Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Bah Humbug

No, no, I’m not dead. Not yet, anyway. Just having yet another one of those months where I'm spread so thin that time to write is nearly non-existent, and inspiration/motivation to write when there is time is even more so. Frenzied and frustrated, but well.

Not a lot of Tang Soo Do talk to engage in just now. Still training 3-4 times a week, still loving it, but no big new events to report. Christine, Miranda, and Trevor all tested last weekend, and they did fantastic. Miranda is now a 3rd gup (red belt) while Trevor and Christine are 4th gups. Now they’re all on a 6 month wait until their next test. As for me, I’ll be testing for 2nd gup in February and I feel solid enough in my techniques that I have no real concerns. It should be a cake walk, more or less.

I’m having my usual holiday stress. I try not to be too “Grinch-y” at Christmas, but this year I’m feeling a bit more melancholy than usual. 2007 has not been a very good year – there have been some decent parts, but mostly it’s been a bit of a rapid-fire run-on sentence of a year, punctuated with notable negatives. Job loss and (thankfully brief) unemployment. Turning 40 (not a bad thing in and of itself, but something that has led to a lot more introspection than usual). Cancelled vacations. The death of a friend’s mom who was, also, a friend of mine. One notable broken friendship that is pretty much beyond repair. A couple of other friendships that are starting to fray around the edges due to distance and other factors.

Not that the year has been all, or even mostly, bad, exactly. We’ve had some great times this year, but the significant events of the year were largely negative ones, so all in all I’m looking forward to flipping the page on the calendar.

But first, I have to survive Christmas. I am so sick of spending money I could scream. We only have a few more gifts we have to get, and after that we are more or less finished. Of course, I know that “finished” actually means “well, aside from a bunch of last minute items that will occur to us in the next few days. Plus stocking stuffers. And candy. And all the stuff we have to buy for our Christmas brunch for 12 people.” So we won’t actually be finished until we get past the 25th and can stop it already. Or until we run out of cash. Whichever comes first, I suppose.

I wish I could convince my family to only do “gifts from everyone” for the kids and just do the “buy for one other person in the family” bit for the adults. I’d so much rather spend a couple of hundred on one really fantastic gift for one person than try to come up with gifts for everyone that all cost somewhere around the same amount and that they actually want. The worst thing is that we almost never come up with really great gifts ideas for anyone, anyway. This year a lot of folks are getting gift cards because we just can’t come up with anything that we think they want that we can actually afford, especially when it’s factored in with the budget of buying for everyone else as well.

I guess that’s why I dread this season so much these days. Every year it just turns into 4-6 weeks of stress about cash and little else. I enjoy seeing the kids open their presents, I enjoy throwing our annual brunch (a lot of work, but nice all the same) but otherwise the entire season is just a tawdry exercise in commercialism and greed with no focus whatsoever on anything meaningful.

People get all worked up over this idiotic fictional self-pitying “War on Christmas” garbage, claiming that people saying “Happy Holidays” instead of “Merry Christmas” is somehow ruining or devaluing their holiday, when in fact the entire way we “celebrate” this season is crass and meaningless. Pundits blather on about “them” (choose your “them” – no matter where you are in the political spectrum you’ve got your preferred Bogeyman, and you blame them for everything – just admit it and more forward) destroying The Meaning of Christmas between periodic commercial breaks filled with messages designed to make you feel like less of a wife/husband/father/mother/brother/sister/child/friend if you don’t buy more expensive disposable plastic distraction that signifies your love for people. Instead of actually, you know, showing them that you love them all year round, you buy sparkly junk, wrap it pretty, and give it to them this one day and that means you’re a good person, even if the rest of the year you were sort of an ass. And apparently this has something to do with Jesus.

So yeah, all these outraged talking heads – or, more precisely, talking heads who make tons of cash by finding things to be outraged about and telling you that you should be outraged, too, and buy their books to express your outrage – are getting all Chicken Little about clerks in the stores selling people all this crap being instructed to say “Seasons Greetings.” This is, apparently, one more example of secularism destroying the holidays.


I have news for you -- the holidays are already destroyed. And it’s not because some PC folks have decided it’s better to use more generic, “inoffensive” greetings designed to avoid offending easily offended people who are actively looking for something to be offended by. They were destroyed the day we collectively decided that the only way to celebrate Christmas was to spend as much of our cash as we possibly could to make the holidays “special.”

Because like it or not, in our culture cash in not just physical currency (i.e. an abstraction of the value of a physical item, enabling barter without actually having to exchange the physical items themselves), but emotional currency as well. It’s become an acceptable way to say how we feel without actually, you know, saying it. The more you spend on someone, the more you love them. Combine this basic attitude with a constant barrage of advertising that assures you that you are inadequate or lacking and this can be easily fixed by purchasing something, along with ready access to any number of credit card offers are you have a perfect misery cocktail. Spend until you can’t possibly spend anymore, otherwise people won’t think you love them. And no matter how much you spend, there will always be One More Thing you should have bought.

Arrgh. It’s just depressing. I’ll try to find a more inspiring topic for my next entry, but for now I’m just sort of weighed down with cynicism.

Mood: Gloomy
Now Playing: Feist, “The Reminder”

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