Ah, swell, it’s Christmas again
Happy winter solstice-related holiday.
So it’s late morning, Christmas Eve. Because of the wonderful Bush-Obama economy, I’m not working, and even if I were working, I probably would have called in sick today: sore throat, blowing the nose every few minutes. You know the feeling.
I type this while lying on a massage table in the spare room of a friend’s flat. That’s where I sleep. Actually, I feel pretty good right now, better than I felt last night when I pedaled back here from Temple Coffee on S Street, and the wind had that particular icy metallic glint that feels somewhat annoying when it slices into your flesh if you’re totally healthy, but really makes you uncomfortable when you’re on the cusp of coming down with a cold. It was making bitter little ribbons out of me.
I used to fight colds hard when they came on: Loads of Vitamin C, cayenne, garlic, echinacea. Last night for some reason I just didn’t give a shit. Popped into Chita’s for takeaway salsa and chips, and a couple of guys who oozed time in the joint sized me up: “Yeah, I know you from Quentin.” No. You don’t. Sorry.
I soon holed up where I’m currently staying with the chips and salsa; I posted a bunch of vintage beer and wine TV ads onto my Facebook page, rinsed my nose out with the neti pot — okay, so maybe I haven’t given up completely on killing this cold — and got tired enough to attempt sleep. It was a rocky evening. Woke up multiple times and blew my nose and bitched to myself on how bad my throat was hurting. Got on Facebook before five this morning and posted a couple of vintage NyQuil ads. Finally, dozed off for a few hours.
So now I feel relatively good. Not depressed in the least, but spectacularly unenthusiastic about Christmas. I mean, for starters, I’m a Buddhist, so that holiday belongs to another religion. And because of my current downmarket socio-economic status, I’m kind of out of the loop as far as doing my part to help jump-start the economy.
I really don’t have much of a family left: mother and father have been dead for years now; daughter is 21 and away at college and, well, I may see her and that would be really cool, but realistically, I’ll be happy with a phone call; ex-wife and her two kids, or my two ex-stepchildren, are moving back to Maryland, and they’ve been out of my life for a few years, anyway; two half-brothers and one half-sister live in the Pacific Northwest but I never knew them growing up so there’s no tradition there; extended family of cousins I am in touch with, and they’re probably the closest I have to a family aside from my daughter.
Then, there’s that adopted family of friends and community, which I’d be out and about in right now, except for this cold. Oh, and the being broke thing, which kind of puts a damper on participating in gift-giving and parties. I kinda got momentarily butthurt that I didn’t get to sing my two original Christmas songs (which you can listen to here and here) at parties this year, but that’s how that ginger snap crumbled, so maybe next year I’ll have those and a few more.
Actually, I guess I’m kind of amazed I haven’t gotten all depressed this year. Last year at this time, I was was reeling from a bunch of things: the profound realization that the woman I loved, who I thought loved me in return, no longer did; the ongoing crunch of not working and not being able to find a job; the sudden death of the column I’d been writing for the Sacramento News & Review; the prospect of moving out of where I’d been living. More deeply, I guess I was mourning the old me, which was withering and dying, seemingly amid the blossoming of love and possibilities among people I was observing around me.
So this morning, well, the lack of sentimentality I’m feeling is pretty remarkable. I just don’t give a shit, to be honest. Christmas is for other people; it’s just the 25th of December to me this year. Yeah, I’ve got some nice memories, like the time I came back home with my dog Sam from a walk, and as soon as I let him off his leash, he confidently trotted over to the newly installed and decorated tree, lifted his leg and took a piss — and then my ex-wife got all indignant. Look, I explained. Use dog logic: Sam just figures we’ve installed a bathroom for him in the front room, so he doesn’t have to go outside. He really doesn’t understand why you’d be mad at him.
Anyway, that’s the best I can do for sentimentality right now. Thinking about my daughter and how Christmas seems emblematic of my failure as a father might put a damper on my mood. I did have one nice Christmas two years ago, a low-key affair with my then-girlfriend, but thinking about that is an exercise of living in the past, too, no matter how sweet the recall may be. As for gratitude, I am really grateful for the friends who have helped me out with gifts and loans and kindnesses in the past year, when I lost whatever was still anchoring me to the past life I’d enjoyed, and reaped the consequences of my many fuckups. I’m grateful to be breathing, even if that involves blowing the nose and sucking air through a sore throat right now; the alternative isn’t quite as appealing. And I’m grateful to be writing this, and figure that I’ll get back to my old entertaining self one of these days. Or maybe not.
Somewhere above, between writing about my sore throat and describing my current family situation, I sat on my zafu, or meditation cushion, for a half-hour, and then followed with several minutes of metta affirmations. The point being that in the type of meditation I practice, it’s about following the breath and observing the mind, and then naming whatever quality of thought is arising — remembering, planning, judging, imaging — before returning to follow the breath. “Putting the puppy back on the paper” is how I’ve heard it described, the way you potty-train a pup, patiently, again and again, until a shift occurs. And the shift that occurs in meditation is that you become more aware of this present moment, right now, and that everything else is either behind you, in front of you, or else a figment of your imagination.
So the winter holidays are all right for me right now, I guess. No expectations for me. As for you, may you be free from danger, may you have mental happiness, may you have physical happiness, may you have ease of well being. You know: Blessings to you and yours, and here’s to a more upbeat 2010. Feels that way to me, at least. —Jackson Griffith