The Christmas season is hard on a lot of us. Estrangements, deaths, illness, work schedules and other things keep us from feeling very merry.
Over the years, my family has scattered, but we usually tried to get together at least sometime close to the holidays. Deaths, though--Grandpa, then Daddy, nephew David, both grandmas, Mama and finally Corey--have made it hard to even contemplate getting together. We might text or talk on the phone, but facing the holidays without the glue that held us together is just too much to handle in person sometimes.
I luckily have a lot of friends and family I chose (or who chose me) that I can spend time with, or I can spend the holidays alone and not feel lonely (I'm largely a hermit, remember). I cherish each and every person who brings light into my life. That's really the best gift I get (well, that and them putting up with my anxiety-ridden introvert self).
There are other gifts I'd love this year, and every year.
Time. Every day is another day alive and able to spend with family, friends, fur-kin, or just yourself. You never know when your time is up, so enjoy it to the best of your abilities.
Patience. I need a lot of this because I am not a patient person (though I can put on a pretty good act of it). I'm not good at waiting on other people, especially when I can't finish a task till they do their part; it tends to feed one of my bad habits (procrastination) when it comes to home projects. Most of the time I just internalize my impatience, which creates other problems, but at least I'm not being a jerk about it.
If someone could stick a whole bunch of patience in my stocking, I'd appreciate it. And hurry up, please.
Kindness. I know I'm a bit of a broken record on this, but if everyone would just try not to be a jerk, that would help so many things in this world. I realize for some people that's a big ask, but going out of your way to be mean is no way to live. How miserable do you have to be to choose to live like that?
Practice kindness every day. It doesn't have to be big and showy; it just has to be genuine and for someone other than yourself (though you should be kind to yourself too). Open a door for someone. Give sincere compliments. Let someone in a store who's juggling multiple items ahead of you in the checkout line (we've all been there when we think we don't need a cart and there are no baskets). If you can afford it, help someone cover a bill.
No matter the size of the gesture, kindness is appreciated, even if not always immediately.
Understanding. We live in a world of a multitude of races and ethnicities, belief systems, political leanings and religions. We need to understand that others might not believe the same things we do, but as long as those things don't harm others, we can live and let live for the most part. Yes, we can call out hateful behavior, especially that which is harmful, breaks the social contract and/or is potentially illegal, for the good of the whole. Not everything can or should be tolerated, which is why there are laws and social contracts. Think of people other than yourself and how your actions might hurt them, then do the right thing.
Humor. A life without humor is intolerable to me. Credit (or blame) for that largely goes to my mom, who could find the funny in most things. Life is inherently ridiculous because we are a ridiculous people, and most of us, I believe, recognize that. Laughter at the expense of others says little good about our character, especially if one feels the need to pile on, but finding gentle humor in mistakes that harm no one is a good thing.
As an editor I may cringe when I see misuse of to/two/too, their/there/they're, a completely wrong word, or apostrophes being used to make something plural (in most cases, do not do this unless you want an editor to smack you upside the head), but it's hard not to laugh when you see something like, "We are closed due to a power failure. Sorry for the incontinence." Grammar snobs (not me) and conversational grammarians (me) alike can find agreement on this ... at least I hope so.
Furry critters. They really embody my wish list, exhibiting patience (my Luke was the most patient with toddlers, even when the little boy next door dragged him around), kindness (if you have a pet who's comforted you when you're sad or kept watch over you when you're sick, you know what I'm talking about), understanding (if a somewhat proper senior cat and a hyperactive pooch or rambunctious kitten can get along ...) and humor (just about everything they do).
The world could do with more cuddle time with furballs.
Last call: The Lake Superior State University Banished Words List is due to be released at the end of the year, which means I'm planning on writing about terms I'd like to throw into a deep, dark hole (so ... many ...) next week. Tell me what words and phrases you want to yeet (toss out) by 5 p.m. Friday by emailing me at the address below.
Assistant Editor Brenda Looper is editor of the Voices page. Email her at firstname.lastname@example.org. Read her blog at blooper0223.wordpress.com.