The Grinch Who Stole Christmas

Three days ago our favorite housemate announced the happy news that she is moving in with her new boyfriend by February. Wonderful for her, sucks for us. Living in a five person household has always been challenging in terms of finding a good fit for everyone. Tack on the addition of a three year old and parents in their 40s and the situation is not only challenging, but extremely destabilizing. Each time someone gives notice, we slam up against the reality of our lives which is that this situation truly does not suit us. Words like “lame” come to mind to describe our situation. Like our lives are just gimping along in this very unsustainable way.

Then yesterday, one of our reclusive housemates gave his 30 days. Now I have the pleasure of putting “New Housemate” at the top of my (already very long) holiday to-do list. I told Jeff this morning that I was canceling Christmas. Then Fern looked up at me with great big startled eyes.

Not an option.

It never really was anyway…I love the holidays like all the best glorious things in life. My spirit for this time of year is deep and true. I’m just pissed that a bunch of bullsh*t is yanking me away from my aspirations to keep that spirit at the helm. It does not escape me that these are First World problems. I also occurs to me that I can stop whinging and be a little more spiritually buff. I thought I was already in the hot seat, between dealing with 3 year old tantrums (that truly make her former fits pale in comparison) and reparenting myself in regards to my own impatience and temper. I thought I already was doing that full time job of trying to love myself at my worst (not to mention what can feel like pathetic attempts to work on my professional life). Turns out time is just an illusion that must stretch. Like my bandwidth.

When the airborne stress of the darkening year (combined with ramped expectations) starts crowding in, there is One Thing to Do.

Take it outside.

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Back to Buena Vista Park. Where the Robins have returned to their wintry residence.

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O Robin, sing ! for the secret of eternity is in song.
I wish I were as you, free from prisons and chains.

I wish I were as you; a soul flying over the valleys,
Sipping the light as wine is sipped from ethereal cups.

I wish I were as you, innocent, contented and happy
Ignoring the future and forgetting the past.

I wish I were as you in beauty, grace and elegance
With the wind spreading my wings for adornment by the dew.

I wish I were as you, a thought floating above the land
Pouring out my songs between the forest and the sky.

O Robin, sing ! and disperse my anxiety.
I listen to the voice within your voice that whispers in my inner ear.

-K. Gibran

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The squirrels held witness. Not a step went unnoticed.

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Who’s there?

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Why it’s just me and the sour grass, having a few puckery nibbles.

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Well, alright then. But just a few.

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Your panacea for holiday stress is to meditate upon this countenance three times a day. Feel better already? I thought so.

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Every step you take…

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Sometimes my superego looks like an authoritative business man. But perhaps I should work on visualizing it as a sharp eyed squirrel.

Fern was very concerned about the bees that we found last time, and when she saw a toppled tree from the recent storms, she cried out in alarm. But we arrived to their home to discover all was well.

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How doth the little busy Bee
Improve each shining Hour,
And gather Honey all the day
From every opening Flower!

How skilfully she builds her Cell!
How neat she spreads the Wax!
And labours hard to store it well
With the sweet Food she makes.

In Works of Labour or of Skill
I would be busy too:
For Satan finds some Mischief still
For idle Hands to do.

In Books, or Work, or healthful Play
Let my first Years be past,
That I may give for every Day
Some good Account at last.

Isaac Watts (I recognized this poem, but in a different form from Alice in Wonderland)

This time of year is difficult for many of us. Pop culture is infused with the mandate of Merry and Bright, yet most folks I speak to are struggling in some way, be it with fatigue, financial woes, depression, or stress. We all know it, how the machinations of capitalism throw us onto the treadmill of consumption with little regard for the true meaning of the holiday. There are a million external fixes to this (consume less, forgo gift giving, donate to charity, skip town without telling anyone, be a Martha Stewart wet dream and finish all your xmas shopping by July). Yet I find it difficult to wage a one woman battle with my own expectations of myself as well as the expectations of others (a certain three year old who wants her mommy to make her a Raggedy Ann Dolly). Often, the first and best thing to do is to recognize the clever way in which we are making ourselves crazy. And then choice comes in, as to what standard we want to do good by. I don’t want to disappoint others or myself, but perhaps I can switch the expectation so that I’m working towards a different outcome.

Still, even that last sentence feels pressurized. So I close my eyes and deepen in. Christ. Mass. Festival of Light. Nourishing hearth and heart during the darkening days. Nothing more is needed. Nothing more is required. North star, guide my steps toward salvation. The mother slows her steps at the end of gestation. In the stillness, she focuses all her efforts toward birth and lets the rest fall away. What wants to be born, and who will be the witness? We are already given what we truly need. If we go with a popular mythology of this time, we are put on to notice that some soft straw and the warmth of the human and animal family was all that was needed. A love is born that offers respite even in the darkest times. Each of us has been given this simple gift, the endless capacity of the open human heart. Light the candles, one by one, and offer this light to ourselves, our loved ones, our world.

Take that, Grinch.

I will be away from this space until next week sometime, to focus on finding a new housemate and other obligations. The first of which is Peace on Earth and Goodwill towards my screaming three year old.

P.S. Dear Santa, Maybe 2013 will be the year we find a new home?

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10 thoughts on “The Grinch Who Stole Christmas

  1. Oh Boy! What a challenge. I wish I could move to San Fran and live with you guys πŸ˜‰ Maybe now’s my chance, haha. While I’ve almost always had a good experience with flatmates, meeting new people and incorporating them into your life is very taxing. Especially in this “holiday” season.

    It’s so bizarre how loaded time of year this is. Frantic with expectations, of children’s, of grown up’s, so much so that they often seem almost catalogue-like. Like the whole nation is trying to pick up all the pieces for a “perfect” celebration by the morn of December 25th.

    Ever since moving to America, the holidays have taken on a whole new meaning for me. I didn’t use to stress out about them even a little, since in Finland, they can be a calm, quiet time. Now they’re a source of extreme guilt and stress. I don’t really enjoy C.’s family lack of meaningful traditions, which seem to consist of driving to a place, eating together and usually the women doing all the work, yet us being expected to participate each year, even though the whole thing seems more like a habit than a celebration. I especially do not enjoy the resentfulness that this gives rise to in me (witness above πŸ˜‰

    Your words are good guidance and balm. While it may not be always possible to reach that spiritual equilibrium in stressful times, but it is possible for us all to slow down and return to our true selves (aka not the stressed out, bummed out, grumpy versions of ourselves), if even for a moment.

    Wishing you all the light,

  2. Sucks. that really sucks. She is really nice, I can’t comment on the reclusive flattie, as he, uh, was a bit of a will’o’wisp while I was there. So much so, that I was frightened of seeing him. There is a great doll pattern for free download on the blackapple blog…..i will try find it and forward it to you – in case you decide to give it a whirl. The pattern is very simple. As for first world problems……it’s all relative….stress is stress no matter where you are born. Don’t diminish it, it still sucks. I’m still pissed that my copycatter is still copycatting. THAT is a retarded first world problem. On a very sunny day a couple of weeks back, I was inside a big mall complex (getting lost in kmart)…in the middle of the mall is a HUGE fake Christmas tree, and giant fake snowflakes hanging from the ceiling all around the tree. You see what’s wrong with this story huh…in the middle of Summer…..snowflakes. The commericalisation of this time of year is most apparent in the Southern Hemisphere where they decorate their lives to match a wintery Northern time – as Santa Claus makes no sense in the sun. nuts.
    Much love to you

  3. I can just picture Fern’s face, as clearly as if it were a photo. It made me smile a bit, thinking of her startled eyes.

    I agree with Teeny, first world problems are still problems. Especially ones that aren’t fickle but quite serious (like your search for a new flatmate). Christmas is supposed to be a chilled out time, or so I think, so having to deal with that would be very stressful.

    I often get stressed over the pressure of obligation at Christmas, and the choices that I make that means I will, inevitably, let someone down. Like choosing to not rush from one place to another on Christmas Day means my extended family gets left out. I could go from my partner’s father’s, to his mother’s and then on to my extended family’s Christmas (we see my parent’s on Christmas Eve), but I made a choice a few years back to let go of the need to please everyone, and although the guilt never goes away, it is nice to relax and enjoy the day.

    Phew, okay didn’t know I had that inside of me. Apologies for dumping my Christmas woes on you.

    On a happier note I am spending Christmas this year in Vienna with my lovely boyfriend, and we’re both pretty over the moon that we get to spend Christmas Day with just us, it feels like such a true, honest gift.

    Anyway, wishing you and yours a happy and joyful Festival of Light.

    Meghann
    xx

  4. holy mother of god can you please write a book?!! that last paragraph utterly took my breath away and i thank you with all my humble heart for sending me there. that is a pure christmas lesson right there, that transcends stress, category or creed. your calling in of the mother’s journey goes straight to my heart, and in turn my heart goes out to you, and your non grinchy grinchiness. i wish you the time and peace to find a nest of joy inside yourself. i love that going outside is your go to solution, oh thank you for being you and being the best reminder of what’s what. sending you hopeful energy for your new flatmate and for a little much needed rest this season.

  5. Mary,
    Sorry it’s so hard. The roommate dance seems to be an endless one. I hope your dreams for 2013 come true. Your words are a great reminder of how to use the season as ( I believe) it should. These are strange times we live in. To watch the spinning all around can make one dizzy.

    Be well,
    Veronica
    PS- If 3 yr old tantrums are worse than 2, I shudder. It’s all I can do sometimes not to lapse into angry, dictatorial, room-bannishing mom. An hour ago I literally ground my teeth while holding my tantruming dictator, to keep from venting my own feelings. My pregnancy hormones and general fatigue etc. don’t help. It’s good, important work we do. That’s what I tell myself.

  6. Yikes, roommates and you w/ a kiddo… must be a challenging journey. great post! I’ve been pretty into our busy little squirrels these days, they are so focused! wishing you the fairest luck in finding new friends to room with. xo m

  7. did n’t have a chance to read all, but caught the spirit of you a moment, and how you encourage and nurture yourself through the hardest of days, and the thoughts that match them.
    It brings me s much joy to just stop by and see your face and Fern’s. You inspire me no end, I will get back here sometime soon, its really all go and a bit of illness on this side of the water, so we have been keeping to ourselves.
    Think of you sweeties often though, and so pleased dangly sparly things arrived safe an dsound. xxx

  8. I’m with Heather, that final paragraph is beautiful and brilliant, you should indeed write a book. YOU are a gift. I’m so sorry that things are such a challenge right now, yuck, it all sounds really really hard Mary.

    I’m keeping you all in my thoughts and will be sending good flatmate energy your way (as well as calming kid energy, I’m sending that my own way already, so I’ll just divert some to you as well πŸ˜‰

    Much love and big hugs to you, YOU CAN DO THIS.

  9. my thoughts are with you, mary… just keep your chin up, girl.. you have got this.. it will all work out in a wonderful way, for you and your family..

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