Only 363 Days Till Christmas

or… “How I Overcame Stress and Learned to Love Christmas”

Next ChristmasIt’s over. Christmas of 2011 sits two days in the rear view. The nog boxes are empty and Mannheim Steamroller has stepped aside for Maroon 5. The jolly fat dude with the tacky red coat is basking away at an all-inclusive in Montego Bay — sans Speedo. (Wrap your head around that one.)

The annual insanity has subsided and in a few days we’ll all be back to normal, complaining about the weather, the bills, the kids… bitch, bitch, bitch.

You have to wonder what it is about those last six weeks of the year, the days between Thanksgiving, starting off with the annual retail madness known as Black Friday, through a frenzied December to finally reach a crescendo of craziness on Christmas day.  And then to catch your breath for a few days before punctuating the insanity on New Years Eve.

Wal-Mart ChristmasWhat is it about the holiday season that injects a senseless imbalance on the retail landscape of America? What motivates people who struggle to make it to work on time, practically every other day of the year, to easily rise at 3:00 in the morning and then dash off to grab a primo place in the Wal-Mart line on Black Friday? It’s got to be some insidious form of dementia brought on by the holidays.

These are mad times, I tell you.. mad times.

I have my own personal holiday meditation method that I call Zen and the Art of Surviving Christmas. It’s a combination of acceptance, awareness, and amazon dot com. I did break my own rule this year and schlepped out to Wally World on Saturday a week before Christmas. I was amazed to find the aisles cleared, shoppers civil, and an open checkout line waiting for my arrival. I was slightly befuddled by the lack of Christmas shoppers and quizzed the smiling face scanning away at my stuff. “Has it been busy today?”

She stopped sliding the canned goods across the glass. She gave me that Wal-Mart corporate smile and said something that seemed odd at the time, yet brilliant in her deflection. She raised the Mountain Dew bottle in her hand and answered my question with a question, “Would you like to leave this out of the bag?”

I was no closer to solving the mystery of the absentee shoppers. I resigned myself to total ignorance of the retail riddle. I took the Mountain Dew bottle in hand, sighed and replied,  “Yes, thank you.”

She returned to her task and I to my puzzlement. After handing over my hard-earned money, I wheeled my overflowing cart through the parking lot and began to notice a strange phenomenon. Nobody was fighting for parking. There were empty slots near the front. It was like shopping in July except much cooler.

Where was the typical Christmas delerium I remember?

And then the light came on and I remembered things like 9% unemployment, election year, ObamaCare and the Gringe that ate D.C. People are hurting right where they live — in the wallet. People stayed home in droves hanging on to that disposable income because people are unsure what 2012 will bring.

Christmas morning arrived much like every other day with a couple of exceptions. Stockings were hung from the chair-rail with care and I discovered the best traditions are the ones you create for yourself. Dinner and a movie on Christmas is exquisite in its simplicity and lack of stress. The dogs showed as much excitement over the contents of their respective stockings than any child I ever saw.

The message I got this Christmas was simply this.

Christmas LoveIt’s not about the colorful packages under the tree or the food, or the red and green lights hanging from eaves. It’s not about the big game on TV or the new Xbox. It’s not about the stuff you get. It’s about the stuff you give that you can’t see. It’s not something you can buy at the mall or trade for on eBay. It’s something that comes from your heart.

I know, I felt it in abundance around our house this year.

It’s a crazy little thing called love.

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