Tuesday, December 11, 2012

A Different Christmas Message

There are only two more weeks to go, folks. Better get on those holiday chores. Is the tree up? The lights on the house? Shopping done? Packages wrapped and mailed? Mom has cookies to bake and cards need to be done and mailed. Time's a-wastin'!

Hey, I enjoy Christmas as much as anyone. But I try to keep focused on the fact that life is genuine while Christmas stories and classic films are far removed from reality.

It's a tough old economy right now. And yet parents and grandparents will take their plastic money to the mall and charge gifts that are neither appreciated nor necessary. As merchants struggle to counteract sales slumps, they will do anything to make us think that we have to buy something, even if we can't possibly afford it. My personal dislike for such tactics is inflamed by commercials suggesting that a fine luxury car should be placed under the tree. They forget to mention that there is a sizeable price tag attached. Oh, and maybe even future car payments to be made.

The one event that may encourage shoppers and the rest of us from going over our own "fiscal cliff" is the prospect of a new year looming just ahead. It's a clean slate that means we will all start over fresh and be able to think good thoughts and move on. Last year my year began with the news that old acquaintances (husband and wife) had decided to start 2012 with a suicide pact. That tragic news and resulting despair has stayed with me most of the year. The holidays are notorious for increased suicides and depression.

Life is not perfect. There are plenty of people out there who are unhappy, alone, desperate, struggling and lost. We may pass them everyday on the street. They may be our neighbors, our co-workers, faces we often see. During the holidays, they are expected to smile and wish others a "Merry Christmas" and seem as though life is just dandy. Many folks wish that their circumstances were the way they once were or should have been, but that's not the case.

People pretend to be living in a Christmas card illustration, sitting in front of a fireplace and sipping hot cocoa as carolers serenade us outdoors. Well, life may be wonderful, but sometimes it's tough, too.

Most of us try to accomplish way too much in a futile attempt to make the holidays perfect. We want life to be depicted as it was in classic holiday movies, complete with snow, community singing around the piano and Santa tip-toeing to visit during the night. Christmas and related holidays have been molded out of everything good and idealistic. Well, it's not the real world today.

It's easy to get too caught up in the fluff of the season. Instead of trying to make our lives and homes into something other than what they are during the rest of the year, perhaps we need to take it down a notch.

Try doing something nice for someone. Perhaps one nice task or gesture every day. If that seems like too much, aim for every other day. Hold a door open for someone at the post office or the bank. Smile once in a while. If a clerk addresses you with "Merry Christmas," stop, smile and return the sentiment.

Walk a little slower. Try to enjoy the day and not to sweat about what to do next. Lists often help us see what actually needs to get done. Once items are crossed off the list, it all seems less intimidating. Talk to your family and friends. Send emails if you are too busy to do cards and don't fill your communication with whining about your own miseries. (The email reader will sit there in shock and wonder how he/she is supposed to react to your libretto.) I would sincerely prefer to get a few friendly, newsy lines rather than a summary about how miserable the sender's year has been.

It's easy to get too caught up in all the hype. After all, advertisers have been "hyping" Christmas since Halloween. Make an effort to keep Christmas in a way that is meaningful to you and yours.

See? It's really not that complicated.

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