Tuesday, November 20, 2012

The Stress of Tradition

A pay day loan provider, "Think Finance" did a recent study and found that 45-percent of Americans would just as soon skip Christmas because of the financial stress. This, of course, got me thinking... Why do we do it?

While driving in town this morning I noticed that all the Christmas lights are being hung, Santa's Workshop has already been installed at Mission Plaza, all the store windows have been decorated or painted with some kind of Holiday motif and I looked to my phone to confirm the date and YES - it IS only November 20th. There is a whole month and 5 days until Christmas and yet the town is painted red. Everyone's geared up for Black Friday and all the cheap deals it has to offer. Sadly, some stores are opening on Thursday night to beat their competitors out of sales. So on Thanksgiving, after having eaten coma inducing turkey; Walmart, Kmart and Target employees have to get over to the department store by 7pm to start setting up for a frenzy of cheap people who will do anything for a discounted television. Just more proof of how horrible our economy is. We will do anything for a bargain. 

As I looked to all these shops and how sparkly San Luis Obispo is becoming, I didn't feel the spark - not even a little bit. I didn't feel that warm, "oooooh it's the holiday season" feeling. I'm so not there. I'm not ready for this whirlwind that drains my bank account and depletes my emotions as I think of childhood Christmases and simpler days. Days at work where people have to have us come "before the holidays" and yet they call to make an appointment the week of. Christmas cards, stuffing your face, driving all over just to be at everyone's Christmas so nobody's feelings get hurt. It's alot. I'm so not ready for this time of year. 

So, 45 percent of America would rather skip Christmas and yet that same 45 percent will be lined up this Friday outside of department stores everywhere. I even saw on the news that there are people camped out NOW. Is a TV or a camera or whatever you're getting really worth it? To sacrifice your whole week? I don't understand it and I'm probably one of the most cheap people I know. Stuff is just stuff to me. I appreciate all I have, but I don't need the latest and greatest ANYTHING. 

 With so many people saying they'd rather skip Christmas - then why do we do it to ourselves? Why must we buy so much? Why must we break our backs to see everyone on one day? The logic is definitely lacking. I know each year our families say we're going to have a low key Christmas - meaning we're not going to spend much on each other and keep it simple. But, by the time it all rolls around we've been hooked. We get lured into all the sales and all the feelings that we have to have something nice for each other to open. Where once a tree only stood, now a zillion gifts are strewn around it and you think to yourself - I hope I got "insert name here," enough for Christmas. 

It's the thought that counts, but more than any of that - it's the time that matters. Seeing everyone and being together is the whole point of these holidays and yet that's what is highlighted the least. I treasure Noche Buena with my extended Cuban family. Just to see them and hear how their year was. Since I live so far away I rarely see them and luckily we just pick up like it was yesterday and laugh and joke and hug. Those are the best moments. Love Christmas morning. Especially, if someone got my Pops a CD of some sort because it goes directly in the player and he's dancing and loving life. Best memories. When the pups get their toys unwrapped and within 10 minutes they have pulverised the gingerbread squeaker and all you see is his gum drop button hanging by a thread. Love our 2nd Christmas when we take 3 hours just to unwrap all the stocking stuffers Mom wrapped. Or when we dance around like Irish Men to Flogging Mollies in the living room. Seeing what amazing crocheted masterpiece Gma has made for someone this year... Moments. That's what keeps me warm during the holidays. Precious, once in a lifetime moments. 

It is a catch 22. In order to see everyone, you must travel all over the place in 2 days flat. You must be thoughtful and find gifts for each person on your list. You must find a way to fill your heart with Christmas cheer and eventually it just happens. You were just sitting at your computer venting about how stressed you were about the holidays and then all of a sudden you are wearing a reindeer sweater, sipping hot cocoa decorating your tree. As you put the star on the tippy top you most likely will be in the spirit and say, "How I love Christmas." That's just the way it goes...  

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Relationships of the Romantic Variety

I recently rented the film - "Take This Waltz" - which was a human drama about marriage, love, and the tests of a relationship. Michelle Williams played Margot, a wife for over 5 years to Seth Rogen's character Lou. Margot became bored in her relationship with her husband - mostly in the sexual department and she was tempted by another man who lived near by. Margot never acted on her feelings of lust with this other man while married to Lou. She would always talk to Lou about what was lacking in their relationship, but Lou never changed. Eventually Margot leaves Lou to be with this other man. The sequence that followed was sheer genius though a little risque. They showed the excitement of Margo and this new man's relationship - how it starts so passionately and so touchy feely. Then throughout this 2 minute sequence it showed how eventually the "can't keep your hands off each other"phase dies out. The way she felt with Lou after 5 years is the way she felt with new guy after that same amount of time. The new always gets old.

So, why is everyone always looking for that feeling? You hear it all the time - the passion was gone so we called it quits. Desire can falter, but if you have a good foundation, a friendship, a fun relationship that you can't imagine ever living without - isn't that a different form of passion? Perhaps I'm naive, but I think you have to keep the spark ignited. Life gets complicated, time passes and people change. Still, if you see the good in this person you've chosen instead of finding all their flaws, I believe you can get through any roadblock or disagreement. As humans, we sometimes lose sight that we've chosen this person to be in our lives. We invited them into our hearts because we saw something special in them. That foundation should be enough to re-build, if need be, somewhere down the line.

Everywhere I turn I see divorce or break ups and it's really trying on my view of marriage. Vows - they are a BIG deal. They mean something deep and profound. The promise of your love forever. So it's really important never to enter that stage of life lightly. You've got to be all in and certain. It's hard for me, coming from a Divorced family to see an outcome that can be any different than that. I know it's a foolish way to think because we each have the power to do different than those who have gone before us, but irrational fear gets the best of me at times. Fear is a constant in my life, but that's a whole other blog.

So, when I explain all this to my closest friends, their immediate response is that I must not be in love or that I haven't found my perfect person yet. Well, that just isn't so. I'm in love and happy as can be. When I say that to people, the next question is, "So then why aren't you gonna get married?" I'm not ready. Plain as that and that doesn't mean I don't love my Mister with all my heart. It doesn't mean I want to stay unattached to see what else is out there - I seriously don't even look at other men. All that it means is I haven't seen marriage to be a fit for my life... yet.

Back to divorce and relationships - I have a hard time believing that some have tried enough to save their marriage. Now, I'm not being judgmental, honestly I know that some people just REALLY shouldn't be together. I get that. I also know that when someone cheats on another, that's really hard to recover from. There are many exceptions to the rule, I'm mindful of that. I just feel in certain relationships, people leave for the wrong reasons. Especially if there are children involved, you should really try to see the positive in that person instead of all the negative you're running from. Luckily, I can see that in the case of my Mom and Dad - they tried... I mean they really really tried to make it work and it just wasn't in the cards. I can commend them for that. It's still hard on the kids after all these years because we're all fragmented. My Brother and Papi are always together and My Mom and I are always together. Because of our common interests, that's just the way it is. Thankfully my Brother and I are very close and can keep a balance in our lives. Being adults and seeing the big picture more fully now we have healed and appreciate each parent for all they've given us. It's funny though, in a lot of ways my parents' personalities presently parallel each other. They are into a lot more of the same things then they were back in the day, but had it not been for their divorce and what followed, they wouldn't be who they are now. So it's one of those catch 22 thingys. They just weren't meant to be and that's easier to accept when you get older. Especially when I see how long it's taken me to become a whole person. I'm 32 and when my Dad was 32 he'd been married for 5 years and had a 4 year old daughter. When my Mom was 32 she'd been married for 12 years and had a 11 year old daughter and a 5 year old son. That puts a lot in perspective. I'm finally ready for some adulthood - can't imagine ever being ready at their young age. You haven't even become who you're gonna be yet...

In life so many things change your scope of view and it's really all about how you let it all affect you. If your ideals are mounted on high expectations, you will always be disappointed. You will never have enough and you'll constantly be searching. One ideal that I feel gets over used is "You only live once." True, we only get one shot to have a happy life and experience all we can while we're here. I just think that when you're 80% or 90% happy with a few things to iron out - why leave? Growth comes from compromise. Quitting keeps you limited to being the same person again for the next relationship. If you never have to bend to make something work then you're never going to learn or grow.

Obviously, if you are really unhappy... like you've tried and you've grown and you're still going out of your mind... Move on. I'm not saying that every relationship is worth saving... I just think that people's egos keep them from appreciating what they have and selfishness KILLS relationships. When a serious relationship forms, you can no longer only think of yourself and your needs. You are a team and you need to be there for each other. These days it's so casual to be girlfriend/boyfriend. It's no big deal to a lot of people. They'll break up, get back together and break up again with no real reflection on why it didn't work. The worst part is when they talk badly about their Ex to all their friends/family and then 2 weeks later they get back together. It makes everyone wonder if the horrible things they said about him/her were even true and if so, why in the world would they get back together with them? Responsibility for choices - that's really lacking in society these days. It's always everybody else's fault!

In every aspect of life, it's important to be mindful. If you move along merely on how you feel, yes - you will have an exciting life constantly full of change, but very little growth. We must realize there's always enough time to value something and give it new life. If you take an extra couple weeks or even a month to try and save something that was once precious to you - why is that bad? Yes we have one life and the clock is ticking, but do you want a pocket full of rocks or diamonds? If you polish something, it may shine... and if it doesn't - hey at least you can say you TRIED!