the reason for the season is jesus, and other lies

An earlier but still timely message.

rant-ology!

 

santa

Children depend upon us to give them accurate information about the world they come into. See: whispering (not so) sweet nothings. They’re so easy to dupe or take advantage of—over and over—because their hard-wiring is set to trust. This doesn’t mean they don’t enjoy a good trick or can’t distinguish between most of what’s real and what’s imaginary—if we help them. They do love to be included in any festive hoodwinking.

Jesus wasn’t born in December. That construct—according to biblical scholars—started mid fourth century and though there’s no definitive answer, the best guess is Jesus was born April-ish. Also, the main thoughts concerning Christianity’s two biggest holy days are that Christmas & Easter were taken from pagan holidays (Saturnalia & Ostara) or Jewish holidays (Chanukah & Passover). Quite a bit of evidence supports these ideas. For instance, the Christmas tree with its lights and decorations is linked to Druidic…

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april fool’s is not foolish…yet

tarot fool

Little Luca Lucas came to Nonna’s house for his first Easter hunt of naturally colored-eggs from my “girls,” plastic eggs bestowed with foiled chocolates, pecans and kumquats and a red collection basket. It took a bit for him to get the gist and then…surprise, joy, challenge, satisfaction. Brunch followed: buckwheat waffles a la Kelly, sausagees (vegan sausages) a la Nonna, stewed fruit. To the park for slack line jollity and playground. A lovely personal time.

At the park, a church was setting up for a large hunt by helter-skeltering 8000!! plastic eggs over the ground. Apparently the idea is to greedily grab as many as possible. No hiding, no challenge, no merriment. Lucas and I walked through this mine-field for the visual but I believe that even this almost two-year-old could feel the lack of inspiration that he’d just experienced. Contrary to U.S. belief, children don’t like ‘easy.’ They LOVE an authentic challenge. They LIKE to surmise; they’re into meaningfulness (not mindless “entertainment”) until they’re trained not to be.

Almost every popular holiday has been defaced and decayed by marketers, stores, bakeries, restaurants and/or anyone who believes that money is the true—maybe only—motivator of humans. The truer reason money has been a mover is to acquire what we need: housing, food, etc. and what we fancy: everything else that we believe will make us “happy” or fulfill us in some way. In other words, what gives meaning. Twisting meaning into insincere sentimentality or materialism is just wrong.

I recoiled from holidays starting around the age of 10, growing exponentially each year as I felt pressured and obligated—not by my family—but by the culture to be “happy,” to believe in something I didn’t, from: St. Patty’s Day (drinking and wearing green), New Year’s (drinking), Thanksgiving (indulgence and football with little sustainable thanks), 4th of July (beer, let’s blow shit up & pollute the air), Labor Day (almost no connection left to it’s inception), Easter & X-mas (stolen from Pagan holidays), Valentine’s Day (see: love, sad, love, sad, love, sad, sad love), Halloween (Persona day! Yes! Boo—now it’s usurped by adults, it’s competitive, and female “sexy” rules), Mother’s Day, Father’s Day, Flag day, ad nauseum.

Not to mention: International Panic Day (18 June), Rubber Eraser Day (15 April) or National Punch Day (20 September). Maybe the latter is to celebrate the punching of people who create hollow holidays.

I have two children, I taught writing in schools and now I have a grandson so I’m not a complete curmudgeon. I participated! Ask them. But I aspired to create inspiration not stimulation in whichever we engaged in. Valentines were homespun, Solstice replaced X-mas with our distinctive ritual (see: the reason for the season is jesus and other lies), handmade cards, honeyed orange peels, champagne, minimal gifts.

Today is the only familiar holiday that hasn’t been assassinated and still has fun attached. As long as you don’t do unkind practical jokes, become a wholehearted trickster. Especially with little ones who love to be good-naturedly hoodwinked but never deceived. Just like us adults.

chin-up my ass

Head_up_ass

I live in a country (U.S.A.) of mostly muted emotions. Or the opposite: Jerry Springer. We’re a bi-polar nation addicted to the cerebral flip-flop between indulge/restrict, wanton/celibate, carnal/piety, sloth/extreme actions…  Not much middle ground, not much consistency, not much reality. It’s head living.

We’re often expected to be positive, smiling (especially if female) and eschew “politics or religion” in talk. In other words, stash any potential discussion that could evoke turbulent emotions. See pollyanna is passive aggressive.

Worse, keep “negative” feelings private or be done with them pronto. Lose your dog-familiar of 10 years? Get a new puppy! Break from an unhappy relationship? Hop back in that saddle! Your book of stories is rejected for the 17th time? Recirculate it! Make it happen! Serious inner work? Use affirmations! You have breast cancer and go through medical torture? Keep your chin up!

I loathe chin-upping!

As do kids, animals, plants, trees, stars, stones, rivers…  Okay, I don’t know for sure that all those things feel as I do but I do know that we ridicule and control children, teenagers and dogs when they display “brawny” passions, especially ones that make us feel something we’ve spent our lifetime stuffing down. They poke ours by innocently remaining with theirs and we hate on them for waking our sleeping giant.

The chin-up is a disguised critical voice and no matter how serene and sweet it sounds it still doesn’t permit “unfavorable” emotions to exist. Chin-upping is always in a hurry with its “sensitivity.” The sole way to dispel sad, angry, hateful, anxious feelings is to be with them in deliberate compassion…However. Long. It. Takes. Chin-upping doesn’t allow for that. People who insist you smile and make nice, people who label whatever emotion that scares them as “negative” don’t allow for that either.

Let’s take anger, a most despised emotion. Not rage—which is born when anger is unresolved—but anger which is a rational response to injustice; something’s wrong. It’s a motivating force. The issue isn’t anger itself, it’s finding relevant ways to rectify it. I suspect that only by appropriately expressing it can we truly let it go.

Maybe the “story” your anger attached to has inaccuracies but the emotion is unconditionally valid. Don’t throw out the feeling with that flawed narrative. It’s your job to use nuts & bolts thinking to view the anger with sincere interest—like a kindhearted parent—and hear why it exists instead of wishing it away. If you’re trying to extinguish it, you’re not listening.

Be with, without trying to fix. Encourage Self by accepting all emotions without good or bad labels. Embrace them instead of evicting them. Enable them to choose to get up and go organically instead of “chin-upping” them, which never works long-term.

Augusten Burroughs accurately observed that even with eager determination and a handful of maps you won’t get to California unless you know where you’re starting from. Ground yourself in your emotions, in your body. Your “truth” lives there.

 

the reason for the season is jesus, and other lies

 

santa

Children depend upon us to give them accurate information about the world they come into. See: whispering (not so) sweet nothings. They’re so easy to dupe or take advantage of—over and over—because their hard-wiring is set to trust. This doesn’t mean they don’t enjoy a good trick or can’t distinguish between most of what’s real and what’s imaginary—if we help them. They do love to be included in any festive hoodwinking.

Jesus wasn’t born in December. That construct—according to biblical scholars—started mid fourth century and though there’s no definitive answer, the best guess is Jesus was born April-ish. Also, the main thoughts concerning Christianity’s two biggest holy days are that Christmas & Easter were taken from pagan holidays (Saturnalia & Ostara) or Jewish holidays (Chanukah & Passover). Quite a bit of evidence supports these ideas. For instance, the Christmas tree with its lights and decorations is linked to Druidic practices, eggs & rabbits to fertility.

I’ve nothing against 25 December being the “decided” date to celebrate Jesus’ birth. But then who’s Santa? He appears to be an combination of St. Nick, Odin—a white bearded god who rode the skies with Sleipnir his white horse that children left carrots for in their shoes and Odin left grateful presents in return—and the Finnish Yule Goat who dressed in a red suit and brought candy to children. Very little of the traditional icons of xmas are Christian. Sorry.

At my house, we have one solstice tree and for most of my children’s lives we celebrated a self-created solstice ceremony commemorating the light’s return by colorfully drawing on paper what we hoped for ourselves and the world in the coming year, then burned them outside. We do/did have presents, some from “Ms. Santa” which were for the whole house like games or chocolates, but the focus of the holiday wasn’t gifts.

What does this have to do with misleading innocents? Well, many people lie about Santa at the expense of naive kids. When they find out the truth, kids are usually not disappointed that Santa doesn’t exist so much as humiliated because they were left out of the joke. They’re happy to “believe” in Ms. Santa, elves, reindeer, etc. with you and the family.

You’re Ms. Santa, right?”

“O, no. Not me,” I’d sing-song.

“Come on mamma—you are, too!”

“No, no, no. I don’t know what’s in this present.” They’d just eat this up.

Then there are parents who’ll insist the holiday is really all about Jesusbirth. How do they explain all this pagan imagery? Is Jesus’ birth about a glut of gifts and a gluttonous table? BTW, Mary was a homeless teenager with an illegitimate child. These days, certain Christians wouldn’t give her a quarter let alone revere her, and they’d kick her out of the stable.

Let’s all share the fantasy of Santa and reindeer, regardless of age. Let kids in; teach them we can dress truth in fiction to burn all the brighter, but only if everyone’s party to it.


how to cook a teenager

;


I adore teenagers. Best people on the planet, IMHO. If given even a 16th of a chance to be so, most are earnest and straightforward. I’ve worked with many a teenager: counseling, teaching creative writing or volunteering at teen shelters.

The goal of all child-rearing should be to raise a decent, thinking, heart-driven person who considers others but not at the expense of Self. Here’s some tips:

  1. Listen more; talk less.
  2. It’s not about you. Focus on what your kid requires, not on how you look as a parent. See #17
  3. Ask yourself what your kid needs instead of how to “fix” their behavior.
  4. Communicate honestly even if sometimes you say: “I’m uncomfortable answering right now.” Teenagers have precise bullshit meters. You’ll put nothing over on them even if they’re too polite to tell you so. Yes, I said polite.
  5. Please be kind. People speak to their kids as if they’re deadwood.
  6. Be compassionate. Please don’t talk about them in front of them; they have ears.
  7. Tell stories to tell stories–not as “morals” or “lessons.” Trust they’ll get it; it’s just fun to hear a story.
  8. Stop being so serious all the time; they’re not things to teach but people to interact with. Have fun with them.
  9. Don’t tease them. It’s scary and difficult enough not knowing how all the parts of you are going to fit in this f-ed up adult culture (I’m still trying to figure it out) without someone being condescending or acting as if what is felt or thought is a joke.
  10. Don’t bite on the bullshit. Ask, don’t argue.
  11. Be willing to repeat and repeat and repeat. Maintain neutral tone over and over and over.
  12. Be vulnerable. These are people. (I can’t say this enough). Tell them about your life–your floundering, your triumphs, your feelings–just to share. See #7
  13. Model behavior you’d like from them. They’re still kids and even though they’re attempting to define themselves into the larger community instead of just family, teenagers still take cues from you. You want respect? Give respect. You want humor? Be humorous. You want them to work hard without whining? Then…..
  14. Embody integrity. If you say you’ll do something Follow Through. Excuses? You hate it when they do it, so don’t. See #13
  15. Often when teenagers make “know-it-all” statements, they’re actually asking questions by “trying on” ideas. Let them. Instead of discounting or dismissing, ask why they feel that way (without a tone!) and then…Listen To The Answer. Have a conversation. Let them practice expressing those feelings, beliefs. You don’t have to agree but you don’t have to trash or ridicule them either.
  16. A teenager’s job is to discover and to risk, not to modify their behavior so you’re not alarmed. Deal with your fear. You can tell them how what they’re doing or not doing makes you feel. See #12
  17. Trust your kid regardless of some acting out behavior; you have no other intelligent choice. It takes tremendous courage when the rest of the panicky parents are watching and ready to blame you and your kid as “bad influences.”
  18. Tame your child, don’t break them. Do this by honor & respect, not control & fear.
  19. Listen more; talk less.

f@#k the phone

In the late 70s, early 80s, SNL did a skit where two aliens can’t determine what/who is earth’s “leader.” After eliminating various things, they realize that it must be the telephone: when it rings humans drop what they’re doing and rush to it.

This was before the birth of mobile phones. ~Just imagine~

Here’s just one person I know who’s addicted to his phone: he unconsciously checks it for emails, calls, whatever, approximately every 2.5 minutes! and he even doesn’t realize it! (he’d deny this to his death). To ask him to silence it—not turn it off—practically sends him into an apoplectic seizure of explanations as to why it must remain on. Many a great rationalization follow. But I’ve been in the woods with this man when his phone’s gone off. Jeezus! Don’t tell me you’re “working” now, buddy. LEAVE IT IN THE CAR.

Notice how many businesses from banks to espresso stands sport signs forbidding cell phone use? There’s a REASON people.

Before answering machines and cell phones [yes, there was a time, and back in the day you couldn’t even turn the ringer off or unplug the phone] I would let my phone ring if I was eating dinner or having tea with a friend because my life was more important at the moment than whoever was calling. It would actually make people nervous and it wasn’t even their phone!

I need and carry a phone like everyone else. I love the convenience of it all. I do. I log roughly 20 minutes a month on it. But I also love the idea of syncing my calendar, FB, texting, internet on one small device so when I get an iPhone—and I will soon—I’ll use it more, but not a whole lot more. And I will silence it. Regularly.

Because when I’m with someone, that’s who I’m with. Cell phones are not toddlers; there’s no excuse to be distracted minute by minute by it ringing or dinging. Even if the crack-berry addicts choose not to answer, they still have to look. Geez, honestly, toddlers are more thoughtful!

Speaking of kids. How insignificant they must feel in the face of adults who appear to prefer to connect with every technology over and above their own children. You know how many people I’m acquainted with who pick up their kids and talk on the phone to someone else the whole time in the car? Sigh. And then parents bitch about how “rude” those kids are when they’re teenagers. Double sigh. Think of how tolerant & patient they were all those young years… Please consider what message/s you’re modeling for your offspring.

BTW, I must have taught my children too well. Neither of my adult kids has a cell phone, they let their land-line machine pick up when they’re doing their life—just like their mamma—and they love to engage in face-to-face dialog. I’m proud, even if it is darn hard to reach them sometimes.