I don’t know how to say this, so I’ll just start. It’s on my mind.
For the third year in a row, I don’t have money for Christmas gifts. This isn’t a problem to solve, but thank you for wanting to (if indeed you did). It’s my thing to work through, and it would help me if you’d read this and be my witness. There is so much power in speaking truth and feeling heard.
Two years ago, when I was super weak from brain radiation and we were getting food stamps because we had so little money, people actually sent money and Amazon gift cards to me so I could send Christmas gifts to my kids. One friend even sent them handmade quilts. It broke my heart open. I felt happy and relieved that my children had gifts, but ashamed that I wasn’t able to provide them. Ashamed, too, for even wanting them to have THINGS rather than time with me, which I also couldn’t provide.
A year ago, when we still didn’t have money but I had more energy, I made art for my kids. I felt good about that but also felt a bit of a failure for not sending them something bigger, better, grander, more worthy of making up for the fact that we live so far apart. Art was great — a piece of me! — but I didn’t think it was enough.
It’s so easy to judge yourself during the holiday season. I’m speaking for myself of course, but I don’t think I’m alone in this. We hold up our experiences against a backdrop of Hollywood/Norman Rockwell perfection, a facsimile of reality that no one could possibly match, and find our experiences wanting. We are inundated by images of crackling fires, mugs of hot cocoa, and smiling families in colorful sweaters. Aren’t we all supposed to have those things? And if we don’t, we struggle to not make it mean that we have failed.
My beloved and I don’t give each other gifts, not really. I remember getting my love a cool t-shirt a little more than two years ago. My memory has holes in it these days but I think that’s the last time I got him anything. My wallet usually has no money in it. I don’t have any credit cards anymore. I never buy anything.
Three years ago at Christmas my beloved and I exchanged gifts, “little luxuries” he called them: yummy soaps, candles, things like that. That was the first and last time we exchanged gifts.
My beloved brings things home for me sometimes, little things like a $4 flower bouquet from Trader Joe’s. For awhile it was cupcakes. No more cupcakes now! Now it’s pharmacy prescriptions, lol.
When we moved in together, three and a half years ago, I gave my beloved my TV. He didn’t have one. I bought it in 2008. It lived in his bedroom and together we watched a lot of movies on it until about two months ago when it stopped working. It doesn’t make much difference to me — I’m happy watching our occasional Netflix on a computer — but it makes a huge difference to my videophile beloved. He wants a new TV so badly but of course all our money goes to either rent and food or to medical care. It seems almost ludicrous to even talk about TVs when brain surgery is on the table. Except if I had a magical spare $xxx that we didn’t need for cancer treatments I’d buy him one. Years ago I fantasized about buying him an espresso machine.
Sometimes life takes twists and turns we don’t foresee.
What’s my point in saying all this?
I struggle to reconcile my fantasy “holiday” with reality. Reality is that I live where there are more surfboards than snow. I have no money to buy gifts and no energy to make them. Our Christmas tree is in storage this year. My beloved is struggling. I’m about to have brain surgery.
I’m alive. I have enough to eat and a safe roof over my head. There are people who love me. Sometimes the love I feel for the world feels too big to keep inside me so I let it go whooshing out to light the sky. My beloved is more devoted to me than I ever imagined a man could be. My children are safe and warm. People conspire to love each other more. Good things are happening in every corner of the world. Things continue to shift and change.
I can get through this.
I don’t think this post is about Christmas gifts or money. True, we are in desperate need of money. But this is something more.
I think it’s about accepting my reality and making that reality feel as big and bright and beautiful as the fantasy.
Much love, as always.