(I wrote this on Christmas but had a hard time hitting "publish". It still feels a bit naked, but I think I'm ready.)
A few days ago, I was looking at pictures of my brother celebrating Christmas with my nephews. The boys were ripping through presents, and my brother had done a great job of capturing the looks on the kids' faces the minute they tore away enough wrapping paper to reveal the gifts inside. Wide eyes, open mouths, hands raised in the air in victory. It made me think of how Christmas really is a holiday for children - being around kids at Christmas is about as joyful as it gets. It also made me think of how nothing is really going as planned and everything is kind of fucked up and broken down.
It was December the 23rd when they were celebrating, for one. And instead of being tucked away in a cozy house, their cozy house, they were at a McDonald's - a temporary meeting place for food and fun and weekly visitation. Still, I guess you - what is the saying? - play on the string you have, and in the pictures it looked like they really were having a great time. There are worse things than boys having a loving father they see weekly, and celebrating the occasional Christmas at McDonald's.
I had dinner with one of my BFF's the other night. It was our annual dinner out to exchange gifts and celebrate Christmas and her birthday (also on Christmas). We started doing that in 1992, so, with the exception of the years I was in Japan and New York, this was our 19th celebration. Crazy. New friends are wonderful, and I'd like more of them, but there's so much to a friend who has witnessed 19 years of your life and history. We had a great conversation for hours mostly about how life is really just a series of losses. Don't you wish you'd been there? We're both, to varying degrees, existentialists, and that makes our conversations unique. Uniquely comforting, to be honest. My BFF is in a place of acceptance, of flow, and I'm so damn jealous. She's experiencing a lot of happiness and personal freedom. I'm in a place of complete opposition to the natural losses of life, and, it probably goes without saying, constipated. In terms of energy and emotion and direction, I'm plugged up. I hate it when I act in ways that aren't congruent with my beliefs, but there you have it. When the waitress came to take our order, she looked at me and said, "Can I get you a glass of wine?" I guess it was written all over my face because she quickly follow with, " . . . Or maybe a jug?"
I talked with my brother tonight and mentioned how much I loved the pictures of his Christmas celebration with the boys. I hadn't thought through my comment, and was initially surprised when he became emotional. But, of course, it's Christmas and we were talking about his boys, now far away, and their McDonald's holiday. He said it was sad and awkward to pull out the presents and just go for it right there in the middle of the restaurant, and then I waited while he cried.
I eventually said that there are all different kinds of ways for a family to look, and even different ways for Christmas to look. And that I think everyone feels the pressure to have things look a certain way, and then feels the sadness when it doesn't. And maybe his family and his holiday celebration in the middle of McDonald's took the pressure off some other folks who were feeling the same way. He said that a little girl was peering over the booth at the boys' unopened loot and said, "Are those presents?!" And when my brother told her that they were, she said about her family, "We don't celebrate Christmas."
I haven't felt right since my Grandmother died. Maybe before. I feel highly disturbed by all of the losses, big and small, in life, and largely unprepared to face them. And so, of course, with unreconciled cognitive dissonance comes some sloppy dance involving rationalization, justification, and employment of various defense mechanisms. Lather, rinse, repeat. I feel like I've been saying this for a year, but I'm working it out.