What Christmas Means to Me – The Global Pandemic Edition

For me… for years, the time between Thanksgiving and New Years, otherwise known as The Holiday Season really has been the most wonderful time of the year. Despite my situation, I always feel a renewed sense of energy and purpose, simultaneously with waking up on Thanksgiving morn that generally carries me through the end of the old year, and the beginning of the new one. Even last year, when things were… less than stable (to put it mildly), I found joy in eating dinner with my family, picking out and putting up/decorating a Christmas Tree with my minions the following weekend, gift shopping, watching holiday movies and listening to holiday music. Even that gods-be-darned, Mariah Carey “masterpiece” “All I Want For Christmas Is You.” Side note: It’s not the song. I actually think it’s a pretty solid entry into the Christmas music pantheon which has been re-done in the years since Mariah first premiered it by everyone from Kelly Clarkson to Michael Buble, the latter of which remains my personal favorite version. It’s the fact that they play Mariah’s version every hour, on the hour and after two decades of listening to it yes: Calling it overkill is kind. It’s the equivalent of a two ton nuke of holiday cheer. Even for someone who loves the holiday season as much as me, it’s TOO MUCH.

But I digress. When do I ever not? Survey says: Never. These blog posts tend to be the equivalent of a literary serpentine, veering from topic to topic with little regard for continuity. I don’t plan them out. I simply “go with the flow,” and try… sometimes in vain, to tie the various threads together at the end in the hopes of… what? Making a point? Conveying a message? I guess they’re whatever YOU, my oft times casual readers want them to be. All 20 or 30 of you. I’ve been doing this for years now. 117 posts too date, this one being the 118th. When you consider I’ve been writing Mental Flatulence since the mid-90s, that number goes up to 140 or 150. All in the hopes of… what? Why do I do this? “Where is Gamora?” “Who is Gamora?” “WHY is Gamora?” The same question(s) can be applied herein. But to me. Not Gamora.

Question One: WHERE is… where AM I? Well physically, I’m sitting at the desk in my writing nook, typing these words out on my computer (not on my phone this time; I decided to go “old school” with this post). As for mentally? Spiritually? Psychologically? I’m not where I’ve been in holiday seasons past. Despite a renewed sense of pseudo-stability, a better job and other factors, I am not filled with joy this year. I was, up until a couple of days ago… I was perhaps more joyful than I have been in years past. But something changed this week. A bit of weariness set in, likely a symptom of the ongoing, global pandemic that has us all “sheltering in place” in many locales across the good ol’ U S of A and the world, the sudden drop in temp outside and the promise of an actual snowstorm this week which, for once, actually happened as the ache in my back is presently reminding me (Hallelujah, Holy Sh*t! Where’s the Tylenol?). A symptom? Yes. But not a diagnosis. I’ve been mulling that one for a while now and I think I finally figured out the WHO, as in WHO is… who AM I? Which leads me to…

Question Two: Yep. WHO is… who AM I? On the surface, I’m just a regular dude with a regular job in Business Development who loves spending time with his minions, his loved ones and his family (both immediate and extended). I get up at roughly the same time every morning and go to sleep at roughly the same time every night. I start work between 8 and 9 (depending on the morning), I generally eat lunch around noon every day and I generally knock off work for the day sometime between 5 and 6, but occasionally as late as 7 and, in a few cases, 9 or 9:30. Ah, Work from Home. Who knew? After that, depending on the night I watch TV, play Destiny 2, spend time with my minions, engage in chores around and outside of my house, pay bills… you get the gist. Yes, it really is (for those of you that have followed me for decades) a Mundane, Routine Existence. But is this the sum total of who I am? Is this all that there is to me, Frank Marsh, AKA the Once and Future El Autoro, AKA The Madchronicler? I’ll not lie friends, family and my 20 or 30 oft times casual readers, I expected more out of myself for a long time. More than just another Joe Schmoe. More than a life less extraordinary. I once fancied that I would one day write the next, great American novel and the older I get on this side of the proverbial wormhole of existence, the less likely that seems. I’ve been fighting… battling the serpentine path my life has taken for so long that years… heck, almost a decade has gone by and time, that ever-present and fickle constant, seems to be slowly but definitely slipping away. Is there time enough left for me to be the person I dreamed I always would be? That guy who folks labeled “The Madchronicler” 20 plus years ago? Or am I gradually succumbing to the physical and mental rigors of “Mid-Life?” On the one hand, I can still reach inside, and find the Dreamer that I once was. But it’s not as sustainable as it once was. Writing novels has been replaced by paying bills and meeting quotas. Taking road trips to a diner in NYC over three hours away from home has been replaced by food shopping and sleeping. What is… WHERE is my purpose? Which leads me to the final question that Drax asked Tony Stark/Iron Man in “Avengers: Infinity War…”

Question Three: WHY is… why am I? Not Gamora. Me. This is without a doubt the toughest question to ask myself at this juncture because despite intensive introspection this holiday season, I see two possibilities. The first? That I am what I appear to be on the surface and that I echoed above. Normal. A product of adulthood. All responsibility with the occasional bout of wanderlust. A Dreamer so hopelessly entrenched in the rigors of responsibility that they remain just that: Dreams. Inspired? Occasionally, but that sustained inspiration I felt back in May of this year when I was actively working on HEAVEN AND ENDWORLD seems to have faded. I HAVE written since. Two dozen or so pages of that particular novel to be exact (and a handful of these). But it comes and goes, and more often then naught ends up playing second fiddle to other things. That’s one possibility.

And the other? That I’m… scared. Yes, scared. I can admit that now. For a guy that has always fancied himself as a fighter and survivor, even when he failed there is fear. The idea that this REALLY IS it, and that the legacy I will leave the world when I finally depart it will be a microcosm of what I envisioned it would be in my 20s and, to some extent, my 30s. I had plans, guys and gals. To not to just write, but to teach. To pass on knowledge that would make not just my children, but the next generation or two better off than they would have been without it. I’ve had so many teachers in my life. Formal ones, family, friends… you name it. No one gets to 45 on their own. They’re… I’m a product of my experiences and the lessons learned by others through their experiences and “passing on” what they discovered. And even now, at 45 years kinda’ young (but not really), I crave that opportunity. It’s what I should have been. The question is: Is it possible to be that now, after 45 years of life on this side of the proverbial wormhole of existence? Writing novels… writing blog posts was and IS an easy out. It’s a way of attempting, however in vain to teach and impart knowledge upon a couple dozen people which, they can take or not… it’s totally up to them. But that inherent desire to be a teacher has never left me. So…

WHY not? If my why is to be a teacher/imparter of knowledge, as I’ve always thought it was, why not just become that? Formalize it so to speak. The holiday season is not only a time of joy and celebration, but an era of miracles. Or at least it was when I was a kid. The miracle of an old, heavyset dude with a bushy, white beard and a red suit coming down the chimney of every kid in the whole, wide world in one night, in the universe on this side of the proverbial wormhole of existence. Have I grown so old… so jaded that I’ve given up on what I once believed in? A perpetrator of the supposed falsehood that IS Santa Claus? I need to stop cowering in fear and take this opportunity–as I glance out my window at the vast, wintery landscape that has become my neighborhood courtesy of the first snowfall we’ve seen, here in Eastern Pennsylvania in eons and despite my aching back which has been alleviated, somewhat not by Tylenol but by Advil (Hallelujah, Holy Sh*t!)–to believe in miracles again. I can still be what I always wanted to be, can’t I? After all, 45 years is… a lot, but I’ve still got some time left God willing. And that’s the OTHER tenant of this time of year: God. Spirituality. Prayer, belief and most importantly, hope. Those who know me know that despite my former, outspoken tirades against faith and organized religion (mainly during the late 90s when I was The Once and Future El Autoro) I have grown, via fatherhood and age into what I was as a child: A God-fearing dude. I say my prayers every night, first with Natalie either in person or over a Zoom call, and thereafter by myself in the quiet darkness of my room pre-falling asleep. Both versions of “Now I Lay Me Down To Sleep,” one “Our Father,” one “Hail Mary” and one “Glory Be.” I never say “Amen” until AFTER I’ve finished the last prayer and expressed my Intentions–for the world, my kids, my family and loved ones and for me that the pain in my back from shoveling isn’t a hernia but a muscle strain–and I close my eyes. Some nights I barely make it to “Amen” before nodding off. But every night I get there. Because that’s the magic of prayer, folks. You believe… I believe that despite the silence, someone is always listening.

Christmas is a time of beginnings, not endings family, friends and oft times casual readers. Birth. Celebration. That’s what Christmas means to me this year… 2020, the year that we wish time would forget but won’t. All that we’ve been through this year… history will look back on this in many ways. Despite all that we have lost… all THOSE we have lost (God or whatever gods you believe in rest their souls), we can start again. So while my mood is subdued and tempered this year by months upon months of suffering and conflict, and my heart breaks for those that have lost loved ones, jobs, homes and the like, I still believe that our best days are before us. If 2020 was the year that we wish time would forget but won’t, let’s make 2021 the year that we fondly remember in the days, months and years to come as one of the greatest of our shared existence on this side of the proverbial wormhole of existence. That’s all I want for Christmas this year FOR you. I think I know… I FINALLY know what I need to do. And I pray that you will too.

Have a Happy Hanukah, a Blessed Christmas, a Merry Kwanzaa and a Monumental New Year, folks. This is your ol’ buddy The Once and Future El Autoro, AKA The Madchronicler…

AKA Frank Marsh signing off. See you on the other side of December 31st. Winky emoticon. Smiley face.

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