If you’re related to me, you know that my mom writes a Christmas letter every year–sometimes humorous, sometimes poignant, always succinct. Well, I’m an adult(ish) now, and merely a footnote on my mom’s letter because retirement is far more interesting than being a boring 30-something. I’m too lazy to send out Christmas cards to everyone I know, so I’m putting my personal Christmas letter out in a public forum instead.
When I think back on the year, I think about the once-in-a-lifetime experiences I had.
I saw (in person) Duke lose in the NCAA Tournament. As a #3 seed.
I touched Woolly Mammoth fur.
I touched a hobbit. (And I didn’t shriek “Hobbitses!” at him, thank you very much. There was a definite risk of that happening.) Later that day I also accosted James Dashner in the street and gave him a hug. That was a good day.
I finished writing and editing a novel. And I wrote the first draft of a second novel. Keep your fingers crossed for me that I have news to share about the former in 2015.
But to be honest, mostly I mired in the tedium of being a gainfully employed adult with a 9-to-5 job. I’ve tried to reconcile that this is just how life goes, but I’ve failed at that reconciliation. Honestly, I’m glad I’ve failed.
When I think about holidays, I think of my family. I loved holidays as a kid. I still love them as an adult, because the only time I get to spend with my nuclear family is around Christmas. Though this year I did spend Selection Sunday with my parents, and that counts as a holiday for me.
I saw my mom and dad again over the 4th of July weekend. My mom and I went to see the fireworks in my hometown. There’s nothing like the 4th of July in a small town. Washington DC can keep its spectacular display of canned patriotism. I’ll take my one-firework-at-a-time and the oohing and aahing of families spread out on blankets on the grass in Commons Park any day.
I spent Labor Day weekend in Edinburgh with my mom and sister. If I could stomach cold weather, I would probably be hiring an immigration lawyer right now. Edinburgh charmed me, though that might have been the men in kilts. (There really were men walking around in kilts.)
When I think about Christmas, I think about sappy made-for-TV Christmas movies. I say this without any sense of irony–I love Hallmark Christmas movies. I think I love them because they represent everything I don’t have in my life.
A new experience for me this year is that there have been times when I felt profoundly lonely. I feel alienated almost every day in one way or another, but I’ve rarely felt personally lonely in my life. I love solitude. I have no qualms about going to a movie, concert, restaurant, or sporting event by myself. I know I’ve gone a week without speaking or interacting with another human being. I get caught up in my head very easily, and I just don’t need a lot of outside stimuli.
But sometimes I wish I had someone I could count on to pull me out of my head, to intertwine my life with, to go on adventures with, to see me without expectation (aye, there’s the rub). It’s not going to happen, but sometimes I even understand the appeal of having children, if only to pass traditions onto and make new ones with–those bits of my childhood that I’ll never recapture, but can still bear witness to.
I always wish all of my friends were closer to me.
When I think about Christmas, I think about capitalism and organized religion and war. I think about the advice columns I get a kick out of reading and how some people have horrible experiences and interactions with their families, using holiday gatherings as an excuse to project all their emotional instability onto people who feel forced to be in their company. I think about how bad human beings are at recognizing that other human beings are, well, human. I think about the pain people carry inside them.
But I also think about this piece that my friend Amit often shares around Christmas, “The Secret Christmas,” by Robert Fritz.
“Christmas lives in many forms, all of which touch something locked away inside. It is the renewal of your true nature, the awakening of your spirit, the restoration of your natural goodness, the rebirth of unconditional love.
It’s nostalgia for a time that never existed and it reminds us of what Jack Kerouac taught us in On the Road, “Life is Holy, and each moment is precious.”
When I think about Christmas, I think about time. I think about how it always seems to be moving and how it never leaves but for those rare, beautiful moments where it disappears completely. I think about how silly it is to think time is important.
It’s a strange world we find ourselves in, and I’m probably the last person you want to turn to for hope. The older and wiser I get, the less surprised I am by anything. But in spite of my cynicism, I always hope I’m proven wrong, and it’s always around this time of year that I start to believe I can be. So, I’ll close this letter out with the thought of hope.