1) One of the few things I like about the holidays is that it gives us all an excuse to reconnect with people we don’t speak to nearly often enough. The ones we think about frequently, but who either live far away or for whatever reason we never see. Suddenly the holidays come along and instead of sending a lame, old-fashioned Xmas card (and now you know how I feel about those) we can call or text and say, “Merry Christmas (or Happy Hannukah, whatever)… I’ve been thinking about you.”
So I got to have a long chat with an old friend. Someone I’ve known forever and love dearly, but only speak to once a month at most. And he told me about a long-lost casual aquaintance whose wife is leaving him. My reply, which was really more of a gut instinct than a well-thought out response, “He’s a strong guy. He’ll be OK.”
To which my friend replied, “No. No he’s not. He’s not a strong guy. He’s a good man. But he’s not strong. He’s always just gone along and done whatever’s been expected of him. And so far everything has gone according to plan. This is the first time anything has ever gone wrong for him. I’m not sure how he’s going to cope.”
I got it. I know a lot of people like that.
2) I got a card in the mail from my dad, with a check in it. It wasn’t a huge check. But it was generous. For context, $ has substituted for gifts in my family since I was about 16 and my mom handed me her credit card just after Thanksgiving and told me to go buy my holiday gift while everything was on sale. She said I had a $50 limit and I was dead if I went over it. No more boxes to unwrap ever again.
Anyway, this story is about the card, not the check. Here is what he wrote,
“Please use this to offset some of your expenses,
I am so very proud of your
fortitude attempt to create a better life for yourself. With all my love.
The strikethrough is his. Just like my dad, he second-guessed himself mid-thought, but didn’t want to waste the card.
Sometimes when I’m talking to my dad, I get the sense that he doesn’t get it. That he doesn’t understand why I just didn’t get married 10-15 years ago to someone (anyone) and have a ‘normal’ life. And then I get a card like this and I realize that he actually sees me and respects me. That he understands that it does take fortitude to create a better life. And then I cry. I’ve cried a lot since getting this card. Happy, sad tears.
I thought a bit about how I might want to title this post. And then I realized that the greatest gift I received this year, or any year, was my dad letting me know that he got it. That I was building a better life for myself. And that my greatest gift to myself was that unrelenting struggle.
Merry Happy Whatever…
PS. I know times are tough for most of us. But I’ve gone out of my way this year to be charitable. Because no matter how unrelenting my struggle has been, there are people out there in way worse places. People who want/need/deserve a better life but can’t make it happen on their own. Because life just isn’t fair. I’m a big fan of microfinance loans. The big player on the block is Kiva and everyone knows them. Another org to look at is Zafen, (if you were thinking of doing something extraordinary with that $25 in your wallet) who works exclusively in Haiti. No lectures, just a quiet suggestion.
Tags: happiness, holidays