Did you know there are twelve days of Christmas, it isn't just a song? My job sucks up my entire life between Thanksgiving and Christmas, so I don't turn my attention to celebrating until I drive home on Christmas Eve. Of course, by then, all the shops are closed and the family gatherings are set and nearly over, within hours to be ended in a rush of wrapping paper and table full of coma inducing wonderfulness. I have a turkey breast still in the fridge that should have been cooked two weeks ago and my tree is still in the basement closet.
But there is still time! Christmas lasts thru January 5th!
One of the most persistent frustrations of my life has been promises made and never kept, the willingness to wait for something Good (Goodness being a divine attribute) yet finding that my experience has always been "not yet," "not you," "not now," "not what you asked for," and "your opportunity was then, it's too late now." One of the core experiences of being under the control of a Narcissist is that they promise whatever you need and, even rarely, something you want - but they never deliver more than a scant ounce of it, and then only under intense pressure. Their object is control, they seek no other goal, even though being actually competent, kind, or pleasant would gain them far more love and admiration. A narcissistic parent does not keep promises, nor do they supply the basic needs of life to the child.
My sister and I used to marvel that Mother gave us underwear and socks for Christmas, wrapped separately and with thanks expected. As the years passed, I realised that she did not supply us with underwear and socks at other times of the year without our begging and humiliation. Girls need proper undergarments, girls need pretty clothes that fit and make them feel beautiful, girls NEED tender love and care. Children need holidays and some of their dreams to come true. Promises must be made AND kept. Joy MUST come, for living is not for tomorrow, life is what is happening right now.
I love Pauline Baynes' Christmas card above and I love that part of the story in The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe. Look at the card. Father Christmas is afoot, the great angel is turning the key in the lock and boundaries are being breached, what had been locked out is entering and the hunted has room for escape that the hunters have never seen.
Somewhere, somehow in the past few weeks I've understood that this next year is for me. I am the only one I will consider when making decisions, my needs and my care and my future are the only good I will pursue. I don't mean the thin, whiny sort of care that results in shopping sprees and vacations on the beach either, both things I enjoy and have employed as respite care for myself in the last fifteen years, but I'm on the lookout for more long term efforts and choices that will create the life that is right for me, the life I'm good at and the life that makes my life valuable to me.
Not only was I raised to put aside my needs in favor of a parent who genuinely believed my existence was to take care of them, I am part of a religious tradition that places great emphasis on giving to others as a fundamental exercise of faith. However, any abuser can be revealed when they require the destruction of the giver. God is well able to take care of His interests, the whole of humanity, and the world, with infinite resources left over idle. God does not NEED me to accomplish His work for him. He is, however, a GOOD Father to me, and I believe this year is His idea - time for me to recover myself, invest in myself, understand that I am Very valuable, and learn to require respect, time, and affection from people who would be my friends or family.
Somewhere before Thanksgiving I came across a receipt I had saved from Mother's burial arrangements. It was for flowers, one spray for her casket, another for a basket to sit at graveside. I couldn't figure out at the moment if it was something I should require reimbursement for from the Estate, but in time I knew the flowers should be just from me, as a final and honored gift to her. The thing that killed me was that no one else sent flowers, either to honor her or to me.
No flowers came from my workplace, although the company has a fund for that, no flowers came from my father or brother or niece or nephews or her sister or from any of my friends from anywhere. No one else visited her at the Alzheimer's unit, no one else sat with her in her final weeks, and no one else sent flowers. It sounds like I'm angry for her, but this is actually about me. No one anywhere had the care for me to see I needed relief, no one anywhere stepped up to take a shift, and it didn't occur to anyone anywhere that I was in pain and I needed to be shown that the love I had poured out for her all those years was valuable and beautiful - and was worth honoring with a bouquet of flowers.
You see, flowers are sent for two reasons upon someone's demise. Either it's a final gift to honor the deceased whom you loved, or it's a gift of beauty and love to the family members whom you wish to support in their grief. No one else but me saw fit to send her flowers. No one saw fit to send me flowers at all. That kind of statement from all your relatives and friends deserves a deep reassessment of your life and serious measures taken as to how you spend your life. You only have the one.
I've been a human doing for a long, long time. I'd like to become something more of a human being, not only to myself but to other people. It's time to repair and restore not only my damaged leg, but my damaged life. I'm not resilient like I used to be, I don't take a beating and just keep marching on like I always used to do. This limp in my leg has pointed out how many other elements of my life are broken and splinted, so many years waiting for the tender care that lets strength grow from the inside instead.
I've never required respect and time and displays of affection from friends, or even from lovers. I've always diminished myself as much as possible, asked for nothing, and pretty much gotten it. Somehow the way I do business is going to change, and that means I change, not everyone else. Of course, if I do it right and well, who everyone else is will change, too.
Speaking of change, following the Twelve Days of Christmas is the Feast of Epiphany on January 6th, the celebration of the revealing to the world that the Word of God had become a human being in a little, helpless baby - Jesus. The feast commemorates the visit of the Wise Men to Jesus after his birth, bearing gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh. It also celebrates Jesus' baptism by John in the River Jordan, revealing Jesus as the Son of God to the world. May this year's end reveal all manner of change in me, and may I respond when others see that change with at least some of Christ's grace and power.