Sunday, December 14, 2008

What's Goin' On / Christmas / Solstice

I'm very slow to recover from this plague, as Dianne calls it. At this point, it's a vicious circle of the physical and psychological; with the physical troubles coming first and going 'round and 'round.

The ear pain is gone but my ear is still fuzzy. I'm taking the damned antibiotics, even though I strongly suspect this is viral. I wonder if it's the medication that's making me feel so queezy and headachy and otherwise out of sorts. Today is the last day I take the stuff, as it appears not to be doing much to help me. I have very little appetite and I'm now facing a return to work tomorrow, which I would be looking forward to except that I still don't feel up to par.

I've tried today to shake off the psychological piece of this plague by getting dressed in something other than sleep clothes. I paid some bills; I'm contemplating a load of laundry.

I've yet to step outside since my visit to the doctor's on Thursday. The thought just makes me feel sicker. Some of this low-level depression is due to the weather's most devastating consequence: The Winter Blues or as the shrinks call it: SAD. There was a hint of sun when I awoke not-so-early this afternoon. Yes. I woke up at 2:30 p.m. after having been awake from 2:00 to 5:3o a.m. I feel totally useless and almost lifeless. But not hopeless. Just impatient for this thing to go away so that I can feel normal and get about the business of decorating the house for Solstice. Or Yule.

These terms for the holidays don't exactly roll off the tongue. I was raised with Christmas because of both my mother and my culture; the latter of which is highly Roman Catholic. When I was a little girl in Portugal; where I was born and lived for the first six years of my life, Christmas was exactly that: a religious holiday to celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ. My father, being an atheist, was willing to go along with some of the traditions that my mother tried to uphold. I don't recall that we had a tree every year; I don't think we did. But I do remember one Christmas where my father found a bare tree branch and stuck it into a tin pail full of sand. We had these little clay knick-knacks around the house: little jugs with tiny hand-painted flowers (I have since bought a whole collection of these on visits to Portugal and we hang them on our family tree) and a few small, plastic toys that we strung with yarn and decorated the tree with.

This was in the early 60's when neither consumerism nor democracy had yet arrived in Portugal. Regular, working people went to church and prepared a slightly more special dinner and desserts than usual. I remember baked chicken, rice pudding in small saucers, with cinnamon designs sprinkled on top. My brother and I got to choose what type of design we wanted for our individual pudding and my mother would sprinkle a start or a spiral with cinnamon.

People went to church for midnight mass but we did not. My father didn't believe in it and though my mother was free to go if she wished, she chose to stay at home with us. One religious custom I recall is that my mother would have my brother and me each fetch one of our boots to leave out for the Baby Jesus to put something special into. It was always something very humble by American standards; even of the early to mid 60's: a couple of clementines, walnuts or a sweet treat. Purchased presents were largely unheard of in our family, though other relatives who were more affluent would get a few toys. We got sweaters that my mother hand-knitted for us or new winter boots, socks; practical things.

I'm not wanting to call the holiday Christmas anymore because I'm not a Christian, firstly. And if I were, why would I want to celebrate the birth of Jesus in December? What I'm really celebrating is The Winter Solstice. Let's face it, the darkest time of the year deserves some merriment; a celebration that the days will soon become a bit longer and we will gradually see the return of the sun and all the life and light it brings. This I can wrap my mind and soul around.

We've given up on the consumerism of the season almost altogether. We give very small, inexpensive gifts to one-another. Our children understand and appreciate that they're fortunate to have the gift of $2oo, 000 educations. At least that's what the full "retail" price of it is. The Girls have worked hard and benefited from much private merit and needs-based help. The government gives us very little, as we are not "poor" enough. That's okay. I don't think it's unfair that the uber-rich parents of their college mates are helping to foot the bill through endowment contributions. Thank you very much.

My contribution to The Season is to decorate the house with those Pagan touches: a tree with a lifetime's worth of two families' respective ornament collections, lots of table-top decorations and lots of indoor lights and real candles, greenery and touches of red everywhere. We also make a wonderful meal and stuff stockings with practical items and candy. We enjoy it. We don't make ourselves crazy and stressed.

Honestly, in preparing my gift list for WP, I came to the conclusion that I don't really want anything. Actually, that's not true. I want a new Imac to replace the ancient, heavy HP laptop that sits on my desk. But I don't need it. This one will do me for some time to come. SG1 will soon need a new computer to replace the one she's had since freshman year. That will be the priority before she starts graduate school in 2010. I want but don't need an Ipod. I had one briefly that WP found on the sidewalk in San Francisco but it only worked for a month before the battery went dead. Neither the battery nor the gadget will be replaced any time soon. I want but don't need a couple of gorgeous sweaters and tops that I've been ogling in online catalogs.

What I wanted most is almost finished: a new floor for a huge area of my house. It's replacing the oldest, ugliest linoleum you have ever seen; dating back to 1952. I kid you not. I'm grateful for the kindness and generosity of my loving partner who knows how much "home" matters to me. And even though the long process of this renovation project has been exasperating at times, it's taught me that our relationship is more important than the instant gratification of a new floor; presto. And so I've learned to be patient throughout the long ordeal of WP trying to fit in doing the floor work with his own job and other matters that come up routinely. If I'd had my druthers, I would have had someone install it in a day but WP is a thrifty man and he insisted on buying the flooring from the least expensive outlet he could find and putting it in himself, saving us about $2,000 in the process.

Oh and a few days ago, I knew even more certainly that I'd found the right man when he came home from the library with a John Lennon biography for me to read. Sometimes I think he's not paid attention to what floats my boat and it's only five years for us; but he is proving that he does indeed listen and care about what matters to me.

I think it was Betmo (sorry, Bet, but I can't find the exact post) who said in a recent post that the best gift is the gift of time. I can honestly say that I have that from WP. We are inseparable. We can spend an entire day going about our respective tasks, in the same house, hardly speak to each other until dinner and still feel connected. Of course, we do find each other frequently throughout the day and we give each other a squeeze or a kiss or a touch on the shoulder. This so works for me! And then there are other times when we spend an entire weekend day watching movies together; snuggling and feeling very lucky and contented.

Time is a gift indeed and I don't intend to miss out on it just because the rest of the world is going holiday-crazy. Time spent also brings the gifts of understanding, acceptance and unconditional love. You can't have those things if you don't invest the time in the people you love.

Namaste, my friends.

P.S. I want to thank my friend Bobbie at Almost There for this post, which inspired a few of my own Christmas (as it was then) memories.


  1. I hope you feel really better soon. SAD is such a strange animal. It really does make you feel dragged out as if you are sick with something indefinable.

    I like what you have to say about the gift of time. MathMan and I spend a lot of quiet time together doing our own thing next to each other at the desk or kitchen table.

  2. I'm so glad you've finally found that, Gina. I was cheering for you as I read it.

    WP is one helluva guy, and I see why he works for you. Two good people moving in the same direction: what could be better?


  3. This was really good for me to read - I mean that part about the holidays. I really liked your reminiscences of Portugal and your Christmases there. It put things in perspective, which is, I suspect, what you intended.

    But I'm very sorry you have been so sick. It really augments the already gloomy doldrums of this time of year.

    And I'm with you on solstice - celebrating the bottom of the tunnel - light returning! Hooray!

  4. I think, Steve, that perspective is responsible for my writing a lot about the girls' education. You know, it just doesn't seem possible the leaps and bounds our family has made in education in this country. Both my brother and I have held that very tight value of wanting our kids to access highter education - if that's what they wanted. And they both said yes. So that's where we're at. :-)

    I genuinely could relate to the stories of the Obamas during the "get to know him" period of the DNC. Scholarships and grants became sort of my mantra for a few weeks! ;-)

    Maybe I'll write more on the topic of education in a post. It's all bad-ass and crazy, really. But we tumble along...

  5. Very interesting, Gina.

    Because I am a Christian (Psst! Don't tell anyone---and I'm really more of an Episcopalian than "Christian," per se ;-/), there's a part of me that's sad that you can't connect that Baby Born in Bethlehem (or was it actually Nazareth? Must consult the Jesus Seminar! *g*), with the "Rebirth of the Sun" (which is why, of course, Jesus's Birth is celebrated around Solstice time). Y'know, w/ maybe a Creche under your Yule Tree?

    Sigh. Christians have ruined so much of Christianity. I consider it criminal that they've spoiled (for so many) the Nativity, and/or "Christ's Mass", as well. :-/

  6. Oh, and Feel Better SOON!

    It's funny: just a few hours ago, I was comparing notes w/ a good friend, who's having a terrible time recovering from a dental infection (and discovered she's now allergic to penecillin, in the process).

    Anyway, I told her that MY last bout w/ antibiotics, was when I had an ear infection (mid-90s). I went through a complete prescription, but my ear was still plugged. Being on vacation at the time (that the antibiotics ran out), I saw the "country doctor" at Chatauqua: he gave me another prescription for antibiotics (similar, but different), AND (I was afraid he was crazy at the time) he pumped a large hyperdermic cyllinder full of warm water into my stuffed ear.

    Between the two (more antibiotics and the water)---and more time, of course---that did the trick!

    Be well, Gina. :-)

  7. jcf: you wrote: "there's a part of me that's sad that you can't connect that Baby Born in Bethlehem (or was it actually Nazareth?"

    I can always put my boot out for the Baby Jesus, if you want me to! ;-)

    Seriously. I CAN connect to that Baby but I don't need to celebrate his birth. What I can do is wish my Christian friends Merry Christmas, my Jewish friends Happy Chanukka and my Pagan friends Happy Winter Solstice. Etc. :-)

  8. If I inspired you to write this post, I am very proud of myself.

    Your memories of Portugal and all the rest are beautiful. I could not agree with you more about the gifts and the ridiculous way so many rush around doing things that have nothing to do with what life is all about. I am so grateful that you have found someone with whom to share the rest of your life in harmony.

    CR sounds like a pretty good guy too.

  9. Now you've started me on another train of thought, and as usual, I can't shut up.

    I've always felt that religion is a sort of security blanket for humans. We each believe what we have to believe to feel safe and comfortable. In other words, each of us creates his own religion, whether he realizes it or not. The more I learn about religions of every description, the surer I am that what each denomination teaches is basically the same as all the others, and individuals, if they are thinking people, each take from it what they need.

    Never mind. Once I start on something like this, I'm liable to meander on endlessly.

  10. this post was perfect :) you hit the right note- i generally get my knickers in a twist and rail against christianity and their false 'war on cmas' bullcrappery. i too grew up 'christian' and we always celebrated christmas- but not religiously. we had santa claus and trees and reindeer and records sung by everyone imaginable. we never had much money but my mom began saving money and buying food months in advance and we would feast from cmas to new year. those are good memories and i didn't need jesus or the christians to enjoy the season.

    nowadays, i decorate more naturally- greenery and candles and lights. and we still feast- but it isn't a whole season. i think the yule only spanned about 3 days at most- and sorry true believers- you don't get the entire month of december. happy holidays--- happy holidays to everyone.

  11. i LOVED this post. thanks so much.

    we have all types of religions in the mix and atheists. most people think(and that's fine with me, eaisier, safer) that i'm a lapsed catholic instead of an eclectic.

    the funny/sad thing of it is that if i discuss religion with some people, no matter theirs, they would rather i was a mainstream "anything" rather than tell them i take what i feel is honest and kind from many. go figure!

    the floor bit killed me. we had 1953 faded red and yellow and black asphalt tiles here until a few years ago when we could afford to rip them up and put down new. every time i washed the old floor the mop turned red. ugh.

    i'm glad you've found your soulmate. i would think there is nothing better.

  12. Bobbie: I love your meanderings and you can meander anytime here! I don't want or need apologies from people I know for "hijacking" a thread or whatever the netique says you're not supposed to do.

    Comments is really where I get to know people relative to whatever it is I'm meandering on about! So please never hesitate.

    I agree with you about people creating their own religion, in a sense. For me that "religion" has really turned into preserving certain traditions that mean something to us as a family.

    What's sad to me is that in an effort to "create" their religions, so many people see fit to try to interpret things religiously for the rest of us; things we may not agree with or want to live our lives by. It's not only sad, it's maddening to me and I will appose it every chance I'm confronted with it.

    Regarding the Portugal Christmases. It was charming but it changed a lot when we came here. Lots more gifts (which for me as a kid was just fine, I'll admit). I guess I've gone back a bit to those roots of declaring the holidays a lot less as a consumer and a lot more as a human being.

    Yes, CR is a great human being and a wonderful father to our daughters. I wouldn't trade him with another ex for anything in the world! ;-) Seriously, I'm so glad we are able to be friends and support each other. He's like family.

    Bobbie, you probably know this but I don't want to miss an opportunity to tell you how much I appreciate and value your blogging and your friendship and support. You are one of the first people to start commenting here and I've "met" so many nice people through your blog (Di, Sylvia, and I'm sure I'm leaving others out). Thank you for influencing and affecting how I think and write and act. {hug}

    Sherry: I'm so glad you shared about your ugly old floor too! Now, I have to admit that if I was frivolous and had all the money in the world, I would want to remodel the whole house but since that's not possible, I had to put my foot down (hehehe) about the floor! Poor WP, he's been so nice about this. I did for a time give him hell about it, I'll admit. ;-)

    Sherry, you're wonderfully eclectic and loving and sweet and very, very cool! {hug}

    Betmo: We do have to rally against the Religious Wingnuts! They can celebrate whatever they want, however they want, just don't try to tell me and mine how to live our lives.

    I can tell you enjoy the Pagan (or whatever) touches of the holidays, too. This year, I"m doing only what I can because I've been sick and the floor won't be finished until the end of the week.

    Bet, you never stop thinking and speaking your mind. I admire that so much and take a lot from it and try to pass it on. {hug}


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