I dislike the holidays something fierce!
Don’t worry, this posting will get better but I’m going to admit to a character weakness which is to always look at the glass as half empty. It’s my nature and its one that I believe is beginning to change. But before I get ahead of myself, an explanation; I dislike the holiday season because, with very few exceptions, since 2004 I’ve spent them alone. There were two Thanksgivings a few years back where I was able to be with my kids but because of cost and circumstances, I will not be able to spend any holidays with them for the foreseeable future, and that really stinks.
Now, before you tell me that I should find a family to be with, let me mention that a person in my situation will always feel like the fifth-wheel. It’s not my family; they’re not my kids so it doesn’t ring with me except to feel I’m being pitied. And to hang out with other single adults only invites the feeling of not having anything in common with them except I have nowhere else to go.
So the bottom line is that I hate being alone during the holiday season, but I’d rather be by myself.
However, this past Thanksgiving I was searching, but for what I didn’t know. I drove a couple of hours to one temple to try to capture some peace. I stood there and looked at the beautiful structure but I still felt the need to keep searching, still not knowing what I was looking for. The next day I drove another couple of hours to a different temple and had the same experience as before. So on my way home I stopped by a third temple (the one that is actually closest to me). I sat there wondering why I felt this drive to search for something, wanting to know what that something was. After a couple of hours I just gave up and drove home confused with what I was experiencing.
It wasn’t a moment after I walked into my apartment that I had an intense feeling I needed to go back to the temple. Really? I was just there and I’m burning a lot of fuel driving around, besides, what for? Well, no answer except that I needed to go back to the temple. So I changed into warmer clothing and drove back.
This time it was evening so the Christmas lights were on, giving color to the otherwise darkness. I walked around the building, looking at the lights, the fountains and the other families enjoying the ambiance but I still didn’t know why I was there. I was no closer to finding out even after a couple of hours of walking, sitting and pondering. Eventually, I ended up sitting in front of the visitor center, watching all the people going in and out, all the kids running around and all the parents chasing after them.
But I still felt that I needed to continue to search for that elusive something and that I shouldn’t leave the temple grounds until I found it. It was a super strange feeling because it wasn’t like other times where I knew what I was searching for and where to look, for example forgiveness or an answer to a specific question. This time, it was a combination of wanting and being guided while at the same time being blind as to what I would find let alone knowing what I was lacking.
It was at this time that I went into the visitor center where, when I entered and looked to the right, I saw was a room full of crèches and was hit with the spirit so sudden that it startled me. It startled me to the point that I physically felt my body jolt from the sudden and unexpected experience.
I went ahead and looked at the crèches, watch a little video of the birth of Christ and then snuck into the back of the room that had the Christus statue standing there while a Sister Missionary was addressing a group of people. She spoke to them about Christ and invited them to think about Him as the audio presentation was played. After the presentation, where a number of scriptures were recited, she asked them what they were thinking and how they felt. Well, that was all well and good, and there were some simple but heartfelt comments. That is until she stood front of me and asked “how about you?”
Me: “What about me?” Yea, Mr. Obnoxious strikes again.
Her: “How do you feel about Jesus Christ?”
Me, after a long pause: “Christ sees me and treats me as an individual that matters. He saved me, He saved my life. He pulled me out of addictions. So my feelings of Christ are very personal and run very deep.”
She just stood there and stared at me. Now, I felt the strong presence of the spirit but I couldn’t help but wonder if I said something wrong. Then she said “Thank you, I needed to hear that.” She then turned to the others and remarked to them “We all needed to hear that.”
She took them to another room to watch a movie about the 10 commandments but I felt it was time to go so I just sat there until they all filed out, a couple of them shaking my hand and thanking me, then speedily departed the building. It wasn’t until I sat in my car thinking about what had just happened that what I was looking for was given to me. And this is what it was:
“Christmas is not about what you do not have, it is about what you have.”
That cleared my mind up really fast as I pondered what I was just given. I know to others it’s a “well, no duh!” kind of thing, but to me it was a remarkable, profound thought. I was dwelling on what I don’t have which is my family, my children, companionship, financial resources or freedom just to name a few. But what I do have is the companionship of the spirit, my church membership, the gospel, friends, men that I minister to and a life that while it is nowhere near ideal, it is a whole lot better than it was before. But most of all, I have a changed heart. I’m not that angry, hateful, vulgar person I was before. I’m someone else.
This experience is why I believe that the next step for me is to stop looking at life as a glass half empty, but half full. But like every other struggle, it will be one that will take a long time to excise out of me. Right now, I can’t imagine myself thinking with such a positive mindset. But then again, 10 years ago I was in a group therapy session where the therapist went around the circle and had each one of us say one thing that is good about ourselves. When it came to me, I actually had an anxiety attack; sharp breathing, tight chest and all. The thought that there was anything good about me drove me into such a panic that I couldn’t say a thing, so loathsome and useless I thought of myself and so great was the hold Satan had on me. It was a hard fought battle to get him to let go.
Today, the battle is to keep him from grabbing onto me again by changing my outlook to see all the good things I have, all the good things about me and all the good things I do. I may not have my children living with me, but I have children who are bright, are progressing academically, socially and in the gospel. Most important of all, they are my progeny and my responsibility. I may not have companionship, but I have the companionship of the Holy Ghost, which is a powerful companion to have. I may not have financial resources, but I have what I need and what I have has been provided to me by a loving Heavenly Father. I may not be the smartest guy with a ton of education with the awesome career that will carry me comfortably into the future, but, again, I have a loving Father in Heaven who has a plan for me. I may have done a lot of wrong but today I’m doing a lot of right under the tutelage and guidance of my loving Father in Heaven.
I may once again be alone this holiday season but I am not alone in spirit. I need to get over myself, look at what I do have and seek after the spirit because as I do that, everything else will fall into place. It was that way in the past, it’s that way now and it will be that way in the future.
To have a positive attitude and outlook; to see the glass half full; this is the next evolution of my character in my journey back to my Father in Heaven. Hopefully, this time, it won’t take a decade.