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Bah! Humbug! Are there no prisons? Are there no poor houses?

How can you celebrate Christmas in a world where shoppers attack each other? Where children go hungry and are beaten for crying and pets are left tied to trees to freeze? Where there's more debate over the political incorrectness of "Merry Christmas" than there is over war, ecology and the sad state of the economy?

What is there to be happy about, anyway? For most working folks, a cheeseburger and fries cost a big chunk of an hour's wages, and a coat for their child can be more than they make in a day. Even those of us who are rich by our parents' standards live in constant chaos -- the dishes dirty, the clothes in piles, the floors unswept and the beds unmade -- because we're running too hard, juggling too much, trying to keep up with the Joneses ... or our own expectations.

Yuppies exist on carry-out cuisine, eaten in the SUV while they drive Junior to soccer practice, Sis to cheerleading lessons, the dog to daycare and themselves to the gym to work out yet again. Shopping is the most popular recreation, and personal debt is unimaginably, ridiculously high. There's little time for family, even less for friends. If you're lucky, you might get off work by 5 o'clock on Christmas Eve -- but be back all the earlier the day after, Bob Cratchit! 'Tis the season for after-Christmas sales!

Or you could look at it as the season for renewal -- and I don't mean for your credit card debt.

Quite frankly, the last few years haven't been easy. In the last decade, we've lost Dan's father -- my dad in every way but biology; Larry, an old friend who turned out to be the greatest love of my life; and this year, my mother-in-law after a long battle with dementia. The ache is constant and persistent. I sometimes wonder, as does everyone at this age, if this is all there is -- and if so, why did I work so hard to get here?

And yet, I cannot help but believe in the magic of Christmas, a message so powerful that it should transcend religious differences -- and even the demand for anything from "Star Wars."

A long time ago, in a land far away, a baby was born to bring hope to the world. Whether he was the son of God as Christians believe or merely a child like any other doesn't really matter. Either way, he reminds us that every baby is a new beginning, a chance to change the world. And even as adults, we can start over, seek salvation as it were, alter our attitudes and reshape our lives.

It's really no more complicated than this: Is your cup half empty or half full?

I could look at my life and simply give up in despair. I will never get it all done. I share a beautiful home with my boyfriend, but it's a constant disaster -- and pales in comparison to my commuter car. Apparently Lily, the first of my beloved shih tzus, will never really be housetrained, the landscaping will never even get started, and I will never learn to put "it" -- whatever it is -- away. (And when I do, I won't be able to find it!)

Neither will I ever get caught up at work. There will always be more I wish I could have done, things I wish had been done differently, mistakes I wish hadn't been made. And there will never be enough hours in the day to make home and work balance harmoniously.

By the same token, I could look at the Little Queen and see all the things she will never do or be, and I could find only grief.

Or I can see the world through her eyes -- the magic of music, delivered in person by new friends, Chase Missy; the annual miracle that brings "her" Christmas lights back to the Fayetteville square; the look on her face as she looked way, way up to meet Michael Myers as Dr. Frank N. Furter; the simple joys of basketball, popcorn and peanut M&Ms.

I can trust that the friends who sustained me through Larry's loss will stay by my sad as I battle depression, which was the real challenge of 2017. I can be glad that while my job will always been stressful, I am doing work I consider important and doing it with people I enjoy and respect.

And I can rejoice in the message that is the same whether it comes from the Christ child or a beautiful child like mine or yours: This is NOT all there is. This is all we MAKE it.

The world is not a perfect place. Bad things happen to good people. There is plenty of loss, plenty of woe, plenty of heartache to go around. On some days it is too overwhelming to contemplate. That's when you need a little Christmas. Be sure you stock up while it's in season.

NAN Profiles on 12/24/2017

Print Headline: True spirit of Christmas

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