Holiday Spirit

George Bailey yells at Uncle Billy in It’s a wonderful Life, Hollywood’s classic story that defines the holiday spirit. “Where’s that money, you silly stupid old fool? George demands darkly. “Where’s that money? Do you realize what this means? It means bankruptcy and scandal. That’s what it means.”

hese are familiar terms. Missing in this holiday season and maybe lost for a long time is the sound of laughter and jingle bells in the distance. The uncomplicated joy of season, little kids on skates, bright eyes that light the sky seem to go unnoticed. Something is wrong, different since November.

Holidays are hard. That is not new. We tend to use these joyous days in a strange way, to measure our lives against expectations, where we are versus where we wish to be. Disappointment comes too easily. Whatever our faith, gratitude for what e have slips beneath fast moving fear. Our ability and willingness to put care away, if only briefly, and celebrate what truly is ours seems to be missing.

Uncertainty may hang over us for a long time to come. How sad that we might just sacrifice these joyous weeks because we no longer know how to let go and be happy. We only worry. Ask any merchant fighting for another year.

I see the world differently because my reference points are not the same. I routinely turn to those who sail directly into the wind, always at risk of going nowhere and even losing it all. They know what matters, what to care about or just move to the back of their minds.

The chronically ill have no illusions. Nearly half the population know the fragility of life and appreciate what we are up against. The physically threatened play for high stakes and are the calmest people I know. We do not sweat the small stuff.

If you believe health is life’s most precious gift, go to one who does not know if he or she will sit at the table with those they love next year. The sick may have learned to live in the moment, in ways few others understand. We have no choice. We have nowhere else to go, no matter who or where we are.

Life is precious. The sick understand as well as anyone. Nothing lasts forever. We have figured that out. What is gone in my life, even with all the uncertainty and hardship, helps me focus on what is still there. I do keep learning, as do others around me.

My grown children know life is unfair, and they cherish what they have. My kids see illness in the family. May these young people never lose what they have figured out around the kitchen table, that others in the world need help. These kids know they are not the center of the universe.

We, the sick, do not feel sorry for ourselves. Carrying around self-pity is a terrible way to live. The load is large, the road long.

Every day I can struggle down subway steps is another day I can live on my terms. I am grateful. Each week I can do for myself is a gift for which I will exchange any necktie.  In It’s a Wonderful Life, George Bailey doubts his life matters, and he disappears. His wife and children convinces George hew is wrong. George is not as powerless as he thought. Neither are we.   We have a lot to live for and much to do. We need to stand straight and kiss somebody. We should smile, wish someone well and get on with it.


12 Responses to Holiday Spirit

  1. Christopher December 16, 2016 at 11:39 pm #

    Thank you, Richard.

    Merry Christmas to you and your family! I will now go get on with life… smiling.

  2. Dale December 17, 2016 at 12:18 am #

    Excellent. Thank you Richard. Your words are a gift, especially this time of year.
    My kids went skiing today, as one of the things I miss the most I decided to tackle my annual gingerbread houses with vigor. It struck me that a) I could actually blow off work to do it without anyone suspecting, and b) I could still put it together first try without it collapsing.
    The tiny candles in the windows are always a challenge but there are always new little things someone comes up with after I’ve got the basics set, like a tootsie roll canoe for the blue m&m river, an igloo next to the dog and cat houses, a tree made from an ice cream cone. I was grateful for the ability to still keep up the tradition while having to let go of so many others. So thanks for taking the time to get this entry in, and best wishes for you and your family this season. May we all remember what suits really all about.

  3. Jan December 17, 2016 at 12:47 pm #

    Insightful, and appreciated.

    My best to all this season.

  4. Sue in TX December 18, 2016 at 12:35 pm #

    Great post Richard! You remind us well that we are not as powerless as we may feel…as Clarence said, “Strange, isn’t it? Each man’s life touches so many other lives. When he isn’t around he leaves an awful hole, doesn’t he?” Hugs and kisses to you all out there from here in TX… Happy Holidays and Merry Christmas!

  5. NancyAnne December 18, 2016 at 12:57 pm #

    Merry Christmas, Happy New Year…..retired former nurse to the chronically ill and elderly for almost 40 years, I had to leave the profession due to my own medical issues and I very much enjoy your thoughts and commentary to the challenges you face.. I always encouraged those I cared for to focus to what they can do… and each day is a new day… work with whatever is working that day….rest when tired… and yes… often challenging in our medical system now with shorter hospital stays, so much in a short time frame….and then there is the insurance issues….difficult to see and hear many new challenges to all this and coping to health and medical challenges… I remain optimistic and your work here to your blog and book give voice to those with ongoing challenges. Thank you and I hope your wife is doing well, I enjoyed her work in the media very much.

  6. Jan December 18, 2016 at 4:11 pm #

    There’s nothing quite like a deadline for inspiration. One week until Christmas. Project deadline (your book, likely). Hungry family wanting dinner. Online notification of a library book (that I’ve had on automatic renewal for months, collecting dust with no spare reading time) now due today because of another wanting it. So, a good day to finish. And the words are a gift, of sorts.

    The book: “How to Stop Worrying and Start Living” by Dale Carnegie. Love all the anecdotes. Some tidbits:

    Per a Mother Goose rhyme:
    For every ailment under the sun,
    There is a remedy, or there is none;
    If there be one, try to find it;
    If there be none, never mind it.

    “Eight Words That Can Transform Your Life:
    Our life is what our thoughts make it.”

    Milton, 300 years ago:
    “The mind is its own place, and in itself
    Can make a heaven of hell, a hell of heaven.”

    “I Stood Yesterday. I Can Stand Today.” (Even if differently; I do not make light of nasty issues, but keeping perspective and reaching outside of myself both help amidst worsening challenges).

    Yes, power in perspective.

  7. Michele Penz December 18, 2016 at 5:23 pm #

    “What is gone in my life, even with all the uncertainty and hardship, helps me focus on what is still there.”

    Brilliant! Words every human being should live by and most certainly those of us struggling with a chronic disease like MS.

  8. Colleen December 18, 2016 at 7:21 pm #

    Thank you for this reminder. Bravo.

  9. Jana December 22, 2016 at 8:48 am #

    Just what I needed this morning. Thank you and Happy Holidays!

  10. Sandy Stolaronek December 25, 2016 at 11:23 am #

    So good to hear from you Richard! I am also grateful for what I can still do, the problem is that I’m just too tired to do it… Haha! I have come to have less expectations for the holidays, because if I didn’t, I would surely be very disappointed. It’s nice to at least see others enjoy it and that’s what I live for. Just because my body has changed along with my mindset; doesn’t mean that others should feel that or even have empathy for what I go through, each and every day. I want my family to enjoy Christmas and to not allow this illness of mine to affect them in any way, because at Christmas, I don’t want them to feel like it’s their illness too! I will pretend that it’s not a factor for this one day, because I am determined not to let it spoil our Christmas! Merry Christmas and Happy New Year, everyone!

  11. Christopher December 29, 2016 at 12:57 am #

    Happy Holidays!

    I don’t know if links work on here, but this is at least some good news for people with progressive MS. Ocrelizumab–which is a safer reformulation of Rituxan–is a monoclonal antibody developed to slow the progression of PPMS and SPMS. Very cool stuff. My neurologist wants me to start it when it’s widely approved (hopefully early 2017). Right now it’s only designated “Breakthrough therapy” to expedite a critical unmet need.

    I wish the best for all of you suffering from this ugly monster.

    • Yvonne Brewer January 1, 2017 at 10:28 pm #

      Thanks Christopher. Happy New Year! Let’s hope this is the year somebody has an “Aha” moment for all of us MSers!!!