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December 09, 2004

I Believe

After spending an entire day either in a hot and stuffy conference room full of angry, yelling, exasperated voices, or on London transport, I took a very long journey home and finally made it home at 8:30 at night. Which meant, at the end of the day, that I had spent a whopping 6 hours in transit and 7 hours straight in meetings, stopping only to exercise my bladder's rights and to scarf down a thoroughly unsatisfactory baked potato, and that I got home a shattered shell of a human being.

But all that time in transit allowed for something that I needed-a little thinking time. I needed some time to sit down and think about why it is that I was missing the holidays so badly, why it was that the baubles and bangles weren't getting into my heart, why the lights reflected in disjointed pools from my disbelieving eyes. This (for me) has nothing to do with religion and I don't want to get into that aspect with this post, I'm simply talking about the spirit of hope and laughter that the holidays imbue you with. I thought about why it was that I was unable to project myself into my favorite Christmas activities-watching Scrooged, A Miracle on 34th Street, and the old Burl Ives' steadies Rudolph and Santa Claus is Coming to Town. Why couldn't I listen to the whole John Denver and the Muppets Christmas CD? What was happening?

And then it hit me as fast as it hit Susan in A Miracle on 34th Street (not the old one, the newer one with the doe-eyes Elizabeth Perkins and the new lisping Susan who is so damn cute it made my ovaries throb). I realized with a slight smile and a shake of the head why it was that I no longer felt so light and joyous about Christmas. In one moment, a smile spread on my face and I started to laugh (which I was on a crowded train at the time, so at least the guy moved away from me, lest I have something contagious).

The reason I felt so lost was that I didn't believe in Santa Claus anymore.

I had outgrown him and joined the race of jaded adults too afraid to let themselves confess that there might be something just a little bit bigger to life than they would be willing to admit.

Santa Claus, Father Christmas, Sinterklaas, the Hannukah Armadillo. Why had we forgotten them? Why have they become symbols that are reserved only for the kids, for the young, for the little people that are still chock-full of innocence, of hope, that the world really will reward you if you've been good and kind to Mommy and Daddy, that there is someone looking out for you and checking a list to make sure that you are going to get what it is that your little heart so badly needs?

I need to feel like there is a fat man in a red suit who is out there who exists purely to make the hearts of other people lighter. I need to know that the dreams that the children go to bed with on Christmas Eve are not wasted dreams, that the candy cane visions and sugarplum dreams go into a melting pot of something bigger, something that will bind and wrap up the children in little invisible force-fields of optimism as they grow up. I need to feel like there's someone who cares so much about what it is that will make us happy that he's keeping a list, checking it twice, giving me a reason to not be naughty, just nice.

I spend my life in a throng of people shuttling to and fro London. I spend my mornings in meetings with others like me, people who have lost their soul and their laugh a long time ago. I spend my afternoons battling for purchase on the streets, just trying to not get lost in the crush of people spilling up and down the stairs and streets.

I need to know that we're all better than that, that in the hearts of the people around me beats the same pattern that mine does. Maybe we're all not innocent anymore. Maybe we woke up one morning to see a shadow of a family member constructing a bicycle the night before Christmas. Maybe we've been left by people we loved so much. Maybe we've been to war. Maybe we've lost our jobs, lost our luck, lost our way.

But we all know how to love, we all know how to give. Even if both actions frighten us sometimes. We all get a warm feeling watching someone we care about have a smile light up their face.

So I'm taking the holidays back. I'm taking the childlike wonder of the season back. As a 30 year-old woman who has left trails of broken dreams behind me like a trail of destruction, as a woman who has lost faith in almost everything (including myself), as a woman who stopped being a child a long time ago, longer than I should have, I have to say-I need Santa.

This year, I am taking Santa Claus back. This year Christmas is about lightening up, laughing it up, and letting go. I need to believe in Santa again. I need to believe in the inherent goodness of people, the gentle kindness of an old man and his eight tiny reindeer, the invisible life-changing support of a dream. I'm investing myself in believing that there's more behind the glitter and sparkle of Christmas, that behind the fairy lights and shiny glass ornaments, behind the 6 foot puffy snowmen and the ring of cash registers, there's a feeling that one day out of the year we exist to celebrate our love for each other and our willingness to be children again.

It's so insane-as I sit on the train writing this, I am crying, but in a good way (although secretly, I wonder if it's my hormones). I have copied John Denver and the Muppets Christmas onto my iPod and listened to it twice. I have laughed each time Beaker sings his ninth day of Christmas. A man across from me is wearing a Santa-bedecked tie, and we looked up and smiled at each other as we got on the train. I finally feel like there is something to my Christmas this year, and when I head home, I am going to sing carols at the top of my lungs and dance on the coffee table.

It's time we took back Santa Claus. It's time we set aside the hurt and anger and pain we feel at our everyday lives, it's time we forget-for just a moment, for just a drop in time-that our lives are sometimes difficult, sometimes lonely. For just a moment let's put aside the sadness and anxiety of our adult lives and live one day in the pure bliss of being a child. There is one day a year we get to claim our lost childhoods back again, and we can't be so blind as to let it slide. I once wrote about seeing a TV program as a child of a community living on another planet where it rained every day, only once every so often the sun would come out and everyone would race outside and rejoice in the warmth. It's like that-we can't forget that there is one day every so often where the sun can come out.

I'm asking you to join me and not leave me alone in this one, since I might feel a bit silly if I go about this on my own. This holiday season, let's remember what it was like to laugh and get excited as we did when we were kids. Let's remember that there is nothing so powerful as the feeling of waking up in the morning, wondering what that one day would hold (not socks, dear God, please don't let me have gotten socks).

I believe in Santa.


I believe in Santa, and this year I am going out on a limb asking you to believe in Santa, too.



PS-If you like the graphic created by the incredible Ems and want to help spread the word, then just click on the extended entry below and you can cut and paste it and put it onto your blog sidebar, or else you can right click on the picture, save-as, then upload it to your blog. Many thanks to the cool newlywed Ems.

If you don't have a blog...maybe you can just let me know if you want to try to believe...

PPS-also thanks to the lovely Jen, who got me thinking about white-haired men in red velvet suits.

<a href="http://everydaystranger.mu.nu/archives/058373.php
"><img src="http://www.idontthink.com/believe.jpg"
border="0" title="I Believe"></a>

Posted by Everydaystranger at December 9, 2004 08:39 AM .

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I believe in Santa...he was my father.

Posted by: W at December 25, 2004 01:17 PM

If ever there was a year that I needed to believe - this is it, so... sign me up.

I Believe.

I really do.

Posted by: Elizabeth at December 14, 2004 03:17 PM

Just stopping in to say hello and to congratulate you on your recent nomination at the BoB Weblog Awards 2004.


Posted by: Genuine at December 14, 2004 04:15 AM

I believe, sweetie. Hugs!

Posted by: pam at December 13, 2004 02:08 PM

Really nice post! We should all believe in something... besides, all I need is a beard! hehehe :)

Posted by: MrBob at December 13, 2004 03:43 AM

I saw Santa Claus deliver presents under the tree when I was 6 years old. I know that he is real.

Posted by: Marie at December 12, 2004 12:11 AM

You needed to go down 2 entries on my site. I actually wrote it Dec. 9th.

Posted by: CarolC at December 11, 2004 02:48 PM

Helen, check out what December the 11th is to me.

Posted by: CarolC at December 11, 2004 03:10 AM

Inspiring, Helen! I think I'll try to get my head out of my ass and make this a memorable holiday again!


Posted by: Mick at December 10, 2004 08:06 PM

Ah, Amber, surely you ARE kidding. For you have no idea the peace and joy that a true belief in Christ can bring. All jokes aside, I'll pray for you.

Posted by: bigdocmcd at December 10, 2004 03:30 PM

Helen, I just re-read your post(it's a keeper). Somehow, I completely missed this segment near the end:

"I once wrote about seeing a TV program as a child of a community living on another planet where it rained every day, only once every so often the sun would come out and everyone would race outside and rejoice in the warmth. It’s like that-we can’t forget that there is one day every so often where the sun can come out. "

That's actually a short story written by, I believe, Ray Bradbury. It's both uplifting and depressing at the same time. I can't tell you until you've read it. Hmm. I cannot remember the story's title right now; my brain must be full. However, if you're interested, I can look it up when I get home. I happen to own a copy.

Thanks again for posting this.

Posted by: physics geek at December 10, 2004 03:16 PM

Birth of the pagan sun god... Birth of the christian son of god.... Just change some vowels (and kill some people) and we're all good, eh? Yeah, that's full of the spirit there.

...There is one day a year we get to claim our lost childhoods back again...

I'm gonna disagree with you here Hel. I make a habit of connecting with and reliving my childhood (which I personally don't consider lost). I feel like being an adult is just having more fun than you had as a kid (more resources) and not giving a shit if you make an ass of yourself. Maybe it's just me and my group of infantile friends but we're having fun and I wouldn't change it for the world!

Posted by: Ms. Pants at December 10, 2004 02:18 PM

Funny that Santa reminds you of Christ seeing as Santa Claus is a pagan thing and all. Well, then again, so is Christmas. Yeah, yeah, I know the christians sort of took over the holiday to convert those pesky heathens dancing naked in the woods, but shit, we all know the truth. ;)

Posted by: emily at December 10, 2004 02:20 AM

You know what...I have suddenly decided to believe in Jesus! YES! I have succumbed, based upon a comment here and a bumper sticker there and a Jehovah Witness at the door over the years off and on.......

It finally worked, folks. I am giving in.

I'M SAVED! I'M SAVED! I'm running out right now to buy a crucifix! And a bible! And, and, I'm starting up my own Bible Study Group! And, and....I'm getting a thong that says, "WWJD" and a picture of The Man Himself to hang on my wall.

I'm going to babble incessantly to my friends and family about my newfound belief! I'm going to knock on the doors of my neighbors and ask them if they've "heard the Word yet".

I'm telling you, it's like I was *blind* before and now I can see! Like I was lame and now I can walk! Like...like..

Christmas came early! Hallelujah! Praise Be! Christ has arisen! (Oh, wait...that's Easter)

Hooray! I'm so happy, thank you, kind strangers, for showing me the Way, I feel the spirit, I feel the...


Nah. Just kidding. Psych! ;-)

Posted by: Amber at December 10, 2004 12:35 AM

Count me in!! I'm there!!
Reaching across the seas and embracing you in the miracle of this holiday!

Posted by: Azalea at December 10, 2004 12:21 AM

My Nana surprised Santa one Christmas Eve, and he was apparently a bit cranky as he told her to go back to bed.

No, it wasn't a burglar, you silly person.

Posted by: B. Durbin at December 9, 2004 10:45 PM

My six year old daughter received a letter from Mrs. Claus yesterday. In it it talked about Rudolph. She went around the house for the rest of the day saying "I knew Rudolph was real!" That just made my day. I hope that you too can feel that way about Santa, not as a person, but as a feeling that you get during this time of year.

Posted by: Dave T at December 9, 2004 10:34 PM

ho, ho, ho!

I believe in YOU helen!

Posted by: santa at December 9, 2004 08:36 PM

I know you said you didn't want to bring religion into this, but virtually everything you described you were missing comes with Christ. Don't you see that Santa is just a child's version of what grown-ups finally find in their religions?

Posted by: bigdocmcd at December 9, 2004 05:28 PM

Yay for SANTA! You reminded me of another reason why it's been hard for me to get into the spirit; no more kids. Kids are what make Christmas really magical. Mine are grown, they don't have their own yet, none of my sibs had kids (sob!).

Kids get you in the spirit like nothing else. Pretending like I'm one works for me!

So, is somebody else making the big dinner? Because I'd rather play with the train that goes round the tree. ;-)

Posted by: Amber at December 9, 2004 05:17 PM

I so believe. Santa still visits my house, even though I am 30. He sneaks in and puts all the gifts under the tree after I am in bed. This is one of the reasons I love Christmas so much... the child in me always comes out.

Posted by: Jessica at December 9, 2004 04:37 PM

Absolutely I believe. How can you not??!? Thanks for leading the charge - we love you all the more for it ;)

Posted by: Lori at December 9, 2004 03:58 PM

You never cease to amaze me. I hope you have a season full of Muppets and coffee table dances.

*Raises glass* A virtual toast to all those that believe!

Posted by: amy t. at December 9, 2004 03:44 PM

No fair, making me cry at work.... :) I'm rebuilding my site as we speak with the graphic and link.

Thank you.

Posted by: amber at December 9, 2004 03:40 PM

You know, you're right.

I believe too. I'm taking Christmas back as well.

Posted by: Rebecca at December 9, 2004 03:19 PM

yes... that's what christmas is supposed to be about - not about shopping and spending...

Posted by: martha at December 9, 2004 02:57 PM

<a href="http://http://everydaystranger.mu.nu/archives/058373.php"><img src="http://www.idontthink.com/believe.jpg"
border="0" title="I Believe"></a>

Try pasting that code in if you want to display the graphic.

Posted by: emily at December 9, 2004 02:34 PM

Thanks Helen. I needed this post today. And I believe, too. :-)

Posted by: physics geek at December 9, 2004 02:12 PM

I believe in Santa, it the rest of those basterds I'm having a hard time with.

Posted by: Jennifer at December 9, 2004 01:52 PM

I believe. And I'm putting the graphic up as soon as I post this.

And congratulations, for figuring out what was missing.

Posted by: scorpy at December 9, 2004 01:50 PM

Good thing you put that spiritual disclaimer up front:) I hope you thoroughly enjoy the CHRISTmas season.

Posted by: Solomon at December 9, 2004 01:28 PM

I believe in Santa. I see him in the mirror every day.

If you really want a Christmas boost, go and rent Elf. Make sure you have all of the 4 food groups with you when you watch it ;-)

Posted by: Easy at December 9, 2004 01:18 PM

A faithful 'Friends' fan, no less. :-) Ross made one ugly Hannukah Armadillo, didn't he?

I BELIEVE!! And am spreading the word.

Happy Christmas to all, and to all a good night!

Posted by: Jennifer at December 9, 2004 01:16 PM

I think that's a great idea, Helen.

But the "Hannukah Armadillo"? I tell you, you can take the girl out of Texas, but you sure can't take Texas out of the girl, even if you run her through the wash cycle in Sweden and the spin/dry setting in England.

Posted by: RP at December 9, 2004 12:20 PM

Way to go, Helen!

Posted by: brj at December 9, 2004 11:10 AM
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