Almost without even knowing it, yet another holiday season is upon us. I could have sworn, just last week, that we were in the midst of the American orgy more commonly known as Thanksgiving.

We had a rehash of, A Christmas Story, Thanksgiving, based on the much more profound book by Jean Shepard, In God We Trust: All Other’s Pay Cash. I felt I was doing well to avoid the inherent drama when an aunt who is a lawyer (who I love despite her career) made known that she was not getting quite her share of the dark meat. Being health conscious the way I am, I had loaded her plate with white meat, thinking that, though it may be a bit more dry, white meat is allegedly more healthy (have all the ads and Weight Watchers been lying all this time?). And, of course, I was looking out for her best interest because she is diabetic after all.

This thought process leads me to the somewhat illogical conclusion that “like seeks like,” but that, my friend, is for another blog, another time.

At any rate,we watched the games, and if memory serves, the Green Bay Packers played and beat the Atlanta Falcons, even without the effort of Aaron Rogers, but I finally had enough, and as a light snow fell, I took the car for a ride, and where I live, the streets aren’t plowed with any regularity so I may indeed have taken my life in my hands just heading to Starbucks to find out if indeed they may have remained open long enough so I could get a Vanilla Rooibos tea, just to calm my frazzled nerves. By that time, Starbucks had indeed closed for the day so I let the car drift along, guided simply by the half tank of gas left. Two hours later, I pulled back in the drive and was informed, walking in the door, that our two dogs had devoured the leftovers from the feast, dark meat and all. My aunt announced that there was too much chaos and that she needed to check into the nearest Best Western.

Flash forward to New Years, no wait–not just yet. Flash forward to the approaching Christmas season. Normally we set up two trees, one real, one artificial, but maybe because of the many grey days in the Chicagoland area, I could only manage the artificial, and couldn’t be bothered with scouting out and hauling home a real tree from the Xmas tree lot.

Naturally, last year some of the pre-lit lights burned out at the end of the holiday season last year so, feeling especially virtuous, I cut them off and was forced to restring the entire tree this season. Hence: the one tree rule. Lucky for us, we have a hybrid fireplace (don’t ask, don’t tell what that means, exactly, but it involves a carefully calculated combination of gas and wood burning capabilities).

This brings me to the very important question as to whether I, or any of us for that matter, approach holidays with a sense of anticipation and joy or dread. It’s been many years since I toasted New Year’s with an adult alcoholic beverage, but I’m painfully aware that many of us need the kind of crutch that Budweiser is certainly willing to deliver. One thing about being sober, however, is that I have to guard against a feeling of superiority, a feeling that I have mastered stress without drinking myself into oblivion. I suspect that many of us have a hard enough time dealing with life on life’s terms without having that third or fourth glass of wine, or even heading to a bar for a shot of Doctor Feelgood.

So without a drink in hand, I nevertheless steel myself to celebrate Christmas. Counting blessing helps, folks, and indeed I am blessed to have my two parents both still alive, and a lovely home with a cousin who is dear to me. But for those friends caught in the miasma of a depressive fog, I’ve learned that simply asking them to count their blessings can even cause them to sink deeper into what Winston Churchill referred to as his “Black Dog Days.”

So in an effort to notice time passing, to find a reason to enjoy each moment as it passes, I treasure the gift of life. I make time to journal, to drive to a new coffeehouse, to hand write Christmas cards, to wander seemingly aimlessly through a bookstore.

The past is gone, the future is yet to be, why do we think today is a gift, why do you think we call it the present?

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