A Folded Cardboard Holiday. Four Ways to Stay Alive at Christmas.

I dislike Christmas. Not in a funny, green “Grinchy,” way either.

grumpy christmas

The holiday has clearly lost some of its sparkle for me, especially now, as cherished people I believed would be around for longer than a memory, decided to bail quickly from my inner wonderland. Clean gone. Like the three wise men who get misdirected by Apple Maps to the birthplace of Cee Lo Green instead of the second coming of you-know-who.

The problem with Christmas is it stirs ancient thoughts and the mental bias of anchoring. I dare you to gaze at a tree ornament you’ve unpacked this year, every year over the last ten and not recall “the moment.”  A vivid memory of  how you felt when you received it, who gave it to you, where you bought it. The weather that day you hung it from your fake Christmas tree. The eye color, hair color, smell, of the person who bought the cheap holiday trinket for you; now the damn thing has a life of its own, it possesses a wealth of memories you would sooner forget.

And for most of the year you do. Until..

You resurrect the decoration from the plastic tomb stored in the garage. From a container marked “CHRISTMAS CRAP.” Then you “go back,” or anchor to “the moment,” again and usually it isn’t good. But you can’t throw this plastic memory bank away, so you sullenly hang it from a tree branch this year. Again. Relive the pain.

Stab me with candy cane every year, it’s ok. I can take it. This year after exhuming a memory, I lost track of time and space. It was silly when I realized I had been sitting on the dusty floor of my garage for an hour and a half. Lost in space, lost in time, lost in “the moment.”

santa slay Awww

Even cardboard can push the past into the present. The other day at a friend’s house, a collector of vintage kitsch, a flood of memories washed over me. There in the corner, looking as new as the ancient day it was originally folded out was a Christmas adornment I haven’t seen or remembered in years. Yet, when I noticed it, I went back in time immediately. I went speeding through time, a return to 1972 when I first received my very own cardboard and electric (what a lethal combo)

cardboard fireplaceFireplace!!!!!

It was a lousy Christmas that year. My mother after a binge of booze and pills came home from God-knows-where, focused on the fake Christmas tree I just finished decorating, picked it up from the middle like some form of petite, brunette elf weightlifter and flung it out the third-floor living room window.

I think there were like 6,000,000 lights secured around this thing. In fact, there were so many light sets attached that when the plastic pine cliff diver advanced from the window, one of the light strings got caught on the way down causing the tree to temporarily swing about 10 feet from the ground like some type of evil holiday pendulum.

Then two days later, on December 27, a favorite cousin visited. A savior of sorts. He brought the fireplace along with small, wrapped gifts I never expected. On December 27, I had Christmas revisited thanks to Michael. We unfolded the fireplace, secured the lightbulb behind the fake flame. It might as well had been the real thing. The warmth was the same. A cousin saved my holiday. I never forgot.

Random Thoughts:

1). Tell People you Love them. Now. Today. Even when they don’t feel the same. Even if they walk away. Even if they don’t respond.Today is the day to tell them exactly what they mean to you and you’ll be there for them because your heart and soul can’t change. It won’t change. Don’t compromise.

2). Christmas is not a day, or a holiday, it’s a mindset. The harsh glow of bad memories are ok even if they pierce you like extra-pointed ends of holly. The rotten ones are tough yet you must look behind them and work hard find the lessons that move you forward. Embrace what was and analyze how it made you the person you are today.

3). In times of despair, who will save your holiday? Be open to the signs. Be open to those you’ve been closed to before. You never know the lessons they’ll teach you, the memories they’ll create for you when you unpack the ornaments next Christmas.

4). Now is the time to tie up loose ends. With people. With money. Step back. Sever or foster ties with those who create energy, and cut away the ones who take it away. On occasion, you’ll be the one who’s cut and never truly understand why. There’s a humility, a frailty to being cut. It feels hopeless. Like a Christmas tree cast from upper floors. Then, out of nowhere – hope emerges.

At the end of the year, it’s a good idea to double-check the beneficiaries on your retirement accounts and life insurance policies. It’s also an opportune time to decide how you’re going to increase your contributions to retirement plans or work to pay off credit card debt in the new year.

My middle name is Michael. I demanded my mother have it changed after that Christmas. She obliged out of guilt. It was a way to always keep a special cousin in my heart.

After losing contact with my favorite cousin years ago, I found out last year that Michael died in 2008. Alone. From AIDS. In a motel room in upstate New York. He was dead for a week before they found him.

I wasn’t there. I never knew.

I missed my chance to tell him how much I loved him. How much he saved me that day. I sent a thought to him, as I stared at a friend’s cardboard fireplace. I asked Michael to forgive me. I thanked him for what he did for me.

Don’t miss your chance.

Today’s the day..

Your day to unfold love, gratefulness, blessings.

A day to find your fireplace. Your hearth.

Do it.