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“If we make it through December”

If we make it through December,
We’ll be fine.
~~ Merle Haggard

Although Merle Haggard’s views about life are quite different from mine, I’ve always appreciated his straightforward, no-nonsense, hard-times-storytelling lyrics. His song “If We Make It Through December” is about trying to create a good Christmas for his family despite having just lost his job and having no real prospects for the future. For me, this song has become a bit of a December anthem for me.

The entire “holiday” season has been difficult for me for many years, As a vegetarian and a pacifist, I can’t get excited about the gorge-fest and celebration of genocide that is Thanksgiving. As an atheist who is trying to curb my consumeristic addictions (a difficult thing to do, as I still love my gadgets and lately I’m loving speciality running gear), Christmas is simply a black hole to be endured. Kurt first tried to overcome, and then simply tried to work around, my aversion to Christmas. We stopped showering one another with lavish gifts quite a few years ago. For a while we would simply go out to dinner at Christmas, but for the last few years we had dinner with friends, so that at least he got to eat the traditional holiday foods that he enjoyed and take vicarious pleasure in our friends’ tree and other decorations. Meanwhile I tried to research alternate winter holidays and adopt some new traditions around them.

I will pause for a moment at the solstice (9:30 PM Pacific time) tomorrow. My very small Festivus pole is up in the condo, although I haven’t put it in a prominent place because if I did the cats would knock it over.

My one truly enjoyable winter holiday is New Year’s Eve, because it’s all about celebrating the end of the holiday season and anticipating a better year ahead.

At this time last year Kurt and I were eagerly awaiting the arrival of our new Porsche Cayenne Hybrid (his one bucket list item) and hoping for good results on his CT scan after three months of chemotherapy. The CT scan results, which we received just a few days after Christmas, were not good news at all, and we didn’t actually get the Cayenne until mid-January. As a result, what we actually did on Christmas day last year is now a total blank in my memory. I think I recall him saying that it might be his last, and the rest of us all poo-poohing that idea.

So now I’m in the midst of my entirely typical December blues, although sung in a slightly different key this year. I spent Thankgiving almost completely by myself, absorbed in packing for this north-to-south migration and relieved about not having to cook something to take to someone else’s meal so I’d have something to eat. I currently have no plans whatsoever for Christmas day, except to go out and run 8 miles or so in the morning. I don’t have family nearby, I don’t want to barge in on friends’ traditions, and I honestly just want to be by myself. I’m trying to stock up on light reading material. I’ll probably cook myself an artichoke and some mashed potatoes with Marmite gravy, which will be a comfort food feast for me. Yet I know there will be moments (or extended periods of time) when I simply sit there and cry.

And then, soon, it will be January. The days will start to get noticeably longer. I’ll start seriously increasing the mileage of my Sunday long runs. February will be busy with the half marathon and some architectural tours associated with Palm Springs Modernism Week. By March I may be ready to talk to a realtor about selling this place. And then, I’ll start making plans to go back home.

If I can make it through December, then 2012 is bound to be a better year than this year of wrenching challenges and unimaginable losses has been.

One day at a time.

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