Sunday, December 28, 2014

Let the Right Ghost In

Christmas is so much more haunted than any Halloween

I’m visited by the ghosts of Dickens’ A Christmas Carol throughout the season—excepting Marley, of course, as I never knew him personally. The Ghosts of Christmases Past, Present, and Yet to Come are personal to each of us, however. They appear to us as we live, have lived, and might yet live our lives, judged and measured by the kind of Christmas we keep.

The Ghosts of Christmases Past, Present, and Yet to Come are three very distinct entities. Over the years I’ve learned that each of these seasonal spirits requires special handling.

Christmas Past looks pretty from a distance, but up close
she’s quite cold and dead. Not someone you want to
spend a lot of time with.
The Ghost of Christmas Past can be tricky. He (or she) can warm your heart with memories of the best times, from childhood, young adulthood, and beyond—before turning around and taunting you with memories of joys never to be seen again. Hey, remember that big goofy dog you grew up with? The cat that always tried to climb the Christmas tree? Dad? Mom? Uncle Clyde, Uncle Joe, Cousin Ben, Aunt Margie? Now you remember they’re gone.

How about that ex-lover of yours? That relationship you thought was the One? Yeah, too bad about that. 

“So I’ll never be happy like that again,” you scream at her. “Thanks for nothing!”

“I only show what went before,” says the Ghost of Christmas Past. “You make up your own mind what it all means.”

Naturally, this only angers you more. That is, until you make that final cognitive leap, and learn to accept things as they are, not as you insist they should be. Relationships, people, pets, jobs...nothing and no one is forever. Everything runs its course. It takes a while (it did for me, anyway) but you do learn to be grateful for whatever good you’ve had in your life, however transient it was. 

Accepting that it all had to go in the first place is the big one, of course.

I’ve more or less made my peace with my past, such as it is. The Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come, on the other hand, I’ve all but had to banish. That Grim Reaper-esque-looking thing is all about the buzzkill. Says nothing, only points. Points to graves. Points to the people moving on as you lie still. Walking and talking, cackling about their future profits and whatever, while you are lost to joy and life—and, soon, memory—altogether.

With respect to Mr. Dickens, he got this one wrong. 
The Ghost of Christmas Present is like the pretty girl who wishes you would just notice her. She’s right there in front of you but doesn’t say anything. She can’t, really. She’s entirely dependent on you. 

The Ghost of Christmas Present is not some feasting, jolly fellow as described in Dickens’ story, but a child who grows and becomes what you make of her throughout the season. 

Don’t let that child down. She will grow old and fade as the 25th of December passes and the season becomes the New Year. But she will become a part of Christmas Past, and her nature will influence that of Yet to Come. Of the three spirits who come a-calling, the Ghost of Christmas Present is the only one who really matters. Keep her close, and keep her well, always.