Christmas 2012: I Know How This Day Ends

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The last present is unwrapped.

The food is put away and the dishes are done.

The last guest is gone.

Was it a good Christmas?

You ask yourself the rhetorical question.  Suddenly, save for one television set in a another room, quiet permeates the house. You can actually feel the energy as it wanes. It’s like the last swirls of water down the drain. The sink is still wet and that’s all the proof you had that water was once there.

You know that feeling.  The house is vacant, but there is residual energy. Proof that people were once there.

As each second passes, the energy fades. It’s all in the timing and today the timing was perfect, as was the holiday.

You are tired. And with good reason.

You were quite accomplished in your hostess duties this year. You graciously fed and entertained 18 members of your family. You did a good job and there is much to be proud of. The new furniture looks great. The new window treatments are gorgeous. The newly remodeled kitchen was a hit, too. Plus, you had the house professionally decorated this year. It was like a Courier and Ives photo come to life.

You walk through your home reliving the moments. You peer into the bar: ah yes, the liquor bottles were in great demand this day. The almost empty bottle of Dewar’s tells you that Uncle Sam was present and accounted for. Very little Vodka left and someone made sure Gin was consumed. Only one glass fell victim to shoddy dexterity this year. That’s OK. A set of 11-Waterford crystal hi-balls works just as well. You can always get another glass.

You move to the kitchen: you admire your architect’s handiwork as you hear the sound of the new dishwasher softly clicking into “rinse cycle”. Cookies, cakes and pies–the ones you couldn’t give away to departing guests, now sit on the counter top, protected from the elements by festive red and green plastic wrap.

You look in the refrigerator. It’s filled to capacity with food. No one touched cousin Lana’s three bean salad. There’s a good amount of dressing left, too but not that much turkey and there are only a few ham slices, too.   You’re thankful you won’t have to deal with leftovers for very long.

Gee, a Coke sure sounds good.

You open a bottle. The fizzy sound is inimitable. You take a sip and savor the cold, crisp flavor. You take the bottle with you as you move to the living room.

There it is;  a large seven-foot Blue Spruce that just 24 hours ago, presided over a house full of people and laughter, now stands rather empty looking—in spite of branches that still sport lights, ornaments and gold and silver tinsel.

Your husband is in the den, in his easy chair. An anonymous NFL game is on TV.  The announcers’ voice serve more as a lullaby than play-by-play.  He’s been asleep for almost an hour now.

You sit on the couch, holding the soft drink bottle in one hand, your head in the other. You smile. You thoughts focus on your daughter and what she’s doing at the very moment…how she might be looking down on her left hand admiring the beautiful diamond engagement ring she received this morning. Chris is a great guy. They’ll be happy, you hope. All this young woman’s hopes and dreams are centered around a piece of refined carbon atop a platinum setting. You remember when you and Bill got engaged. You look down at your wedding ring. Now as much a part of your personal scenery as your blond hair.

You think about your little sister and how happy she was when she opened the tiny gift her boyfriend had given her. It was a key and it fit the new Mercedes Benz parked outside. She was delighted. How lucky she is!! A brand new Mercedes! Wow, you think to yourself—he must really love your baby sister.

Your hear your husband stirring in the den. He’s awake. He changes the channel on the new flat screen TV. He seems to like his present. You’re glad. After 29 years of marriage, he’s still impossible to shop for. The man has everything!

He stops on an all music channel playing Christmas carols.   You listen to the lyrics.

Silent night.

You think about your grandkids who went crazy when they ran in this very room this morning squealing with delight. They realized after seeing the bounty before them, that they’d been good enough for the past year to warrant a Christmas Eve visit by the red suited benevolent one.

This room was littered with so many toys!

Then, a passing car light brings you back to reality and you get up from the couch and walk toward the source. There, in the window you can feel the cold radiating off the panes of glass.  You realize it’s Christmas everywhere, but you never thought about that all day.   You were insulated by your life in your world.  But even so, you know things are very different “out there”—beyond the panes of glass.

For a few fleeting moments, you think about all the life that exists outside your home. Then, you think about the people forced to live those lives.

Holy night

There’s the dissatisfied wife whose husband forgot her again this Christmas. Her gave her nothing. That is, if you don’t count the black eye he gave her after she “made” him hit her as he unraveled at the height of one of his more violent drunken rages on Christmas Eve.

All is calm.

There are American servicemen and women stationed around the world who are on watch….on patrol. In Afghanistan,  one squad is taking fire. A sniper in some bombed out mid-rise outside some war torn region  has the upper hand. Suddenly, there’s a lull in the fire fight. One 19-year old soldier, wipes away a tear as he clutches a gun on this night. He wishes to God he could be at home, in his mother’s arms. No, be brave, he reminds himself.  “I’m a Marine!”  A stray bullet grazes the wall behind him. He hunkers down lower. For a fleeting moment, he thinks about his family;  the tree; his Aunt Deb’s pumpkin pie. He wonders if they’ve thought about him at all this Christmas. This, as he prepares to return fire.

All is bright.

The 81-year old woman who waited for her son to come pick her up for a Christmas visit. She dressed and waited and waited, but he never came. He didn’t come last year, either. Maybe he’ll call on New Year’s Eve.

He won’t.

Round yon virgin, mother and child

There’s that sad, unkempt eight year old, the eldest child of a drug addict’s five children. She had to tell her crying brothers and sisters that Santa once again, lost their address. Their Christmas dinner is stale dry cereal, no milk. That was all she could find to feed them.

Holy infant so tender and mild

There are the those souls who’ll go to sleep hungry. Like those struggling to live in war-torn Darfur. The only Christmas gift some receive will be the “privilege” of waking up to yet another morning.

And in every city in this country, many people aren’t acknowledging Christmas.  It’s hard to do that when you’re depressed and hungry.  But their hunger goes beyond the need for food; they hunger for love and companionship.

They hunger for peace of mind.

Sleep in heavenly peace

There’s the broke couple who were only able to open envelopes containing  bills on Christmas morning.  There are  grieving parents in Newton, CT who two weeks ago, sent their children to school only to bring them home later, in coffins.  A family in New Jersey now homeless, because of Superstorm Sandy.

~

“How sad”, you think to yourself. You sigh and shake your head, but through it all, you thank God it’s them and not you.

Thank God indeed.

You take another sip of your drink and unplug the Christmas lights. It’s late. Time to go upstairs and try out the marvelous new king size Egyptian Cotton sheets that Sheila and Dan bought you. It’ll be like sleeping on a cloud. And you can’t wait to try on your new incredibly warm Chenille pajamas. Margaret must have spent a fortune on those!

You make your way toward the stairs and clutch your sweater;  it’s cold in this big, five bedroom manse. Raise the thermostat up a notch or two and maybe steal a cookie on your way upstairs.

But before you do, you stop, turn and take a one final look around you. You finish surveying the day’s events and the castle in which everything unfolded.

Your home.  Your family.   Your good fortune. It all melds together in this life affirming moment amid the holly and tinsel.

All is right.

So, the answer is yes, it was a great Christmas;  at your house, anyway.

Sleep in heavenly peace….

.

My Ode To 2012

In addition to my duties as a Features Reporter at the station where I work, I also book guest for the morning news show.   As a favor to my friend Lana Hughes, who’s also one of the anchors, I booked a  woman who at the height of her Hollywood career–at a time when her star was rising to an incredible apex–turned her back on fame and fortune and became a nun.   Mother Dolores, was once known as Dolores Hart, one of those beautiful cool blonde starlets (the kind Hitchcock  would have obsessed over).   She starred in the early 1960′s spring break epic, Where The Boys Are, one of Lana’s favorite movies.    She played Merritt, a beautiful, but brainy college Sophomore  from a northern university buried beneath early spring snow, who comes to Florida (where the boys are) for Spring Break.    Merritt was the one in the perpetual up do who wanted love and all its trappings, but demonstrated just enough sexual curiosity mixed with restraint to make this 1961 celluloid classic the moral imperative it was. 

She was pretty, wasn’t she?   

Smart, too and studio execs loved her as much as the cameras did.   She was called ‘the next Grace Kelly’.    She starred in ten movies and made more money every time she signed a movie deal.    She was in “Come Fly With Me” in which she played a stewardess (as they were referred to back then) and also gave Elvis is first on-screen kiss.

While in New York appearing on Broadway, a friend suggested a little weekend R&R at a convent in Bethlehem, Connecticut.  Born and raised a Catholic forced to endure a parochial education, a weekend with nuns (and relatively cloistered ones, at that) was the LAST thing this popular actress wanted, but  she agreed to go.   In her recent interview with Lana, Dolores Hart said she knew something was different the minute her foot touched the patrol grounds on which The Abbey of Regina Laudis called home.   In a matter of days, it became an urging;  a deep-seeded longing that  came over her quickly and went from a whisper to a scream in no time flat.  It beckoned her–confounded her conventional wisdom.  She was a successful actress; a career that had already beaten the odds.  Her heart was the last hold out.   At that point, her soul needed no convincing.

Dolores Hart not only heard God’s clarion call; she also answered it.  

Goodbye Hollywood.   So long, wealth and the adoration of  a million fans  and any man she wanted.   

But she chose God.

I am fascinated by this…this…’committment’ to devotion and avocation.  

I suppose I know something about it.    For example, my lifelong desire to become a  journalist.   It never hit me like a lightning bolt…it was something I always knew I wanted.   It was innate.     I was born with it.  And every other job I’ve had outside broadcasting or journalism left me bored and feeling unfulfilled.  Invariably, I  always came back to the microphone.    I will always come back to the keyboard.   Am I devoted to my craft?  Yes, but it was never to the extent of saying good-bye to my MAC cosmetics, Narciso Rodriguez perfume, my Hermes Berkin (that will someday own) and my abject attraction to the opposite sex.   I don’t think I could ever exercise temperance in any form or fashion–I am neither  that principled OR  disciplined and there are times God help me, when screaming “SHIT” and “ASSHOLE” at the top of my lungs feels completely remedial.

And wanting to get laid is essential.

Yet, at this stage of my life, I suppose one could say I practice a varied form of abstinence.   And right now, that’s okay and that’s also where I am.  I’m not at all elated with my life, but I am ihn a neccesary place that I am hopeful will eventually open up to more joy.   

I ahve as confession to make:  if I’ve ever used my blow to say that I was happy before or in a good place,  I was lying.   I’ve spent a great deal of time lying to myself about so many things.   The truth is,  I don’t have the energy to do that anymore.   It takes a great amount of exertion and time to keep up with the Joneses in my own head. Additionally, trying to convince myself I was all right when I clearly wasn’t, was such an exercise in futility.  It was like I was in this unending fire fight with a disconnected  part of myself and I had no idea this was an fight that could never be won.   

This is extremely frustrating—like being forced to go to a family reunion against your will and being threatened with being rounded for life if you don’t play with your bratty cousin, who you’ve never liked, but the fact that your just 18 months apart makes that a foregone conclusion.   The game of choice is Battle Ship and you know the little bastard is cheating; lying boldly to your face, saying “missed”, when you KNOW the number you’ve just called out has either hit a section or completely sunk his ship altogether.   

That’s one of the things…that frustration is something I’m making every effort to release in my life.

I read something recently that resonated with me. 

 It’s an awful thing to be at war with oneself. It’s an awful thing to keep fleeing and arriving at the same place, over and over and over again.  

It ain’t a walk in the park to come to terms with the amount of lies you’ve told yourself either.   When I read this (and yes, I HAVE to make an American Horror Story reference here) I was reminded of the scene when Violet realized she was dead and therefore confined to the House.  She’d run out the front door, only to immediately re-enter through the back door.   It didn’t matter when she tried to leave or how…it didn’t matter which door she chose to exit.  She left only to immediately return.   Why would anyone do that to themselves?  Yes, of  course, AHS is just a TV show and as a result, Violet was able to instantaneously enter and exit and exit and enter through the magic of digital editing.   Yet, people live like that all the time.    

I was one of them.

And I no longer want that.  

So for Christmas,  I gave myself the gift of forgiveness.   Forgiving myself for infrations I’ve committed and the way I reacted to the sins commtited against me.  I’m also in the process of learning to make certain allowances–and be perfectly fine with them.  I am learning to allow myself permission not to be in control (actually, to even imply that I was ever in control is just another lie.  I’ve always allowed Life to control me….or rather, I just reacted to whatever it handed me and usually with counter-productive anger and resentment). I’m okay with not knowing all the answers and I’ve allowed myself the right to arrive at the three-pronged  fork in the road and just stand there for as long as I need in order to decide the right direction in which I need to go.

For New Year’s, I’m resolving to be kinder and gentler to someone who I’ve neglected—me.

Sorry to sound self-indulgent, but well, this blog is cheaper than therapy.  And I ask for  your indulgence because I can honestly say that I’m finally arriving at a groovy place.  Where’s that, you ask?   Well, let’s just say I’m hiking up to the  top of   Mt. Contentment.  Once I arrive, could I ever be that happy?  That fulfilled?   As selflessly joy’d up as  Mother Dolores (Hart)  underneath that wimple of hers??

No, but I understand my limits and I’m now perfectly willing to realistically operate within them.   And no more pretense.

Yeah, I’d love to say I love opera but I don’t.   I’d love to say I have the strength and single-mindedness to become a nun, but that’s something I could never do….not when I still have so much Laurie to perfect.   I’m not disputing the proverbial “call”, but its an undeniable fact that some women seek a monastic life because they’re running from something.  The reality is, that could be said for anything—from marrriage to a membership of a country club…to joining an Elk’s Lodge.    We all want and need a sense of belonging;  to be  a vital part that contributes to the whole.   I understand this, but right now, I’m a sisterhood of one and sue me;  no one else is allowed in.    This is one time when there isn’t safety in numbers.   This is one of those  times when my solitude becoems this hyperbaric chamber that promotes true healing.

I’m like a baker who has to work solo and fortunately, I’ve now assembled all the ingredients I need:   

  • a cup of patience
  • a dash of self restraint
  •  a tbsp of pride   
  • a smidge of self confidence
  • a sprinkling of independence

In the past,  I didn’t get the chemistry involved in the creation of being emotionally self-aware.   Ingredients are the basis of a cake, but the applied heat is what brings it all together.  It’s what turns the batter into cake.  And that is a precise process:  46.9 minutes.  Removing it at 46.8 minutes would render it undercooked;   47 minutes would burn it.   

I just checked my timer:    I’m right at 44.3 minutes.   That little red plastic thing will pop out of my navel when I’m done.    Ain’t turkey roasting technology grand?  

In closing,  I admire Mother Dolores a great deal, but I’m far too self-centered to ever take a leap of faith like that.   Besides, a postulate sounds like something a dermatologist has to lance.     And not only that, I still want to wear jeans and eye liner and laugh at the raunchy ribaldry of Lisa Lampanelli.  Plus, I’ve only been able to deal with my own Catholicism in small doses.

The truth is, I unapologetically like wealth and the material things it can buy.   I enjoy my Michael Kors purses, my huge watches that are as big as trash can lids.   I want to take trips to places where hedonism is welcomed and encouraged and someday…SOMEDAY, I want to find a loving, adoring man who I will allow myself to love and adore.     Oh, how I want to call him my own.

Therefore, it would help tremendously if he were actually named, “My Own”.

Happy New Year. 

Welcome 2012.

Here’s to optimism.