Tuesday, December 15, 2009

The Christmas Letter, 2009

It's usually about this time when I start thinking about whether or not to send Christmas cards. This year, I posed a question on Facebook to friends and family, inquiring whether or not these holiday greetings are obsolete. With today's technology we can e-mail greetings, which is much more cost effective and saves trees. What about the Christmas letter? I remember growing up they would start rolling in by now, some as long as two single space pages, recounting the year's activities. There was the annual letter from an uncle and aunt, the RV champs from California. Their yearly life summary would be read Christmas Day with dramatic intonation and gestures to liven up a very droll report. Then there was the family friend, a Vietnam Vet who wrote the parody of the Christmas letter. As the years went on, his letters seemed to get more twisted and bizarre, always detailing extreme scenarios and vivid descriptions of personal events one never, ever wanted to know. The tradition, however varied, set the standard by which I would come to write my own.

As a traveling gypsy (now retired,) my family and friends grew to expect that I would invariably report at least one of three events every year: a new address, a new job, and at least one major drama. I doubt anyone has ever kept the complete assortment of these annual accounts, but the collection would be interesting to review, from a historical perspective, of course. Study would show a questionable pattern of living, one that was uncertain, unstable, unpredictable. If anything, these letters revealed that I was most surely coming undone. I imagine most of the recipients of these letters exhaled a deep sigh of concern or consternation upon reading my sordid tales, "Poor child. When will she ever settle down and normalize?" I am happy to report that in September of 2008 I completely unraveled, and have since begun the process of sowing a new pattern, one of deliverance, peace, and glorious moments of pure joy!

I will avoid detailing "my time away" as I've come to call it, but I will say this much: last September I had a transformational experience that shifted my consciousness so dramatically, those who knew me before this time would hardly recognize the new me were we to have an in- depth discussion on just about any subject. I view every aspect of living with different eyes, especially those two topics nobody ever wants to talk about over dinner: politics and religion. Before, I was a radically liberal, pro-choice, pro-whatever works for you, progressive democrat, universally circular on all matters traditionally unilateral, and would twirl and spin in the gray area just for the sake of argument. This consciousness was reflected in my lifestyle, and was as confusing and ambiguous as the former sentence. Now, I see things more clearly, fresh, new. I strip everything down to it's spiritual essence, to the fundamental and, as some may contend, narrow, simple truth. I expect I will lose friends because of this. It is written that those who follow this path with lose their life. Mothers will turn from their daughters, brother will be set against brother, husband against wife. I do not look forward to that time, if it should come, but I would gladly exchange my old life for what I have only begun to experience in this first year of my renewing.

With that said, I want to assure my family and friends, especially those who've know me since childhood that some things haven't changed: my sense of humor, my periodic urges to commit random acts of senseless spontaneity, my emotional sensitivity and deep compassion for those who are suffering. Even better, what was once lost, broken, corrupted, perverted, or hardened from life's trials, has returned. Hope. Great expectations. Belief in promises. I smile more, sometimes for so long my cheeks hurt (the muscles are unfamiliar with such strain, but they are stretching and strengthening with continued exercise.) I watch less drama, and seek out comedies, and yes, even musicals, ("The hills are alive/with the sound of music/aah-aaaaaaa-aah. That's how I feel!) Those desires from childhood that were rich and wonderful have come back to me. I wanna help people. I want to roll down hills and climb trees, and bake cookies. And I'm singing again, even making up my own songs! Though I'd choose the blues song "Good Morning Heartache" by Billie Holiday on karaoke night, I would do so only because I'm still an alto and I know all the words by heart.

Of course, having a four-year-old to play with makes all this change as accommodating as free shipping on Amazon (my shopping habits haven't changed either, I still don't like the mall, though I'll admit, I went twice in the last month and I didn't feel like I was going to hurt anybody.) This year she requested a guitar, a scooter, and a vacuum cleaner (? - yeh, I thought the same thing; my old women's liberation spirit reared her head on that last one.) I found two out of three on Amazon. If anyone knows how to tune a guitar, I'd appreciate a quick lesson. I also got her a full cleaning set, all pink. It comes with a vacuum, duster, broom & dustpan with the cart to hold everything. (It was less than $20, what can I say? At least, I know she's cultivating a clean spirit!) The big ticket item was a digital camera, as bulky as the first cellular phones ever made, one that can be dropped repeatedly without damage. This is in response to her incessant pleading at every photographic moment, "I wanna do it! Please mama, I'll be very careful." She looks at me with her academy award-winning puppy-dog eyes, and reaches for my antique 35 millimeter camera. Yeh, like that's ever gonna happen. "No, it's my camera! Mine!" (That childhood possessiveness has returned as well.) I am excited to give Edojah his gift; it's a classic. He's reading well, so I got him the choose-your-own adventure series that started my childhood love for reading. His birthday falls a few days after Christmas; I'm hoping to win on eBay his birthday gift; another classic, (I'm battling bids for battleship - one of the top three board games of all time, just after monopoly and scrabble.)

This year has been full of all the moments humans come to appreciate, especially during difficult times. Yes, 2009 has been trying, but the trials have exercised my strength and faith, and exorcised the demons of fear and doubt. The slide show below tells our story for the year. We have smiled from cheek to cheek, and leaped in the air for no apparent reason other than for the fun of it. We've also worried about our future, refused to smile, and mourned great loss, (rest in peace Grandpa.) Still, we celebrated birthdays, a new baby, (Rio's cousin) and weddings (brother on father's side, and sister on mother's side.) We played on the beach, went horse back riding, paddled down one river in Florida, and up another in Oregon, and enjoyed a road trip to see family (and father) in North Carolina. We played dress up, gave group hugs, planted seeds, and made peace. We glorified God in our songs of praise (and will again this weekend, pictures will be forthcoming) and showed faces full of love. These words and images are testimony to how good God has been this year, as He always has been, and always will be. I am so thankful that now I see. I mean, really see.

Have my external circumstances changed? No. I'm still underemployed (working part-time waiting tables at a local Mexican restaurant and as a writing lab specialist at Santa Fe College, helping students write their essays.) Karibi and I are divorced, finalized in March, (but if it's God's will, nothing is final.) I'm still uncertain about my direction. Where am I going? and How do I get there? are questions that remain unanswered, but now I am more confident in my guide. There is light above me, and in me, and though it has yet to shine upon the next step, I trust He will, and at just the right time.

I'm looking forward to Brianna's visit. She arrives from Cali on the 26th. I'd like to take a road trip up north to go play in the snow. That's my Christmas wish. In the coming year, I will strive to exercise more, eat breakfast every day, and reduce my just-before-bed munching (I haven't been delivered from that bad habit, but there are some battles I must fight on my own!) I plan to continue writing; I am now a "truthseeker" on www.cultureunplugged.com. As a regular contributor I get paid to write about media, film, culture and consciousness. It's my best (and first) paid writing gig yet! Thanks to those of you who have taken the time to read the articles I submit. Your comments are encouraging and add support to my value as a writer.

To all my friends and family who have not yet done so, (or tried, failed, tried again, fell, gave up and now don't know what to do,) I encourage you to come to the Father. Step out in faith, with a heart like a child. Consider it your second childhood! I pray you experience the hope and joy and peace in Christ; even though December 25th was not his actual birthday, it's as good a day as any to remember the spirit in which He came, as the ultimate Christmas present. His life and sacrifice is a gift "gooder" (as Grandpa Pete would say) than any man, woman or child could ever hope to receive, whether naughty or nice. Praise God that He loves us so much! May you accept His love, dwell in it, and share it with all you meet this season, and in the year to come.