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My Ongoing Feud With The Yuletide Season

I hated Christmas. The black moods would begin right around October.
We'd struggle to get the tree up, kill ourselves cleaning and decorating and cooking and all of that. We'd spend eight hours fighting gridlock on the Belt Parkway so I could sit in Her Mom's basement so the sisters wouldn't make her cry by asking where I was. I was required, under threat of great penalty, to present myself at places where I was not welcome and to people who did not actually want me to show up, but wanted someone they wanted or expected me to become, or perhaps their vision of who they thought I should be. We routinely put off having our Christmas for a day or two so we could run around meeting everyone else's expectations. It was insane. What I wouldn't give for just five minutes of that time back. A few breaths to look her in the eyes and say, "Stop rushing. This is
our Christmas, too."

Please don't buy me any presents.

Don't send me any cards. And, for Pete's sake don't come visit. I don't celebrate Christmas, at least not in any traditional sense, which probably seems odd for a Christian minister. But I don't think Christmas, as we've come to cherish it, has much to do with Christ. His teaching, His example, His life, His suffering, His death, burial, and resurrection. But, worse, I don't think Christmas has much to do with me, as a person, as an individual who has accepted certain teachings and embraced certain beliefs that run contrary to the notion of icy ladders and miles of gaudy flashing lights tacked around my rain gutters.

There is no tree in my living room. There is no animatic Santa on my lawn. No wreaths, no reindeer. Just an ardent desire to not be made a target of those of you who do embrace all of this... activity... during these weeks. Christmas, each year, brings anxiety not over the joyous birth of our Lord and Savior (who was not born in December, but that's another rant), but of the unreletenting attack of well-meaning but deeply deluded folks who are bound and determined to bring Christmas to me. Whether I want it or not. If I were Muslim, I think they'd get it. If I were Buddhist, maybe fewer happy happy joy joy jingle folk would be pounding on my door. Non-conformity has been the bane of my existence since adolescence. Being out of step with the broader strokes of social custom creates UnaBomber-like levels of suspicion, confusion, and even caprice. But, see, when I was a kid, I was the overweight nerdy guy with the thick glasses, bad hair, and un-hip clothes. My childhood was a miasma of rejection, constantly being shunned by the cool kids and constantly on guard for bullies.

In a way, I was like a field mouse. Now, the difference between a field mouse and a hamster is simple: the hamster is socialized towards humanity, while the field mouse is hunted and shunned. The hamster knows fresh water, daily food supply, gentle strokes and playful cuddles. The field mouse knows only one thing: fear. Fear of most everything moving, fear of the elements. I suppose you can catch a field mouse and, eventually, teach it to be a pet, but the field mouse will always have those field mouse instincts because it's spent a lifetime being unwelcome.

You can't kick a kid around for half his life and then expect him to join your community. Being an outcast affords you time to consider your surroundings and evaluate things with Field Mouse Vision. The outcast tends to ask questions and tends to be pushed to the left of social custom, to the alcove of the shunned and disdained, where he becomes more an observer of social custom than participant in it. And, it is from this vantage point that I developed a very different take on Christmas.

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Christmas, to me, was a time of year when my mother cried. Any holiday that made my mother cry was not worth having, and Christmas caused my mom a huge amount of stress. This was a woman who would open a checking account around Christmas, for the express purpose of writing checks she knew would bounce, in some effort to maintain this idiot ritual of jolly fat men and chimneys and so forth. The extremes my mom and your mom and so many other moms went through and continue to go through so that we can wake up to find those nicely-wrapped presents under the tree are just not worth it.

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