he became ill, I was worn so thin that I couldn't muster the strength to decorate or pretend yet again. I bought a tiny tree, a few lights and a handful of ornaments, and we called it Christmas. No one said a word. I'm not sure in hindsight that they even noticed.

When we celebrated our last Christmas as a family, well knowing it was my husband’s last, he again went over the top with gift-giving. I somehow reconciled or accepted my feelings of our dissimilar ideas of celebrating Christmas. Through my tears, I watched his eyes light up while the kids opened their gifts, and again when he insisted upon cooking one of the more amazing meals I’ve ever had.

In recent years, there has been a definite shift in the spirit of things, due to my new husband, who gave himself a birthday of the Winter Solstice, as a result of his heart transplant in 2005. He didn’t know the actual birthday of the heart, so decided this would help him remember it, and be in sync with the light coming into a darkened world. Every year we host a celebration on this day, the turning point in the earth’s tilt, even though it is officially the beginning of winter. This day marks the return of the sun and the obvious choice for the birthday of my new husband’s heart. It is said and well established that this is the day from which the “official Christmas” actually evolved.

I love decorating now, implementing much sparkle and many candles, celebrating the oncoming light, and spring that is not terribly far around the corner. I’m pleased to say that my husband, Daniel, helps too. I'm fortunate that at this point in my life I have the time to make the invitations and prepare a beautiful spread of food for this occasion, which gives me great satisfaction. As we did at our summer solstice party this year, we will write our intentions and dreams for the New Year on small slips of paper, insert them into a huge balloon and symbolically send them “into the universe.” This activity appears to delight everyone, with many friends wanting to send off a second balloon.

The event is a celebration of friendship with a small group of people we love. No material gifts exchanged, just the mutual joy of companionship with each other, hopefully for at least another year. On many occasions during the year, we host small dinner parties, but on this special night we love to bring all our friends together, opening our lives to more light and love.

Not having to think about a “traditional Christmas” has bestowed a new luster to what would otherwise be a stressful time. Giving the gift of one's presence and friendship seems be a more than sufficient gift. This to me is the true meaning of living in the moment, and the very gift that should continue all year long. 

When I was experiencing the some of the loneliest holidays of my life, I discovered that there is a plethora of ways in which to help those who are lonely at this time of year. And if you are among those in need of friendship in the holiday season, this could be of help to you also. It was for me.

Thus, I have finally received the simplicity and joy I so long desired. My only hope now is that this spirit might spread throughout the world, and be present everywhere, every day, for everyone, regardless of their religious beliefs or non-beliefs. I know that this may sound naïve, but one can surely dream; and I would rather dream what might be an impossible dream, than sulk in a corner hating the holidays instead of sharing my light, my truth and my love on a daily basis. At least in my own life, the holidays really can be that simple, and symbolic.

My husband noted that sometime in the eighties, schools in the area where he taught were invited to enter a contest for the local paper, titled, “What Christmas Means to Me.” One of his third graders won, and he was hunting for that short essay. No luck finding it, but he suggested another one (of hundreds) that seemed to jump out and be a fitting capstone as to what the spirit of this season ought to be about. The essay, written in 1987, speaks for itself through the years:

“Last Christmas I visited my grandfather who is in a resting home.  The people there were never visited. They wanted to talk to us. The next day the people said, “Where are the children?” That is what Christmas means to me, to share your love and receive more back.” --Ellen Haley, third grade, Lincoln Elementary, Rexberg, Idaho.

© Christine Geery 2011


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I don't celebrate most holidays but I go out of my way to make sure others are happy.
great blog Christine..
Good for you, baby. I wish I could enjoy even one. Rated for pretty convincing.
There is something to putting on Christmas music and decorating the home for the holidays. I call it, decorating therapy. If it makes you happy, it's therapy! And right to know that this time of the year gives us much pause on many levels. The true meaning is in the giving; not the receiving and not of the commercial kind. There is a Christmas attitude and then there is Christmas distraction. You have written about the attitude that accompanies a truly good attitude about a positive Christmas mood. You know that it is in the giving, the ensuring of the comfort of others and seeing the wonder and sparkle in the eyes of little children who are caught up in the fantasy of Christmas. Decking the halls with boughs of holly is a sight to behold and giving of ourselves to others with any means possible, the smallest of gestures of love and generosity, the little things that say, "I care about you..." are the real ornaments of the season. Thank you for sharing your genuine thoughts of the holiday. I can't wait to see the happy eyes of my grand kids when we put up the tree soon.
Linda, I wouldn't think you would be any other way.

Jon, I wish you could too. My wish is that I gave you some hope that you could.

Cathy, seeing the eyes of the kids light up is the best part. Daniel's grandson is almost 3, so it should be fun this year.

Frank, all the best in 2012 my friend
I remember the first Thanksgiving I spent alone. I thought I died and went to heaven. Really. It was then and there that I realized it was to feel sorry for people who celebrate holidays. This year not only did I get another Thanksgiving to myself, but I'll get Christmas "off," too. I just kind of laugh when people assume how sad it is to spend holidays alone. Don't you bet on it. It's bliss and I actually feel blessed! And I agree with you "the holiday spirit" should be everyday and family get-together shouldn't be limited to or dictated by national or religious days of celebration.
Gary, first, I didn't even know I got an EP, until you posted a congrats. Then I had to go back and look . I'm very surprised. Second, I don't know why some are so lonely when they are alone during this time of year, but I know that some are and it can be really rough on them. I have a good friend who spends the day (she lives away from me), who spends the day on the phone talking with friends and relatives, makes a nice dinner for herself and loves it. She's also big on decorating for every holiday...for herself.
Giving feels so much better to me than receiving, too. I am struggling with all the trappings of the season, not wanting to participate at all. Maybe it's because I'm the Mom, the one who has always done the work. The season feels very fake to me this year.
Yay for the EP, Christine.

Lezlie, like I said in my post, moms do all the work. Hopefully you can change that. Your son has given you reason to celebrate though. Happy Holidays to you.
What a wonderful post. This time of year is difficult in so many ways. The gift giving is so annoying because it goes to extremes. The lack of light is depressing until a few lights remind me that we can embrace the darkness too. When you mentioned that you now celebrate solstice I really smiled. I had heard that the early Christian church made the people choose between the pagan solstice harvest celebrations and their new holiday a week later called Christmas. I like the one choosen by the stars. The shortest day of the year or as you put it..the return of the light. We also celebrate the summer solstice. The longest day of the year. It seems so right. I wish more people in America would think the way you do and Im so glad your husband shares all this with you. You are so lucky.
Thank you Zanelle. Summer and Winter solstice are magical to me. So glad you enjoyed this post. Happy Solstice to you.
Reading this post was an intensely emotional experience on so many levels. First, tears burst forth when I read of your childhood experience with the dolly you had happily shown your mother. Oh, how I ache for that child. I ache also for you in the present, because that pain never, ever really goes away. I have felt and still feel that very same pain.
And the winter solstice is so very sacred to me as well. I think it's incredibly powerful that your husband chose that day as a new birthday for his new heart. Incredible.
My daughter was born in the evening of winter solstice. She also shares that birthday with my lovely father-in-law, who passed away in the spring.
And the essay at the end - well, that just summed it up so perfectly...
You have insightfully inspired me to look for the meaning in these days. That meaning is different and special for each and every one of us. And Madison Avenue simply can't hold a candle to it.
Many blessings to you. R
I started to notice years ago that the winter of my discontent was directly in proportion to the extent to which I worshipped at the altar of consumerism. I have found my level of holiday equilibrium by gradually scaling back and celebrating simply. A fire on the hearth, candles, good food, and (most of all) those closest to me around me constitutes a most perfect Christmas in my estimation.
I do not love the holidays. I do like making other people happy. Sharing is the best...trying to make our past disappointments disappear is difficult. I do wish you a happy and healthy new year!
Thank you for your post.
Thanks for spreading your Christmas cheer just when I need it most.
Beautiful piece, the true meaning of Christmas is about giving of oneself to others you love and/or those in need. I think Linus said it best in The Charlie Brown Christmas when he quoted the Book of Luke. Rated.
Michelle, Thank you for your lovely comment. I love that your daughter and father-in-law were both born on this special day. I didn't mean to make you cry though.

Linnn, sounds like you got it down to what is important.

Ande, I well understand how it is difficult to put the past behind. Happy Holidays to you too

Sarah, glad I could help.

Erica, I had forgotten about Linus. You're right, he said it all
The last paragraph, truly spoke to me. I loved this...Thanks!
Michelle, you are welcome.
I love this! I have begun to dread the holidays, because of all the pressure to do it up and the rushing around in attempts to do it up. You are right, of course, the spirit is in the giving and sharing -- not in the amount of decorations and expensive presents.
Christine, this is absolutely wonderful. A well deserved EP. And a beautiful piece to share right now. Hats off!
First of all, congratulations on the EP.
I've been preparing (with help from my mother-in-law, and now my daughters) Christmas Eve and Christmas Day celebrations for about 30 years. I find it tiring but having grandkids has revived my enthusiasm. My reason for, on the whole, enjoying the days? Family. That's what makes whatever you are celebrating worth the effort. Love of family and friends. Sounds as though you have found your reason for celebrating.
Thanks, Chrissie. Talk soon I hope.
I really enjoyed this, not only because you've finally found a way to celebrate Christmas on your terms -but also because you remind others that they don't have to celebrate the way they're "told" by the media, commercials, etc - but rather as they choose. Well done.
Thank you Alsya. Happy Holidays to you
I love the thoughtful way you seem to approach every aspect of life.
Ha! What a perfect holidays post; you are one wise cookie, Christine. R
Nerd, you always say the nicest things.
Thoth, glad you like it
Happy Holidays to you both
Great, Christine. I hope you and Daniel enjoy this one.
I just hide somewhere till it blows over!! Shoot carolers with a BB gun if they come to the door!! ~:D What?

Thank you, Cranky. Happy Holidays to you and your family too

Tink, you're getting coal in your stocking this year!
That little girl's words ring as true as a bell. The "holidays" are ultimately a state of mind and can be celebrated all year long if you choose to open your heart and mind and think that way. Yes, it's fun to decorate and exchange gifts, I'd never knock that. But when you think about it, that's not what the best memories are made of. I don't remember the presents, I remember making someone else happy and it's so easy to do.
Margaret, Thank you and have a lovely holiday season.
I hope your spirit does go around the planet. Nice one and Cheers.
Thank you Byron. What a lovely thing to say.
such a lovely way to enjoy this time of year
Yes it is Caroline. Happy Solstice
Enjoyed this a lot. I, too, prefer a low-key holiday, a fortunate thing, since poverty makes it a necessity. In fact, for a couple past years, my family has not given gifts. The kids have been very understanding and mature about it.

That little Ellen Haley certainly has her head on straight; her note is precociously mature.
Cindy, precocious kids like her crack me up. Happy Solstice.
That is the spirit of the season, making it meaningful on your own terms. We have cut back significantly, and are enjoying the season so much more, but I can also appreciate those who go whole hog -- they're creating their kind of Christmas as well. (And I can enjoy their lighting displays without any effort at all!)
Bell you are so right and it doesn't cost us a cent.
I LOVE the essay at the end especially...but love it all.
Your change of heart due to change of experience is a wonderful thing, Christine.
I am a Christmas addict...but even I wear down. Believe it or not..I do all the decorating for us..not my wife....
Yeah...guys can.
But guys burn out doing it too. It is tough year after year.

Unless you get that reborn again feeling about Christmas.
Well I just tried to write back to you, J.D. but got booted off again. I, too love the spirit at this time of year. I just wish it would continue.
You have a marvelous way of seeing the good and staying on that coarse. I enjoyed your cheer and more. Blessing to you and yours.
Thank you Algis. What a lovely thing to say. Happy Solstice to you and yours.
I can relate here. My sisters and mother have met for Christmas every year since I can remember, traveling hundreds of miles to spend just a couple of days together. That visit is so important to me, and I could care less about the presents. We used to give to everyone, but as we grew older, we cut down to drawing names, and this year we may just give money to our favorite charity. And that move hasn't robbed any of us of the joy and nostalgic warmth we get from the holiday.
Robyn, I think a lot of people have finally figured this out.
I needed to read this-while I don't have negative associations with the holidays, many of my family do--this helps me to understand why. Thank you.
You are welcome. Sophieh.
Awesome Christmas post! It is amazing how those slights can leave huge wounds that are hard to heal. I am glad that you found the Christmas spirit!
Huge wounds, yes. Do they ever heal?
Ahh…this is a beautiful piece of writing. I love the way you have touched on what many of us thing, but you have added personal information that makes this uniquely your writing. I'm not explaining it well, but basically there is the universal and the individual in your post and that always appeals to me, right down to the depths of my heart.

I raised two sons on a very limited holiday budget. Twice, I had to get their Christmas gifts from a women's charity. We improvised presents and they always knew, even as times improved and I started a business, that they received only modest presents, but special nonetheless because everything was done thoughtfully and we all were filled with gratitude for what we did have. Now, at 28 and 30, it is that same way. I am so thankful for them and their presence. And their need for sugar cookies.

Like you, my traditions changed over time. Less harried now. More reflective. Quieter. We actually just have three of us on Christmas day, with our younger son visiting in January, as that fits his work schedule better. I have adjusted to fit with our lives at this point.

Thank you for sharing, Christine! Much love and best wishes for a very good holiday season for you and your husband. I am so glad he received his new heart. (Today I rec'd bad/sad news about one of my friends whose husband is very ill. I worry about their holiday this year and more. So please forgive me if my comment is not very well written.)
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No luck finding it, but he suggested another one (of hundreds) that seemed to jump out and be a fitting capstone as to what the spirit of this season ought to be about. The essay, written in 1987, speaks for itself through the years:topes para estacionamiento
I know that this may sound naïve, but one can surely dream; and I would rather dream what might be an impossible dream, than sulk in a corner hating the holidays instead of sharing my light, my truth and my love on a daily basis.Asli Relationships
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