Grabbing at Smoke

“It’s like trying to catch smoke… like trying to catch smoke with your bare hands.” -Bem on trying to catch Sirius Black. Christmas is less than a week away, my first semester of senior year is over, and I’m upset. This December has overall been pretty great, but I’m pretty down right now. My mom asked me to make her a Christmas list for all the things I wanted this year. I’ve been telling her since Thanksgiving that there isn’t really anything I wanted. Today, I finally had to make a list, and it was painful and not fun. What happened to my Christmas spirit? I’ll tell you what. I finally got it. Or actually, I think I always had it; Christmas is the thing that changed for me.

You see, when I was younger, it was all about the lights and the candy and the presents. These past two-ish years I think have gone completely differently. I don’t want to see Santa, I don’t want gifts. At least not really. There is always something that we want. Everyone wants something. For me now, most things that I want are not things I can have, or not things I can easily get. For example, I want a car, which is really expensive and hard to manage, so that probably won’t happen any time soon. More on the level that I am right now, everything I REALLY want can’t be purchased at all. I want to be around my friends, I want to be able to speak uncensored by myself, for them to speak uncensored by themselves. I want to feel good about myself. I want to just laugh and talk and feel joyful. I want a big long hug, or to not have to think about everything I actually think about; that my mind would just stop for a second. I want gifts that I didn’t have to ask for. I want a gift that nobody else has, or doesn’t have the same meaning attached to it. I want something I will treasure, not just use. I want the people I care about to know me well enough that they can think of something on their own. I used to get such joy from my parents or friends or siblings getting me a movie or a video game or a toy. Now I’m just not happy with any of those, which to me shows how infallible material possessions are. Those things don’t matter at all. I’d live on the street if I had a close friend living on the street with me. My mom asked what movies I wanted, and I told her that movies were a “cop-out gift.” To me, a movie is just a “I know you like this kind of movie, and you asked for it,” kind of gift. There’s no creativity or thought. I hate those kinds of gifts. Plus they can be a “I’m getting it for you technically but it’s also a gift to me since you’ll watch it with me” gift. It feels void of emotion to me. But really, that’s what Christmas has become to me; a day of obligations.

I miss the magic. The magic could’ve changed, but I don’t feel the magic anymore. I want to, but I just don’t. I still have the memories that make me love Christmas, and I like staying inside and watching Christmas movies while the snow (maybe) falls. I like being able to acknowledge that Jesus was born to die for me, and for you, and for everyone else in the world.  But the actual celebration now is so dead to me. It makes me sad to write these words, because that’s not how I want to feel. I grasp for substance to enjoy at Christmas time, but ultimately it just slips through my fingers like smoke. It feels impossible to reap the joyful occasion of Christmas to its full potential. I also feel bad to those who try to make Christmas special for me, namely my mom. I do believe she’s trying to make Christmas enjoyable and she wants me to be happy, but what I want/need is just something that she can’t provide me. She can’t go to Wal-Mart and purchase a bucket of happy feelings, or head over to Best Buy and buy a robot friend. Nor can she waltz into somebodies home and take them away for me, because they are spending time presumably with their families enjoying Christmas. I essentially know what I’m going to get for Christmas, and that makes me sad. The fact that I had to tell them what to get me, and knowing what’s in the price range, I can tell you what my family will get me before it has even been bought. A friend got me an Yzma pin because I am apparently Yzma from The Emperor’s New Groove, along with a book of writing prompts. She knows that I’m a writer and sometimes I struggle with ideas to write about, so the fact that she bought me a book to give me ideas, or inspire me shows some creativity and thought. Within minutes of reading one sentence of it, I had brainstormed an idea that is transforming into a novel. The same goes with the pin. No matter how embarrassing it is to be called Yzma, and now I have a daily reminder of it, I appreciate the gift because it came from the heart, it’s an inside joke, I didn’t ask for it, and it shows me that she knows a little bit about me, beyond just what type of music I like or what movies I watch. I haven’t watched The Emperor’s New Groove in a long time, just to make that clear.

A different friend is a writer, just like me. We had a discussion 90s style and passed a note (it probably happened before the 90s too, I’m just going to call it 90s style). We talked about writing and I told her how I didn’t have the book On Writing by Stephen King. I’d ironically gotten it for Christmas a few years ago and returned it because I didn’t think I’d read it or use whatever it had to say. She told me that I needed it, and just today she ended up buying it for me. To me, even if it’s not what she meant it to mean, but she gave it to me because she had faith that I could write well. She wrote in a note on the inside that even though it was a little premature, she told me “good luck out there.” I presume by that she means after we graduate and head our separate ways. The little personal note means more than the book to me. If maybe I’d met my best friend in the Maleficent movie, getting me the movie Maleficent would fit because it would be a reminder of when we first met. That didn’t really happen, but it’s more than just a movie in that situation. I got my friend a custom made thing for his birthday, and I can guarantee you that there is not a single other item in the world exactly like it. It’s an inside joke, it’s handmade, and it’s symbolic. I don’t mean to toot my own horn, but that’s the perfect gift I think. It serves very little purpose for anything. Maybe a paperweight, maybe a tissue holder, maybe a pencil holder. Its uses are limited. But what makes that a good gift is the thought behind it and what it represents. Why do I love Christmas so much still, even though I don’t really like it any more? Because of all the memories I have associated with it, and all the things it stands for. I want it back though. Last year we opened presents, played with them or used them, ate food with a family friend, and it was over. I’m going to start crying, because I feel guilty for not feeling happy about Christmas. I’m sad that I’m being ungrateful or ragging on my family. Feeling emotions is natural, and I’m feeling guilty about it. I’m all jacked up.

Almost two years ago we were required to present a piece of original writing to the classroom, and everyone had to write something they enjoyed about it. I shared the first few pages to one of my stories, and I’ve kept those sticky notes for two years now. I’ve saved the posters from my theater shows because they represent to me the time, dedication, hard work, and fun I’ve had while putting them on. I kept a stick that a friend and I carved one day in a park, about a year and a half ago. I kept toy tools given to me for a theater peer award. I have so much useless junk in my room that I don’t want to get rid of. I want to keep it all and fifty years from now look at that stuff and feel the same way I felt about it then. I want to be able to text them, or maybe fifty years from now it’ll be holographic imaging, and say, “Remember that time we did blah blah blah, or you gave me blah blah blah? Yeah, I still have it because it means a lot to me, even though I haven’t used it once in the past fifty years.” I can guarantee you that I will never play with those toy tools, but I will still probably keep them for the memories.

So what do I really want for Christmas? I want memories. If that can be achieved through physical item, awesome. But what’s going to mean the most to me is your time and your words. A text message, a letter, a skype chat, a phone call, an in-person talk. You taking time out of your day to talk to me, and really talk to me, is what I’m going to treasure. Not a casual chat only, but I mean like heart-to-heart. Those are the conversations I dig. I can’t remember exactly what I’ve said to people, or what they’ve said to me, but I can tell you the gist of what was said, and how I felt. I remember in Mexico talking to people and actually feeling loved. I remember talking at my friend’s house every Friday night for a while, and feeling loved there. I also remember the majority of last year and not feeling loved at all by anyone. And I remember feeling joyful on Christmas eve and joyful on Christmas day when I was young, even though I don’t remember half of what I got each year. “People will forget what you said, people forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel” -Maya Angelou.

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