December 15, 2021

How to Survive this Holiday Season when Everything is Getting us Down.


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The holidays are upon us.

In my family, we celebrate Hanukkah and Christmas. My toddler grandson was fascinated with the glowing candles and had been accustomed to blowing out birthday candles, so naturally, he was convinced that he should do the same with the wax sticks in the menorah. His little mouth puckered up, and he blew raspberries to attempt to vanquish the flame.

My son told him that he couldn’t blow them out, and that they had to burn down on their own, so each day, he lit one candle for Dean to blow out and that satisfied him. Throughout the mornings that I watched him, he would walk past the unlit menorah and wave his tiny hand, which is a signal that something is hot, and make huff and puff sounds.

His eyes light up when beholding the decorated Christmas tree in their living room. He has a little felt tree hanging on the wall so that he can place Velcro ornaments on it and rearrange them without his natural curiosity having him attempt to scale the illuminated topiary.

Yesterday, we took him for a stroll through their neighborhood so he could enjoy the lights, the blow up lawn ornaments, and the luminarias that lined the curbs. Bundled up in his winter jacket and Baby-Shark-themed, ear-flapped hat, he waved his arms in excitement.

His are the eyes through which I am attempting to enjoy the holidays this year.

Over the years, I have loved the turning of the calendar pages that led to the last one of the year. I have immersed myself in the cheer and increased goodwill that has ensued, regardless of what is going on the rest of the year.

One of my favorite songs is called “Christmas in the Trenches” as folk musician John McCutcheon tells the tale of a Christmas Eve in the time of WWI, during which combatants laid down their weapons, sang, played soccer, showed family pictures, and toasted each other…and then when it was over, resumed their fighting.

In previous years, I was actively grieving the deaths of my husband, mother, and a dear friend who was like a sister. All of them passed around the holidays.

Even so, nothing has compared to the past few years when life, as many of us have known it, has changed dramatically. From the election of 2016 and the horrors which that presidency wrought, to the pandemic that is still taking the lives of people worldwide, to the deterioration of democracy here and the proponents of The Big Lie whose actions contributed to the insurrection on January 6th.

I fear for our country when heeding the words of retiring newscaster Brian Williams, who said in his final broadcast last week, “The truth is I’m not a liberal or a conservative. I’m an institutionalist,” he said. “I believe in this place and my love of country I yield to no one. But the darkness on the edge of town has spread to the main roads and highways and neighborhoods. It’s now at the local bar, and the bowling alley, at the school board, in the grocery store.”

In my community in Bucks County, Pennsylvania, the Central Bucks School District board meetings have made the news and not for positive reasons. The discussion of mask wearing, vaccines, diversity education, banning books, and LGBTQ+ rights has escalated and become hostile and vitriolic. I know teachers and families in the district who are disgusted with the ways in which the adults are poisoning our children with hatred.

Blessedly, dotting the roads on which I travel are signs that read “Hate Has No Home In CBSD.” I’m awaiting a similar sign in my district, where members of the board echo our neighboring representatives’ recalcitrance when it comes to teaching of history as it happened, not as they deny.

It occurred to me that this current “time space” is a science fiction movie in which some of the population drank a potion that renders them blind to what is going on.

They can’t fathom how the rest of us don’t share their version of reality. That’s the only thing that makes sense to me. Intelligent people hear the vitriol that spills directly from proponents of the former president as they have witnessed him expressing views that they don’t share (they say they are not racist, sexist, homophobic, Xenophobic, or transphobic, and still they practice cognitive dissonance).

They hear justification for hatred and wash their hands of it. Some, who have been elected to represent the interests of the entirety of the country and not just those who voted for them, turn a blind eye to so much wrongdoing and exacerbate it.

How can we provide an antidote? How can we work together to ward off the potentially devastating consequences?

I can be pro-peace, pro-cooperation, pro-love, pro-healing, and still be an outspoken activist and advocate. I am not like Chicken Little, in panic, claiming that the sky is falling when parts of it actually are. Standing idly by isn’t an option for me. It is like the Mother Teresa quote about agreeing to go to a pro-peace, rather than anti-war rally.

Admittedly, I have a visceral response when I see bumper stickers, signs, and banners that glorify the rising tide of authoritarianism. My gut twists and my middle finger reflexively raises in salute. Conversely, every part of my being smiles, and I get a warm glow when I see hippie bumper stickers and prosocial banners and yard signs.

I wonder if there is a scientific explanation. I’ll have to do some research.

To act as an antidote, for the moment at least, I am listening to unique (and not the same 10 songs played repetitively) holiday music on WXPN, which has an annual stream called Jingle Jams. It lifts my spirits. I need them to be elevated to make it through the next few weeks.

That “nice Jewish boy” whose birthday is celebrated now, even though, historically, he wasn’t born on December 25th, is one of my role models for conscious and loving activism. We speak often and I ask myself WWJD? Or even more poignantly, WWLD? (What would love do?)

A few days ago, I went to a shopping center called “The Mercantile,” which sells locally made items. Not long after I began my browsing, a smirking green being approached me. I started hearing his theme song in my head. He pranced around, and I held my arms out to hug him. He willingly accepted it.

A woman dressed in an elf costume also embraced me, and I commented that the way to turn a bad guy into a good guy was to hug him. She agreed.

There are times when I view those on the other side of the aisle as being rather Grinch-like, with “brains full of spiders and garlic in their souls,” whose hearts need to expand and welcome who’s far and wide.

I wonder if my own inner Grinch, whose heart may be feeling a bit shrunken recently, needs to sit at the long table while he carves a plate of roast tofurkey in place of the “roast beast.”

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