When a friend’s brother found himself in Afghanistan last year, she would occasionally talk to me about her worry. On more than one occasion, she’d cut herself off with, “Oh, I feel so bad talking to you! Your brother has autism, this must seem so petty!”
For one, my brother might have autism, but he doesn’t have people shooting at his head, so frankly, I’d have felt bad complaining to her. (Her brother, for the record, is home and safe.) But what it boiled down to was this: All people have something in their lives that’s a little shitty, or a lot shitty. No one has it perfect. There’s no way to know what goes on when folks go home at night. Just because another’s problem seems atrocious does not diminish what you are going through. It doesn’t make yours any less urgent or any less important or troubling.
These thoughts ran through my head this morning during a conversation with my coworker. I don’t want to go into details, but it essentially involved some of the really, really shitty stuff folks can go through.
And I found myself full of thankfulness. Sure, my brother has autism, but I’ve led a very blessed life. I’m well-educated and healthy. I love openly and have many friends who love me, too. I have a job with insurance and a boyfriend who’s better than everyone else on this planet combined. I sleep well at night and am comfortable enough in my body to leave the house without a stitch of makeup. My tree is up with many gifts under it for people I love. I didn’t go quite as all-out as I normally do, but no one is left out, either.
Last night, the beau and I were watching TV, and a Christmas commercial came on. I don’t remember what store was advertising, but the commercial showed children getting up while it was still dark outside and hopping on Mom and Dad in bed, ready to run downstairs and turn their pretty Christmas morning into a mess of wrapping paper and cellophane.
“What do you think people who have nothing think when they see this commercial?” the beau asked.
And he nailed it on the head. It was the fourth or fifth time I’d seen the commercial, and it’d never sat well with me, and I didn’t know why. That was why. It promotes such an awful amount of greed.
I don’t mean for this to come across as hypocritical. I often receive lots of goodies for Christmas. On Christmas morning, the four of us will sit around the tree, divide up the gifts, and tear into them. When we’re done, the room will, yes, be a mess of wrapping paper and cellophane.
But there seems to be less greed in it, somehow. Maybe it’s because I know we all appreciate what we have. We’re all grateful that Joey enjoys this particular holiday ritual, and we’re happy to have that family time with just the four of us before the masses of aunts and uncles and cousins descend upon the household. We love the holidays, not because of the gifts but because of one another. (And the food. I gotta be honest, I love the food.)
I know this seems sort of all over the place. I’ve just had some vaguely related thoughts bouncing around in my head, and I needed to let them out. Thanks for listening.
P.S. And I’m uber, very, oh-so-very-much thankful for my Stephanie. We have been through more than I’d have ever believed if someone went back in time and told 13-year-old me, “Hey, you know your best friend? You’re gonna be in her wedding, and you’re gonna hold her son, and you’re gonna bitch to each other about work. And one day, when all your hair is gray, you’re going to go on vacation together and check out the hot college guys.” Happy birthday, darling!