Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Miracle Whip is the Devil

Subtitled: Why I'm grateful my house blew up.

I've learned the most interesting things in grad school.

For example, I learned that a family is primarily defined by rules and traditions rather than blood ties. It is our traditions that give us a sense of identity, a sense of familial belonging.  

My family, for example, uses mayo; Miracle Whip is the devil. 

The creation and negotiation of traditions is what forges an entity that is larger than self.  And most often, it is a lack of tradition - or lack of meaningful tradition - that leaves so many people feeling disconnected and disenfranchised - particularly during the holidays.

Living by myself, I think it would be that much easier for me to merely cross off the days on my calendar in tribute to the passing of the "holiday season" and go about life as normal.  I have no one for whom to purchase gifts per se - which is good because I have no money for gift purchasing anyway.  I have no children for whom to make up ridiculous seasonal stories - and no reason to care about the old myths that birthed those stories, either.  (St. Nicholas did what for whom?  Why exactly would I want to commemorate him annually?)  Worse, I find the commercialism surrounding the holidays APPALLING.  I don't like shopping. I hate crowds and traffic and wandering around the parking lot of the grocery store for half an hour waiting for a parking spot to open.  And finally, I cringe at how much of our "holiday" is actually spent living vicariously through movies and other media as opposed to connecting with real people and living real life.  (I know, all that's missing here is a resounding "Bah! Humbug!")

Setting aside the soap box (or the high horse, as my co-workers like to call it [What can I say? I LOVE horses!]) I decided a couple years ago to find/create my own traditions for the holidays, to have my own little sense of family identity, if you will.  The creation of traditions are not just for married couples or families with kids.  In fact, how much more freedom do I have to come up with creative traditions that bring me to life and make this a special time of year, and how much more do I need traditions that connect me with God and others?  How much more does my generation need that?

All of that is the very long introduction to my revelation tonight: I have had no Thanksgiving Traditions! None!  (You know, not since that one year that the house blew up. *)

What?!? No Thanksgiving Traditions!?! 

This makes me think of a story.

Once upon a time, I learned a lesson that one may never learn in grad school: Gratitude is stronger than fear.

Nine years ago I lost everything - my home, my truck, my cat ... my marriage.  (I still miss that 2003 Tundra 4x4 V8 Silver Beauty.)  I very nearly lost my life.  I remember waking up one morning in a tiny little apartment, utterly alone, in a life that was not mine, in a world that was so foreign and so painful as to be a nightmare.  Terror and sadness welled up from the inside out and the outside in.  And then ... there was gratitude.

God saved my life.  God rescued me from a sick, abusive relationship. The terror of suddenly finding oneself alone is NOTHING in comparison to the terror of living with lies and trauma and darkness.  I was free.  God had set me free.  I was safe.  I was whole.  I had hope.  And the gratitude that filled my heart for the new life I had been given melted away any fear.

It was such a remarkable experience, this gratitude for what God had done, I wanted to remember it forever. I said to myself, From this point forward, I want to be grateful in my desperation, and desperate in my gratitude.

But I have to confess, I lost it somewhere along the way. I lost my desperation and my gratitude.  It didn't happen overnight but over a period of years, until one day I woke up and I couldn't feel it anymore.  The gratitude was gone and the fear had returned.

Tonight I had a conversation with someone dear to me.  I don't think he knows it but I think it was a conversation about how we are going to fight fear - together. I don't know how to do that, personally - the together part, not the fighting fear part.   But I think I'd like to make a tradition of it.  I think I'd like to create some traditions that connect me again to gratitude, to that desperate kind of gratitude, to that remarkable remembering of all that God has done.

So I'll start this Thanksgiving Day by being grateful for this thing that God has done: I have met someone who isn't afraid of going back with me to face the ruins of a blown-up house.  Actually, I've met four someones willing to walk with me on that journey.  These friendships are truly miraculous.  May they help me to be grateful in my desperation, and desperate in my gratitude.


* The year that I moved to Kansas City, the home that was taken from me was literally blown up for the insurance money.  The truck that was taken from me was repossessed.  And the man who took those things from me went to prison.  

The cat still lives in the ruins if the house to this day.

The Beginning