Every year, Christmas sucks me into the following vicious cycle:
The day after Thanksgiving, I'm listening to Pentatonix Christmas albums and watching vintage Anglican Lessons and Carols from Cambridge on YouTube (check out Jesus Christ the Apple Tree above. It will always be a favorite of mine). I remember the best parts of childhood holidays with big extended family gatherings.
After about a week, the fantasy fades and I go into this nasty funk. This year's December looked like a pretty appalling lack of basic self-care of which I do not care to go into detail here.
Oh, and every year, without fail, I get sick within 48 hours of Christmas. Apparently I'm allergic to joy, peace on earth and good will toward men, etc.
And it's not just me. It's supposed to be the most wonderful time of the year. But every person I am in an honest friendship with discloses that they, too, really struggle with the Thanksgiving-New Year vortex.
The holiday are painful for me for a particular reason. The holidays are all about family, and I have always wanted to be a father. Family is something that continues to elude me, because I struggle in relationships. So when Christmas comes around, it brings up that I am in my thirties and am seemingly no closer to having a family than when I was twenty. I see my friends with their partners and kids, and I start to believe the old tape in my head that says because I'm gay, I'll never be able to create a happy, healthy family. My self-pity causes me to lose perspective and see myself and my worth accurately. Gratitude seems to be the antidote for this seasonal state of mind.
So, what do I have to be grateful for?
-I've lost and kept off one hundred pounds.
-I have the coolest dog in the world.
-This was a golden year for movies.
-I get to wake up every day, make my bed and brush my teeth in Houston. What could be better?
-For the first time in my life, I'm not chasing career success and have a predictable, ordinary weekly routine.
-I'm debt free.
-There's nothing quite like playing Bach's "Savior of the Nations, Come" during Advent.
-I got to serve a church full of smart, intellectual people this season.
-I am finding several ways to pursue the realm of public policy.
-I have really amazing friends and I am getting to watch their kids grow up. I even get to be Uncle Patrick to some of them.
-Tomorrow, I travel to NC to visit my family for the first time in a while. I'm super exited to play Dance Elmo with my nephew.
My mentor is a very special man who lives in Paris. His favorite Christmas hymn is "Love Came Down at Christmas," and I always think of him and this text on Christmas Eve as the candles are lit in the church:
Love came down at Christmas,
love all lovely, Love divine;
Love was born at Christmas;
star and angels gave the sign.
Worship we the Godhead,
Love incarnate, Love divine;
worship we our Jesus,
but wherewith for sacred sign?
Love shall be our token,
love be yours and love be mine;
love to God and others,
love for plea and gift and sign.
Merry Christmas, everyone.