Sunday, November 18, 2018

Holiday Reminiscing

With Thanksgiving around the corner, followed by Christmas, I am reminiscing about childhood memories… and some adult ones, too. As poor as I thought I was (surviving on Social Security Disability on my own), I now know I was still wealthier than a huge percentage of the population on the planet. After all, I always had a roof over my head, food to eat, clothes and shoes to wear, and at least a sofa or pad to sleep on. Where I was the poorest was in my faith that circumstances would ever get better. It took keeping a gratitude journal over the last few years to see all the ways my life WAS getting better.

Growing up, with six of us children (all blood siblings), we usually got one large Chanukah/Christmas present to be shared by all. I remember one year getting lincoln logs, another year tinker toys, and another year blocks. In the meantime, the neighbors across the street set out a display of deer (reindeer) on their front lawn each year. Now I live in a place where LIVE BREATHING deer walk around.

Mom had many talents, one of those painting nature in realistic detail. Somehow, the neighbor found out and asked Mom to repaint the facial features of her deer. The neighbor then offered to pay Mom, but Mom refused to take the money. Perhaps it was a matter of pride and unwillingness to admit that we could have used it. And that year, Santa Claus came. I will never forget waking up one morning to find wrapped gifts for each of us. I don’t remember what everyone else got, but I got my very own white-haired life-size baby doll and took my new motherhood seriously.

I was able to learn how to play the viola in school because someone had donated an instrument I could borrow. Music remains an important part of my life.

I didn’t work for the first few years after my son was born, partly due to chronic fatigue after being in bed for six months during the pregnancy due to complications, partly because there was no way I was leaving my son, my world, with a complete stranger to take care of. Besides, after the cost of childcare, especially for a baby in diapers, I wouldn’t have much to live on even if I did work.

Along the way, I somehow found out about food banks, where unbeknownst to me, I was getting just about every type of food that was making my health condition worse than it already was (hot dogs, bread, huge blocks of cheese, pasta). I also somehow found out about a non-profit organization called ‘Parent Help,’ a resource for single parents. It was nice (and yet not so nice) to find out there were many other single parents besides me. Sometimes, I was graciously surprised when I received an unexpected gift card from someone who was more affluent than I was… and still appreciate receiving them to this day.

I had a few good years of making enough income (once I returned to work) to do well, get what my son and I needed, and live on our own in nice apartments vs. renting rooms. Dreams of marrying someone who would provide the financial support never came to pass. As intelligent as I was, due to childhood ‘programming,’ I was blind when it came to red flags, choosing many of the ‘wrong’ partners who manipulated me into supporting them instead of them supporting me and my son… or at the least, contribution to household expenses.

Anyway, on the road to surviving, I found many non-profits along with the volunteers who ran them… volunteers with the passion and energy to help others. At the time, my self-esteem was too low to do anything other than show up to accept whatever services they offered. However, psychological support was not one of them, something I could have benefited in from the very beginning… especially in the field of positive psychology.

Today, I would still accept the generosity of food banks, community holiday meals, etc., however, I’ve made my health a priority… something I learned to do as I learned how to love myself. (What would someone who loves themselves do? Nourish my cells.) I feel much better than in years past when I ate just to satiate hunger vs. nourish my cells.

Now that I have learned there is very little offered in a feast that actually supports health, I prefer not to participate (unless I bring my own plate or dish to contribute to a potluck). Occasionally, when I do… telling myself just this once, it will be OK… it never is. My body knows the difference. I prayed over that turkey and candied yam that was on my plate before I ate it on Wednesday… and afterward, felt like I had food poisoning… intestinal cramps, headache, muscle pain, and more.

I can’t bear to watch others eat what they eat… the sweets made with sugar (or artificial sugar), corn syrup, etc. I prefer a fresh piece of non-pesticide sprayed fruit. I can’t bear to watch others eat ham and turkey that was processed from animals grown in crowded horrific conditions, injected with hormones to grow quickly, doused with antibiotics to cut down on disease… disease because they live in their own feces. I can’t bear to see healthy vegetables made into salads with mayonnaise made with canola oil and eggs from chickens that were also raised in crowded, diseased pens, and fed GMO corn and soy. I can’t bear to watch others eat bread I know has been made with wheat that was doused with Roundup and processed with the neurotoxin bromine. (I’m ‘educated’ now.)

I would like to be in a position to help others less fortunate than me, but my body needs all the energy I have to take care of myself. What I learn from taking care of myself, especially in the way of mental health and nutrition, could grow into helping others, so I am open to the possibility of this happening. We’ll see. I’ve discovered that education in topics I have been learning increase my sense of value in what I have to offer others.

I see more news about all the volunteers who help out where there are wildfires and floods than helping those who are less fortunate in my own neighborhood, city, state, and country. Why does there have to be a major disaster for this to happen? Donations of clothes and food aren’t enough when you are mentally and emotionally bankrupt. Those who have lived that way for too long, don’t know of any other way to be. Fear, as well as loss of hope, can annihilate the soul. The more resilient ones will recover quickly.

This year, the main question on my mind was, “How can I pay the generosity I’ve received forward?”

Perhaps I can teach my granddaughter at the tender age of 5, going on 6, to become aware of those less fortunate than she is… and figure out a way to help another child or family in need. I received a gift card that I forwarded to her parents with instructions. I’ve watched the children of The Copperas Cove Five Hills Scholarship Pageant come up with ways to ‘pay it forward,’ establishing various fund-raising activities to support various causes. I find this impressive… starting children out with this in mind from a very early age. I also watched a video about children in school ‘adopting’ a lonely, special needs child into their group.

I wonder how life could have been different for me if I had been exposed to these opportunities when I was young… instead of sitting on the sidelines as a lonely, empathic introvert. I’ll just have to come up with ways to do it now.

Happy Holidays!