Archives for posts with tag: celebrate

Giftmas isn’t the wholly inclusive holiday we like to imagine it is (those of us who are deeply into it, I mean). There are a lot of people who suffer the winter holidays as they suffer winter itself; eager to put it behind them, and wishing to see the sun again. It’s complicated being human.

When we are told to “be happy”, it can make us feel ever so much more miserable that we seem unable to achieve that for ourselves.

When we have the religious values of one or many faiths thrust upon us repeatedly, for weeks, as secular human beings who don’t practice a faith at all, we may feel excluded from practicing community and culture, itself. We may feel invisible, and unappreciated, as human beings.

When we are bombarded with media marketing for luxury goods “on sale” that we can’t envision ever being able to afford at any price, it can make us feel like outsiders in our communities and our world – trapped.

When we hear “glad tidings” of “comfort and joy” on every radio station, every streaming service, every TV advertisement, and in every retail store or restaurant, while we grieve the loss of loved ones, it can make us feel very much as if the world doesn’t see us here at all.

The result is often that we punish ourselves with our misery, even to the point of feeling guilty or ashamed that we don’t “get it” or “enjoy all that”. That’s pretty shitty, and it’s not fun, and it is uncomfortable. Any of that. All of it.

I’m very merry at Giftmas, myself. In spite of not being a practicing Christian (see: “Giftmas”), in spite of many years of being not at all “happy”, in spite of having very little money in many years (and this one) to spend on gifts, charity, or feasting, in spite of grieving poignant painful losses: I am merry, each Giftmas. I even want to share how that can be a thing.

A good beginning.

There’s no money to splash around on luxurious lavish gifts and frippery this year (and nothing in the picture above required me to spend any money, this year; it’s built on what I already had, and have cared for, for a lifetime), instead, I’ll share “How to be Merry at Giftmas”. 😀 It’s a simple enough idea, in it’s most basic form; make it yours. That’s basically it, summarized. I know, I know, saying something super simple to communicate something nuanced is a bit of a cheat, intended to make it feel accessible, but sometimes missing the most important points. So. Ready? Merry Giftmas, Y’all! Here we go!

The magical Giftmas that almost wasn’t.

Start with where you are. Start with who you are. Your authentic self, your actual values, your own vision.

I grew up in the midst of violence, emotional, physical, sexual (and uncomfortably commonplace in the culture). Guns, alcohol, and rage just… every-fucking-where. Poverty. Trauma. Chaos. Fear. Learned helplessness. Abuse. Gas-lighting. Rather peculiarly, each year that I can clearly recall (sorry, head trauma, right?), it seemed as if “Christmas time” was some sort of surreal cease-fire in the household hostilities (and somehow, even out in the world). “Healing” wasn’t even on my radar yet; I still had an additional lifetime of further trauma, turmoil, and heartbreak ahead me, that I could not even see. (It’s likely that, in some measure, a great many of us do, actually, regardless where we stand right now. Sorry.) Something about the holidays stuck with me; the best bits, actually. Grand holidays meals when far away family arrived to join us at the table. Mornings of twinkle lights and brunch recipes untasted at any other time of  year. Gifts. Out of the pain, out of the chaos, for some weird reason, once a year we all sat down together and exchanged gifts. Gifts. We took from our own resources, to give of ourselves to each other. All of it amounted to an extraordinary departure of all of the routines. It seemed… magical.

I have come so far from this place.

My first “Christmas” as an adult, at 18, was… weird. I was in the Army. I was in advance training (and for fuck’s sake already married??), and I went “home” (to my parents house, at my new husband’s instance, even though I was deliberating estranging myself from them, for… reasons). It wasn’t much of a holiday. Uncomfortable, strained by the presence of a stranger (my new husband). I don’t actually recall it at all clearly; I was working too hard trying to live everyone else’s vision of what my life should look like to really make sense out of it, at all. It would have been… 1981?

My Giftmas stocking – and how I keep track of where I was each Giftmas. 😀

That was the missing puzzle piece; an understanding of what it takes to make a holiday, myself. See, that’s the thing; we have choices. The day, the season, the time, these are ours to make as we wish to experience them.

I re-created my vision of Giftmas that year, made it over based on my own vision of celebrating the winter holidays, and Yule, in accordance with my own understanding of the “meaning of the season”, which, speaking frankly, has nothing to do with gods or religions, and everything to do with community, charity, gratitude, love, and celebration. It’s winter. We’re all stretched a bit thin at the end of the year – it made sense to me that my Giftmas could be a celebration of sharing, fitting the cultural practices, and keeping all of what I love about the winter holidays, and letting go of all of what did not suit me, personally. I enjoy the merriment. I enjoy the moment to celebrate lost loved ones and honored departed, yes, and still be merry – there is no shame in our tears, or our joy. I love to give a friend some small thing, to say “thank you”, “I love you”, “you mean something to me”, or even just “I know it’s been hard this year”. We’re all in this together, each having our own experience, and each year we have this colossal near-global cross-cultural celebration that clearly extends well-beyond the reach of any one faith; it’s just not really at all about religion. Any religion. lol It’s about everything else, so joyously and so much that any religion within it’s sphere of influence wants a piece of that pie. Me too. So – I celebrate Giftmas. It’s an honest celebration of plenty-amidst-famine, and I celebrate lavishly and generously when I have a lot, and I celebrate joyously and heartily with whatever I’ve got when times are tough. I generally celebrate the season as commencing with the Thanksgiving meal – a season of gratitude and sharing – and I celebrate until I end the holiday season with New Year’s Day with my personal “One Hour” celebration (a contemplative time to explore the past, and plan for the future). It’s scalable sort of holiday, for me, that I can blow out of all reasonable proportion in times of plenty, and still enjoy with irrepressible joy in times of privation. That’s right. I think Giftmas lasts more than a month. LOL 😀

Actually, I take the long holiday season so seriously that I regularly give gifts randomly all through the season; nothing gives a beat down to a stressful moment like an authentic expression of value in the form of a small unexpected gift, or a moment over a holiday treat. 😀 Certainly, there is no legitimate reason to ration connection, presence, or joy. 😉

It’s okay to feel deeply. It’s very human. I even raise a glass to my Dad.

It does take practice. Sometimes there are poignant moments. I’ve shed many tears either putting up, or taking down, the holiday tree; every ornament has real meaning for me. Gathered with care over many years, each is like a tiny memory box, bringing back floods of emotion, and memories untapped any other time of year (not all of them are pleasant, and I often remind myself that the way out  is through). I have reflected on so many holidays, and taken from them what worked for me. This is the secret sauce, and the source of merriment; this holiday is mine.

Like our lives, a celebration is built on so many things. Yeah, there are verbs involved.

Merry Giftmas, friends and readers and friends who are readers, and humans I don’t know at all. Make of it what you will. May the season show you magic and wonder – and may you be the creator of magic and wonder in someone else’s holiday. May the year ahead show us each the path to being the human being we most want to be, and may the journey to become that person be enlightening, and maybe not to terribly difficult. 😉

Are you having a rough holiday season this year? Please – oh please, dear one, please begin again! ❤

My head is still buzzing with the distracting excitement of the show last night. My tinnitus reminding me there is value in ear plugs. My hallway is short two paintings that recently hung there, now hanging somewhere else. My “art closet”, filled with work carefully stacked by size, is one painting less full today. I am groggy. I am too much awake to sleep more, though I need more sleep. My eyes feel like they are covered in sand paper, and my iced coffee does nothing to quench my thirst (how the hell am I so damned thirsty?). I have a drive ahead of me – hours down the highway, on a weekend likely to be “a long holiday weekend” for about half the long-holiday-weekenders out there taking time off for 4th of July travels.

Between the lake and the sky, there is a distant horizon, whether I can clearly see it or not. “Lake & Sky; Infinitely Blue” 8″ x 10″ acrylic on canvas w/glow.

Begin again? Right now I can barely just continue. lol The headache developing could be dehydration… or lack of coffee… or fatigue… or… well… I’m a fucking mammal. A being of light wrapped in a meat puppet that I think I control. lol Who the fuck knows what all the potential missteps and annoyances may actually be? There are probably a lot of possibilities I wouldn’t even know to consider. S’ok. One thing, then another. I shower. Do some yoga. Water my garden. Drink water. Drink coffee. Meditate. Post about the art show (hey, it’s the 21st century, this is a routine form of communication now). Pull myself together a bit at a time, giggling every time I pause to consider that a great many of the Friday night Party People who attended the art show – or the after party – are just finally wrapping things up and going to bed. I’m glad I got a couple hours of sleep.

Here comes the day. It’s the weekend. I’m eager to see my Traveling Partner. Eager to enjoy the day, building on this lovely moment, right here. My heart feels light in spite of the world being rather irksome. It’s something to savor, to build on, and to enjoy. It’s not just okay to feel good in dark times – it’s really rather necessary. Without the good times, emotional fatigue can set in, and then what? We’re no good to each other if we are not able to feel what is good and pleasant and right in our moment, in our day – in our world. So. Today seems a lovely one to take a breath, and enjoy this bit, while this enjoyable bit lasts.

…Then later, I’ll begin again. 😉

First, I’m going to start calling ‘Christmas’ Giftmas instead – not out of any disrespect, and certainly I won’t be correcting people who wish me well for Christmas (that’s just rude), but having long shortened ‘Christmas’ to ‘Xmas’ in a somewhat unsatisfying display of ‘I’m not actually a christian but I enjoy this holiday, which isn’t really christian but much older, and can’t we all just get along??’ – I’m just calling it as I enjoy it most: Giftmas. It is the season of giving, after all. 🙂

So excited! :-D

So excited! 😀

Wanting, needing, yearning, craving, lusting, desiring – all feelings that push and pull at my very human heart, piling up and shouting for my attention as a gifting holiday approaches…only… That’s been changing. It started changing when I re-discovered the ‘true meaning of Giftmas’ some years ago, in the arms and smile of my traveling partner, on a year when it seemed there ‘wouldn’t be any Christmas’ because we just didn’t have the resources to pull that off so soon after break ups, and moving somewhat unexpectedly, and into a place that was every bit of twice as expensive.

The magical Giftmas that almost wasn't.

The magical Giftmas that almost wasn’t.

The holiday magic my love delivered to me that year blew away the slow-building disengagement and cynicism that had begun to erode my holiday joy over the years. I’ve never forgotten. As I have continued to improve my relationship with the woman in the mirror, and to tread a more mindful and compassionate path, my relationship with ‘Giftmas’ has changed, too. Even the language I use to discuss the holiday, the foundation of my joy and enthusiasm, and the things I am most eager to see, experience, and do, have changed rather a lot over the last 4 years of holiday celebration. I mean…seriously. “Giftmas” is just one of many small changes.

The household I recently moved out of didn’t put the same value and appreciation on the winter holiday season that I do myself, one housemate even simply not finding life worthy of celebration, and last year I found myself almost secretively setting up the entire holiday experience up in the loft, out of view of ‘non participants’ in a peculiarly furtive, somewhat self-protective way. This year, there are no such concerns, and no need to hold anything back out of concern for overwhelming the uninvolved. lol It’s not that simple, though; I have also changed, myself.

Holiday lights welcome me home each evening.

Holiday lights welcome me home each evening.

I used to be able to assemble a lengthy Giftmas list with dozens of items in all possible price-points quite quickly – things I really really really (really?) wanted, yearned for, lusted after, or craved, without regard to how realistic or practical. My eagerness to receive gifts was a prominent part of my holiday well-past childhood. It’s not that big a deal now, and I struggle to list things that I want; I don’t want for much, and my place is small. Most of my most eager yearnings are for connection, for contact, for experiences out in the world, for moments, for emotions… that’s a tough list to shop from. I am eager to give, these days. For me, this is generally less about giving on a global scale; charity and compassion for the world can’t wait for one day a year. Giftmas is a lovely occasion to pause the routines of life and really think about those dear to me, and seek some small thing I could give them, and see their delight, their fondness, their joy reflected back to me in their smile, because they feel cared for, appreciated, valued, and visible. I am eager for the gift-giving part of Giftmas this year. It’s a lovely place to be with myself, and far easier to satisfy than the lustful cravings to receive more retail offerings, myself, like some petulant child-god pacified only by trinkets and cash.

Moments of encouragement or unexpected joy are some of life's most beautiful ornaments.

Moments of encouragement or unexpected joy are some of life’s most beautiful ornaments.

I love this holiday, and I’m excited to sit beneath the Giftmas tree awed by the wrappings, bows, and twinkle lights, pulling one package after another loose from the wee stack of them, handing one to my traveling partner, and watching his face, and taking time to enjoy his experience, and to really share these precious moments. Awake. Aware. Mindful. This is going to be a wonder-filled holiday…however many or few the gifts beneath the tree; the best gifts this year are intangible. The best gifts are moments.

Let’s celebrate something wonderful today! Truly, it’s been a difficult [week, fortnight, month, couple of months, year…] for so many people. You, too? Ups and downs? Things that haven’t worked? People who have let you down? Things that didn’t go quite as planned? Trials and suffering? Missteps and misunderstandings? Poor choices and their consequences? The blues? We are creatures of both emotion and reason, of body and mind; we feel, and sometimes it hurts.

Because love matters more. "Emotion and Reason" 24″ x 36″ acrylic on canvas w/ceramic details and glow 2012

Because love matters more.
“Emotion and Reason” 24″ x 36″ acrylic on canvas w/ceramic details and glow 2012

Today I am putting pain aside to smile with wide open delight, self-acceptance, and joy. A reason to do so would not be required, considering that if only to balance the scales I surely need to celebrate more than I do – but today goes beyond that, for me. Today I celebrate a relationship that matters a great deal – as well as celebrating how much more valuable and delightful it is, now that I matter to me as much, and value myself so highly. Letting go of attachment seems to make embracing love and connecting deeply an easier and more comfortable thing, for me. I have no insights to explain this subjective experience.  I could celebrate something different – it seems a good day to celebrate – but today, I choose love.

"Lovers" 10" x 14" watercolor on paper 1992

“Lovers” 10″ x 14″ watercolor on paper 1992

"Happiness" 16" x 24" acrylic on canvas w/mirror details 2010

“Happiness” 16″ x 24″ acrylic on canvas w/mirror details 2010

Thank you, Love "Contemplation" 12" x 16" acrylic and iron oxide. August 2011

Thank you, Love
“Contemplation” 12″ x 16″ acrylic and iron oxide. August 2011

Four years ago, my traveling partner and I made a commitment to travel life’s journey in each other’s good company. We are not human beings so tied to the traditions to others that we felt constrained to stick with traditional promises, or vows. We made our own, heartfelt and genuine, and rather practical. It was a moment that mattered more than I realized then that it would. I’ve no regrets about it. We’d been lovers, and friends, for more than a year before that, and living together… Suffice it to say I do not live comfortably with other people for long periods of time, and however often I have attempted it, I have endured misery more than joy…except with my traveling partner.  It’s a partnership that just makes sense, to me; it works. Very human, of course. Ups and downs, sure. Challenges, difficulties, blah blah blah, absolutely. This, though, is love at work; there are verbs involved. I could choose no better partner at this time in my life to walk with me.

"Communion" 24" x 36" acrylic on canvas w/ceramic details and glow. 2010

“Communion” 24″ x 36″ acrylic on canvas w/ceramic details and glow. 2010

Celebrating feels awesome! I’m delighted to have something so grand to celebrate today. There are other choices…what will you celebrate? Surely, there is something worth of moment of joy, worth smiling about, worth sharing? Please take time for you, today, and celebrate! Today is a very good day to share the journey with a smile.

"Cherry Blossoms" 14" x 20" acrylic on canvas. 2011

“Cherry Blossoms” 14″ x 20″ acrylic on canvas. 2011

"Inspiration" 24" x 36"  acrylic on canvas w/ceramic & glow. 2010 - you are still my muse, my love, and my inspiration, Dearheart. Thank you for sharing the journey.

“Inspiration” 24″ x 36″ acrylic on canvas w/ceramic & glow. 2010
– you are still my muse, my love, and my inspiration, Dearheart. Thank you for sharing the journey.

Someone dear to me has a birthday today. (Happy Birthday!) More than one friend, love, associate, colleague, or family member have birthdays during the winter holiday season, sometime between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Day. Statistically, it would be stranger if none of them did. I rather like celebrating these birthdays; each person a unique individual, with a different need/desire to celebrate – and different aesthetics and traditions for celebrating. How delightful my entire holiday season were filled with these individual days…the calendar could roll from one to the next day over day… Jen’s Day, Jo’s Day, John’s Day, Sean’s Day, Tyler’s Day, Michael’s Day, Lisa’s Day, Stephanie’s Day, Rhi’s Day…mixed in with the ‘bigger’ holidays and given full measure of celebration and meaning! Each of the people dear to me are worth celebrating, at least I find them so, myself. I hope they find joy in celebrating their experience of self, it seems important.

When I celebrate my own birthday, I like it to be ‘about me’ in a rather literal way. I like to spend the day with friends and loves, doing what I like to do utterly unapologetically, sharing those experiences with people who matter to me – who are willing to share the moment because I have value for them, and the relationship is worth taking that time to participate in some activity that might not be their first choice, any other day of the year. We celebrate me, that one day each year. I tend to celebrate everyone’s birthday that way, if I know it is their birthday, just by deferring to their preferences when the opportunity to do so arises. Seems an easy enough way to say ‘I value you’ by saying ‘let’s do it your way’.

I know people who don’t actually celebrate their birthday. I don’t know that it is truly significant or has any meaning beyond what it is. The more I enjoy me, the more I want to really celebrate my birthday…and to do so beyond gifts, parties, or elaborate plans; I want to celebrate simply by being me, quite comfortably so, and really delighting in what I have to offer myself. Seems a little funny to take a special day to do that, though; I am sure I could do it every day, in every mindful moment, quite as easily.

Like a butterfly; a birthday celebrates the growth of an entire year.

Metamorphosis; a birthday celebrates the growth of an entire year.

Verbs and choices… Perspective. Words matter. Happy Birthday. I hope you celebrate you. 🙂