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Thursday, December 15, 2005

Nocturnal Holiday Musings

It’s 4:50 a.m... I’ve been listening to a rather languishing a.m. station that’s tuned in somewhat faintly within the corridors of my dysphonic somnambulist soul. Frank Sinatra is softly crooning a perpetually romantic rendition of ‘I’ll Be Home for Christmas’. Director Frank Capra’s timelessly poignant character, George Bailey consistently occupies that virtuously relevant portion of my often disillusioned holiday heart. But make no mistake about it... I sincerely admire George Bailey. I can’t help it. He reminds us all each and every hectic holiday season that we are so much more than a piece of irrelevant carpet lint on the vastly eternal rug of life.

Clarence, the wacky yet lovable “angel first class” shares his child-like interpretation of the individual significance we each take for granted on a daily basis. As resident ‘Peanuts’ Zen-like philosopher Linus explains to Charlie Brown the religious and spiritual connotation of Christmas, I must confess, I feel compelled to carry a trusty blanket and find peaceful solace in all of my nocturnal wisdom. Linus of course, personifies the immovable force of absolute faith in all that is truly “hopeful”. Whether you are religious or not, you can’t help but feel a bit comforted by Linus’ frank understanding of the human tendency to become “caught up” in the whole process of materialism and status. As Linus so eloquently explains, the holidays are supposed to, apart from all of those witty yet immensely commercialized standards, generate a distinctly humble sense of “goodwill” and “compassion” amongst all mankind.

From my own life experience, this of course, all somehow tends to dissipate during what I call the “Holiday Deadline Crunch Week”... Of course, I have often pondered the real meaning behind the necessity of shopping relentlessly for the appropriate gift. I’ve often discovered over the years, I have no accurate way to gauge the word “appropriate” when it comes to gift selection. It’s almost like blindly throwing an aerodynamically correct paper airplane into a hurricane.

So instead of cluttering my psyche with the vast selection of never quite appropriate gifts, I choose to contemplate concepts of a more consequential nature. I pause quietly to reflect upon my own Christmas past. I envision my family and friends and I must admit I begin to think perhaps the ultimate purpose of the holiday season does really come from within... that the meaningful gifts we essentially give one another each and every year can’t ever be discovered at Wal Mart... that the Grinch couldn’t steal Christmas from the kindly Whos in Whoville... because the sentiment exists in a deeper place we tend to forget during the mundane rituals we so incessantly complain about.

The indisputable passion of the holiday season allows us all the rare opportunity to embrace those closest to us with love. That a likely explanation for the evolution of life on the planet is that it was deemed necessary that there should be at least one species on the planet with an awareness of its underlying reason for existence. And just what might be the reason why this form of life has come to exist, to have this wondrous thing called “self-awareness?” I myself argue that it is because there is the need for at least one species to be able to articulate its reason for being.

Reflecting on the wake, my purposeful passage through the last forty-something years of this sojoum “around the great pond” has left on the shore, it occurs to me that it has been to reach a point where it was possible to recognize that this thing called “life”... has been different as the result of my having been here. It is the realization that just as I can list a litany of experiences that have shaped the choices I have made. It also occurs to me that not only have I been placed on this earth to make a difference, but more specifically, to have placed a “positive” spin on this existence.

As John Lennon once said, “Life is what happens while we are making plans.” I was far too focused on the destination to realize that it is the journey that is of substance. But how does one come to truly appreciate the journey, to realize the importance of the present moment? How do we learn to look back, but not stare into the past? How do we come to recognize that all events, even the chaotic and traumatic, are part of all that is not so much “good nor bad,” but simply meaningful? I then glance back over my shoulder and note the opportunity to learn at the knee of a grandfather whose enduring wisdom was never accurately reflected in his academic credentials or public accomplishment, but who found meaning in the little things he could do for others.

Whether it is the films of Frank Capra, inspired by the depths of misery during the great depression and W.W.II or the incredible mosaics of St. Isaac’s in St. Petersburg produced by the masters who worked for next to nothing in Czarist Russia more than a century ago, this thing called life, for me, is different because somehow and in some way, individuals followed their hearts and listened to the passion that welled up from deep inside and could not be contained by the reason and logic that the world tends to use as a deterrent to hold back one’s passion and creativity. We all posses the ability to give flight to the human spirit. Just as we have had to leam how to look for the “gift inside of the problem,” so do those with whom we share this planet need the opportunity to learn this miniscule bit of wisdom; we tend to do best what we do most... to dare to dream or show compassion.

That being said... I have been so blessed.

I have had the unique opportunity to cross the paths of some unbelievably remarkable people in my 44 brief years on this plane... relatives, teachers, friends, actors, artists, students, clients and more than a few strangers who have touched my soul and never even knew how deeply, shaping my life in countless and wondrous ways. I have come to enjoy this life, but most importantly it has presented me with the opportunity to realize that I have had and continue to have the opportunity to accomplish the very reason that I have been placed on this earth... to leave this place, this plane of existence, in just a little bit better shape for my having tried
to make a difference. And to all of you whom I hold so dear... I wish you peace, love... and a silent good night.

Copyright © 2005 Bridget Petrella Media Relations

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

My (Pardon The Expression) GOD, Let's Just Be HAPPY For A While

It's getting harder and harder to be in the (pardon the expression) "holiday" spirit these days. As a retailer (which is, among other things, what I do these days), THESE days are getting WAAAAAAAAAY too stressful for one reason (over and above all the other reasons): What to say or not to say?

This morning I was a guest on a local radio station to promote our historic downtown's "2nd Wednesday Walkabout", which involved fundraisers, a (pardon the expression) Santa on a horsedrawn carriage, musicians performing (pardon the expression) holiday music, a youth group singing (pardon the expression) Christmas carols, merchants offering free (pardon the expression) Christmas cookies, and the like. Before going to the radio station at the un-(pardon the expression)Godly hour of 7.50 AM, I read the local newspaper while caffeinating.

There was a letter from someone who'd written, in no uncertain terms, that if he or his friends (assuming he has some) or family (see previous assumption) heard or read an advertisement from any business that used the phrase "Happy Holidays", he and his aforementioned friends and family would make it their business to assiduously avoid patronizing (meaning spending money with, not the other kind of patronizing) aforementioned businesses, and in his letter, he put us all "on notice".

Well. After my radio plug, I was scheduled to record three 15-second spots to be used on rotation on the local station for my business. As a writer, I'd written my own scripts the night before. As a producer, I knew exactly the read I wanted. As a voice-over talent, I knew just how to read them. As an independent retailer, I had to be writer/producer/talent, whether I wanted to or not.

Now, after having read that letter to the editor in the newspaper, which almost (almost!) eliminated my need for caffeine because it got my heart racing (and not in a good way), I was faced with a problem. I'd written "Happy Holidays" as the first two words in one of my three 15-second spots. What to do? Cave? Hold forth? Fight for 30-second spots so I'd have time to explain to the three people who listen to the station WHY I was saying "Happy Holidays"?

I basically caved... not entirely, though. I used the C-word in one, the S-word in the other, and the W-word in the last (that's "Christmas", "Season" and "Wonderland"... what were YOU thinking?)

I found myself, throughout the business day and evening, wishing people a nice afternoon/evening/night....and waiting to hear what THEY said before responding. What has become of me, I kept thinking. Finally, at one point, someone said "Happy Holidays. I mean, Merry Christmas". I said "Thank you. Happy Holidays to you. And Merry Christmas. And Happy Hannukah. And can we PLEASE all JUST be HAPPY??" which the someone said, "Amen".

And I knew what he meant. And I got it. And so did the other people in my shop. And everyone smiled at everyone else as Nat King Cole sang, "Although it's been said many times, many ways, Merry Christmas to you".

Merry Christmas. Happy Holidays. Seasons Greetings. Let heaven and nature sing. Merry Christmas, Darling. Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas. Happy Hannukah. Peace On Earth To Men Of Good Will (and by the way, peace to those NOT of good will... maybe it'll help).

Celebrate The Season. Back Off. Back Up. Relax. Smile. Play. Enjoy. Hug. Share. Cry. Laugh. Exult. Pray. Or Not. Peace. Love. Understanding. Live. Let Live. Give, Gladly. Receive, Graciously.

And, most importantly....REMEMBER... that this season, this spirit, however you celebrate it, and even if you don't, is about giving and forgiving, about sharing, about loving....and it's supposed to be a daily/365 reminder, not an annual appointment. Say whatever you want as long as it's said in a spirit of goodness. Celebrate as you choose. It's all good....isn't it? Yes, it is. It really, REALLY is.
Isn't there enough fighting and dictating in the world? Yes, there is, there really, REALLY is.

Just smile at someone when you say whatever you say, because you believe whatever you believe. Make it a good December....not everyone will accept your greeting. Some will want to politicize you. Smile again, or engage them, if you will, in meaningful discussion...or not. Then move on, and smile at the next person...and remember to do it all month, all year long, not just now, during the (pardon the expression) holiday season.

Happy Holidays! Happy New Year! "Make someone happy....just one someone happy, and you will be happy, too." Unapologetically yours, and wishing all people health, happiness and success... "Telewriter"