I love Christmas time.Peace on earth, good will toward men, etc..Who could argue with that?One doesn’t have to adhere in any particular faith, denomination or horoscope reading to find those concepts at least somewhat reasonable.
The Christmas tree, which I love, was not likely on the scene manger side in Bethlehem those many years ago, nor at any of Dr. J’s following birthday parties in the first century AD.It’s not a symbol of Christmas biblically, yet every December, or late November given one’s proclivity regarding such things, most of us pile ourselves, our families, or our friends and/or loved ones into the car and set out to find the perfect tree.The perfect dead tree that is, to procure, lash to the top of our car, and position in a place of prominence in our homes.Why?
The indoor tree as I understand it has its roots, pun-ish, in pagan ritual.It is meant to be symbolic of the fact that even during the darkest, most barren times endured in the northern hemisphere life will eventually spring anew.It is a reminder to be patient; to respect the way of things.To be clear, I’m not talking about the kind of patience seen on the Black Friday evening news during which local affiliates and their national counterparts recount the mob scenes, in-store fist fights of the day, etc.Wink! It’s more of a Christ-like, or buddha-ish if you will, patience that the pagans hinted at with there indoor arboreal relocation ritual.Coincidence?
Christmas spirit is, in my opinion, a safe place, an opportunity to reset, to reconsider one’s perspective in the midst of a dark, cold, and often trying time of the year.Candles glow, firelight dances across the room, the smell of pine permeates the house.These are all choices to which we can give life unless one is in lack of a fireplace.Even those who have no built-in way of burning yet other dead tree and thereby contributing in their own way to global warming can burn the yule log through the convenience of Netflix, or a discount DVD.No, It’s not the things or the smells per se, but the opportunity, the idea, of having the choice to create the experience; something different that shines an inner light on the darkness. That’s what fuels my Christmas spirit.
Christmas giving is or can be a two-way street.Some give to be appreciated.Some give to give.Christmas time allows a perennial look at who we are and why we do what we do; if only we might take the time to decipher our motives.It’s likely that most of us appreciate Christmas in theory.However, have you heard someone utter the words, “I just have to make it through the holidays?”It’s likely that those folks have fallen under the western interpretation of the season that involves hosting, presenting, performing…ugh, exhausting right?The greatest gift of Christmas spirit I can give is the gift given to me by the pagan rituals…patience.Loving more than I usually do.Letting mishaps pass as though they were nothing because let’s face it, in the ultimate scheme of things they often are just that. A dropped ornament, someone who will remain nameless licking the baking spoon before we have finished laying cookie dough on the tray, anxious children acting out due to excitement are all part of the experience, and of course the impatient driver, shopper, clerk, etc.
Christmas spirit comes upon me, overtakes me and empowers me.Christmas time fills me with the hope that I can choose to be my best me.To be more giving, more hopeful, more patient than I might otherwise choose to be.That is the best gift of all.And so with joy in my heart, I wish you a very Merry Christmas time!
I have nothing to say… Oh wait, that can’t be right.The voice in my head never stops yammering, so perhaps I should just share a bit of that monkey din.Let’s see, I was super uptight with my kids this morning in response to their less than “militarily precise” approach to preparing for the first day of school.My fluster-faced antics were unnecessary and as it turns out, super unproductive.They watched me rant with bemused looks of teenage indifference.Suddenly it dawned on me that I was “choosing” to be an ass. “Thank god,” I thought, and just like that, I chose to change my choice.I decided that I no longer wished to be a “that dad,” so I stopped my foolishness, and apologized to my sons.Breakfast and the ride to school were lighthearted and fun.So that’s all I have to say…
Wait, I do want to mention that while I was acting like a child, they were keeping their distance, staying emotionally clear of the bad mojo vortex.They had decided it seems, to give me the space to work through whatever ass clown hair shirt I was knitting without engaging.Well done boys.
I have nothing to say, that needs to be said, at the moment.That said or said thrice perhaps, I like saying stuff.When I was a young boy I had, as some parents might say “a lot of energy.”My father was a man of few words.Of those few words, the ones I often heard were “stop babbling.”What?Not enrich the world with my eight-year-old prattle?You can’t be serious? Poor guy’s ears must have been near bleeding!
I have a couple talkers in my house.The suspects are male, ages 13 and 16.While they both can go on serious verbal tears, the 13-year-old is exceptionally gifted.He can speak incessantly for such extended periods that we’ve actually coined terms to describe his gift.When he’s been thinking out loud at the speed of sound for some interminable period, we call it ‘streaming’…he calls it “broadcast mode.”I used to talk, or “babble” like that when I was a boy, ha!It doesn’t hurt anyone, so I just let him blow that horn.
Some folks don’t talk much. Some folks do.Some are great listeners while others don’t seem to have the ability to give two stray shits about what anyone says, even as they pretend to listen. What?Ha, just kidding.
So it seems I have nothing important to say, but I’m damn happy to be here, to have another day on this planet with opportunities in front of me and most of the “learning the hard way” behind me.Babblers, quite folk, grumpsters, and joy monkeys, may you find wildflowers and spring water along your path as you walk to the beat of your own personal expression drums.
The patience cat came to stay on an unusually warm Saturday in late July. She was accompanied by two siblings who clearly regarded her as the least significant of their clan. The serial cat rescuers we acquired these new family members from defined her as the runt of the litter. Funny word for living things, “litter!” Kittens come into the world in one, cats relieve themselves in it, and humans prone to indiscretion cast it from the windows of speeding cars along the highways of America as a malevolent gift to society at large. Anyway, the three kittens, two silver tabby girls and one-half tabby, half polished polar bear boy crawled tentatively over the edge of their cardboard limo to explore the new world. “Ugh, linoleum,” thought the patience cat at first touch, what have we gotten ourselves into?
Interestingly that was also one of my first thoughts when I bought the place. That said, Linoleum is an amazing substance, tackiness notwithstanding. No offense meant to lovers of the flooring option. It (linoleum) is an amazingly forgiving, and down-the-road money-saving choice. For instance, when the 1970’s fridge that came with this fossilized house offers up a couple of quarts of “where the hell did that water come from” around its base, or one of the cats yacks their morning kibble and half the lawn on it, its cool. Linoleum saves the day via its impermeable countenance. A few rags or paper towels solve the problem, and no one has to lose sleep over absorbency. Excellent! The fact that someone actually gets paid to create the god-awful designs featured on most plastic flooring products must rank high among god’s jokes, but I digress?
As human children grow up their personalities being to emerge, or if their ways of being have been made clear early on, they magnify. The Patience Cat was no exception. Being a firstborn myself, by many years actually, (only child until I was six), I can’t imagine what it must be like to be the weakest among seven born within twenty minutes. In the litter arena, I imagine getting food, let alone parental nurturing has a gladiatorial survival essence about it. So yes, she was slight of build, to put it mildly. In fact, she looked like a bobblehead. That said, unlike many of her kind, she survived. In her little cat way, she found footing in a loving home and made a place for herself, possibly due to the three, well-distanced food bowl placement strategy employed at our place.
So it was that the Patience Cat became a teenager. The intersection of safety with dependable continuity from day to day allows one to spread their wings. The Patience Cat found this to be true for her. The unruliness and demands of a teenager manifested in her every action. The quirks this girl displays make for regular conversation fodder around the house. Which for context I must say is a house inhabited by three men two teenagers and yours truly.
This kitty girl, with all her issues, is a gift to us. For one thing she is a lovely little soul. On top of that, her style of interaction provides a constant reminder that patience is a choice. Patience was in short supply in the halls where I dwelled during my early years. So it is I imagine in most households featuring young, busy parents and challenging offspring. Though I was first born, and therefore not classified as a runt by traditional definition, I was not remotely familiar with golden child status, nor accustomed to patience as a guiding hand during my assent to adulthood, (an assent which I’m not sure I’ve completed). The apple, as they say, does not fall far from the tree, unless a benevolent tornado has been involved in logistical reassignment proceedings. As a result, the expression “patience is a virtue” comes to mind in no small way on a daily basis for me. The Patience Cat then has become something of a guide, a guardian angel if you will, to remind me of my choice to be accepting of others. In particular, she has reminded me to make space for those who, by no fault, or choosing of their own, do shit that makes me want to go volcanic!
Do you remember that kid in school who tried way too hard to get attention? Everybody shunned that poor desperate bastard or bastardette right? That’s the Patience Cat! Working at the laptop, perched on the couch with a cocktail, I’ll be intensely focused on a project. Then here she comes, sliding her dripping, enthusiastic nose across my arm, ensuring a typo as she works her way toward obscuring my view of the screen. Even now as I am typing this piece, she has been nudging and nuzzling my arm with that running nose to the damp tune of a multitude of “red underlined” typos. Ugh! But wait, she just wants connection. That’s not a crime. So I have to take a breath and chill, in lieu of my automatic response which would be to escort her from the couch physically, possibly to a neighboring county. Yes, I can be an insensitive ass. The boys, who have had similar experiences, find her to be equally intrusive and disruptive. We discuss it, regularly. Good for her though, we ultimately decide, grudgingly. She goes for what she wants. Plenty of humans never find the courage to quest for the fulfillment of their needs. Again, the Patience Cat is a guide, a role model even.
Though she can be trying on multiple levels, she is family. The name Patience Cat, which I might add, is her most flattering nickname to date, arose from her curious behavior at the threshold of our patio door. It was late December, the temperature hovering at 7º. She wanted to go outside, sort of. She meowed at the door; I opened it wide offering unobstructed passage. She backed up, timid, uncertain. Confused, I closed the door. She again meowed and approached the door. Once more I pulled the door open allowing the winter chill to wither the already wilting kitchen. Again she backed up and declined the offer. This time I Thought, “well what the fuck cat?” Then it dawned on me; she has an issue with crossing the threshold. Perhaps she’d been hit in the ass by that door at some point on her proverbial “way out.” Not on my watch, but we have had cat sitters while on vacation. Hmmm? I mustered a patience flame from deep within. Standing there freezing my ass off, while hundreds of dollars of central heat poured into the leafless, frigid backyard I waited.
I spoke gently to her, assuring her that she could exit safely, and would be let back in should she change her mind. She looked at me as if to say, “I don’t speak English, you silly fuck!” I stood still, recognizing at that moment the opportunity to undo a lifetime of patience-less perspective. Slowly she moved, one tiny, cautious step at a time across that insanely hideous greenish plaid-ish linoleum toward the doorway. Minutes passed, hours, days, lifetimes. Suddenly she rushed the door. As she approached the threshold, she leaped several feet in the air kicking her hide quarters to the side like a freestyle motocross rider and flew out into the winter night.
Stunned, I watched her dash across the frozen grass, then realizing my shiver along with the icicles forming on my eyelashes, closed the door. Click went the latch. There in that dark, cold, horribly neglected 1950’s kitchen I stood stone still. Moments passed. A smile slowly crossed my lips; then laughter burst from me. The Patience Cat, the smallest and least likely to survive had delivered a late Christmas present. Patience grew where once there was none. It is a choice that can manifest, a gift, a survivable option for one to whom it had formerly been no more than a myth. Who knew?
If you’re still stuck on the 7º bit, fear not. I did a lap or two around the house turning off lights and saying good nights, returned to the kitchen, and called the little girl in.
How would you like to be remembered? What would you like those who have a say in the matter to inscribe of your tombstone? Not to say that you’re plans aren’t to be cremated and strewn about the globe, headstone free, but please, go with me on this slightly morbid journey if you will.
This world is rich with people who naturally behave in a thoughtful, loving way toward others. This same world is also replete with people who if called out might have a hard time justifying some or much of their behavior to a jury. Sadly, I fall in with the latter category. I’m no Joseph Stalin, but I have my bad days.
I’ve often thought about a scenario wherein our lives are constantly recorded on video and available for public review and judgment. Oh, how our behavior might change if every action was up for scrutiny, evaluation, and infinite replay? I started pondering this circumstance long before the advent of social media mind you. The difference being that we wouldn’t have the option of posting only content featuring our “best selves.”
We’ve all seen the gal showing off what she’s got on Instagram. Bless her by the way. We’ve seen the cat-poster post posters and have also had to endure the politics-troll assholes. They all have their platform for self-expression and/or self-aggrandizement, which is fine I suppose. However, not one of them, or more accurately, not one of us, have to expose any truth deemed unflattering because we, of course, are our own censors. This arrangement is great for the “self-image,” but is it good for the “self?” Accountability, thanks to the one-way mirror of social media, seems to be on the ropes in these modern times. For most of us, the whole truth isn’t usually “runway ready” so we omit the bits that don’t flatter us. Me too, guilty! The first seven drafts of this post were a shit show. I was not about to unveil that incomprehensible crap to the world! Frankly, the jury is still out about this version but my self-imposed deadline wouldn’t take “no” for an answer.
The words used for an epitaph, if true and heartfelt, bear witness to the whole, uncensored life-print left by the dearly departed. What is our legacy? How do we touch the world? Now, answer that question again discounting any “touch” involving social media. Interesting, no?
I’m not fond of the idea of being caught in the act of being me twenty-four-seven. Do I want the world watching me while I lose my temper, ghost some woman I’ve met on tinder, or expel the results of a stomach bug in my not so recently cleaned bathroom? Not at fucking all! Do I think we should submit to the control of a “watcher regime” that exposes our every act to society for judgment? In no way, shape or form. Do I believe the world would be a better place if we all imagined ourselves being observed, and therefore felt compelled to take just a tiny moment to consider the outcome of our behavior before we let loose? Hell yeah I do!
Our every earthly action leads logically to our last, after which we are but a memory. Some believe in a judgment day. Some believe it is their job to judge others. Perhaps if we focus appropriate, (read: “a lot of”) attention on accessing and adjusting our own actions before they are unleashed, we could spare both the almighty and the armchair critics a load of work.
Though I wouldn’t complain about, “Here lies a salty bastard” as an epitaph, in fact, I would get a good posthumous kick out of it. I would hope that those words might be followed by something to the effect of, “who did his best to love well, to make the world a tiny bit less hateful and who will be missed.” How would you like your epitaph to read?
What would I do if I learned that today was my last day on earth? Hmmm, if we asked a random group of people that question we’ed get a spectrum of answers. Would the spectrum be narrow, the answers similar, or would they be divergent, deeply personal and unlikely to overlap? Some might say; “I’d want to be with my family.” Others might choose to find a pound of cocaine and dance naked in a rainstorm of hookers. Might some go skydiving? Or Google the one love that got away and purchase a plane ticket, or find a church and pray until their tongue cramped? Perhaps some would hide in bed, crying away their last hours.
I imagine the answers might share some commonalities if the interviewees found themselves in a similar place on the arcs of their lives. If not, the answers could be strewn all over the mental universe. I, for example, am a parent, and so would hope that some part of that ‘last day’ could be spent with the children whom I love and cherish more than anything in this world. What if that weren’t possible. What if I learned at 6am that my life would end at midnight and both of my sons were nowhere to be found? Maybe they’d be hiking some distant mountain range, or off on a hitchhiking adventure across Canada…whatever. The point here being, the desired spend of my last few hours would not be attainable. Were that the case I would have to find another way to make the most of my last hours as an earthling. I could spend my last day lamenting this misfortune, or? What would you do?
Perhaps there’s a better question to ask. Maybe we’ed be better served by taking a less conventional approach, asking a different question than “What would I do if it was my last day on earth?” The query, “what I’d do” is powerful, yet impractical. If I’m asking to learn anything other than how I’d choose to use a minuscule number of hours that, statistically speaking, I’m unlikely to be presented with, it has little value. This is because the probability of finding ourselves in such a situation is infinitesimally low.
Having a plan is excellent. Carrying jumper cables in the trunk for example, or hiding a key to the front door under a rock in the yard are precautions likely to at some point take center stage under the “usefulness spotlight.” These are premeditated solutions to scenarios we are likely to face. I was not a Boy Scout, but I have borrowed, and benefitted from the Boy Scout motto, “Be prepared.”
It dawned on me today while out mountain biking in the color-rich Autumn woods, that I’d be better served if I knew the answer not to “What would I do if this was my last day on earth,” But HOW I would do it! How would I approach it…living my last day? What attitude would I take? The “how“ can be controlled, focused, owned. The “what” cannot. Perhaps you’ve already been down this philosophical road. For me, it’s a new perspective. I hadn’t spent time comparing the value of the endless passing days of my long-ass life to the single day that I knew would be my last. “How” would I approach it? Suddenly I felt in complete control of my last day on earth! That, I could choose without the need for permission or the hope of right timing.
In my case pondering this ‘How’ made the lingering color of the late Autumn woods brighter to my eye. The definition of things sharpened. If I knew this was my last look at the majesty of life, I would look closer, deeper. This perspective caused my energy to swell dramatically. I took the jumps higher, the hills faster. The strength, love, the gratitude within me grew noticeably, all because of a thought. I dare say I had a bit of a Grinch-like moment of realization, and everything in the world was better, more meaningful and more of a gift than it had been in the moments before.
The expression “live every day as though it were you last” therefore may be commonly misconstrued, or at least in my case misapplied. It tends to call up the ‘What’ when in fact it’s the ‘How to accept/approach it’ that may be the true gift hidden in that cat-poster quote. On any day leading up to my last the answer to the question “How” I would choose to live my last day on earth is a gift, a revelation, a tool that can be used to make every day more than it otherwise might have been. So Namaste friends, Nama-f’ing-ste.
Have thoughts on the subject? Please comment. Life is bigger and better with shared experience!