Thursday, December 23, 2004

Merry Christmas!

I survived! The kids are gone. I like them but it is great to get a break. Today was a pretty boring day. I had caught up on everything, so while the kids were doing their work I actually surfed the web. Sure, I could have found something to do, but instead I found this great School Night Before Christmas reading.

The kids were pretty receptive to the Christmas Truce video. In fact, during my 3rd period class the choir was caroling through our hall and my students got up and closed the doors and turned up the television.

I'm almost packed and ready to go. We leave for Houston early tomorrow morning. My bag is full of goodies for my family and I'm excited about giving them. Actually, I think the most enjoyable gift I gave this year was to our hall's custodian. She is new and she is great! She actually unplugs things so she can move them and sweep around them. The district is classifying her as a temporary substitute, though, so even though she is working full time she does not get any benefits. Anyway, I gave her the same gift I gave all my co-workers, handmade pralines from Texas. She was so grateful and it made me happy. She put a little Christmas/thank-you card on my computer last night while she was cleaning and it was really nice. Isn't that really what Christmas is about?

I've struggled this year with figuring out what Christmas is about actually. I've attended very different types of churches throughout my 26 years and as a result I vacillate between thinking it is a very religious day, a day for reflection not to be taken too seriously, and a pagan holiday. History tells us it really started as a pagan holiday, but if people see it as religious now, then isn't it religious? Perception is sometimes more important than reality. Anyway,I wish I could just settle on a clear answer and get on with it. Sometimes it is very frustrating. In fact, last Saturday I told my husband "this is the worst Christmas ever." I literally had my bottom lip stuck out when I said it. The bah humbug feeling wasn't just a result of confusion about the holiday itself, but the fact that the school board only gave me a week and a day to spend time with my family. The gift giving, however, has helped me to snap out of it for the most part. By this time tomorrow, barring unforeseen travel problems, I will be watching my niece sing carols at their church service and I'm sure I will be filled with the Spirit of Christmas.

The only thing that stands between me and that moment is the plane ride. Did I mention I have a phobia of flying? Actually, I got it from my mom. As the youngest, I picked up on all of her fears and carried them on myself. And my mom got her fear, understandably, from her best friend in grade school. Her friend was over for dinner and helping out in the kitchen when all of the sudden she said she had to leave and took off out the door. It took my mom's family a few minutes to figure out that the television was reporting on a plane crash, and that her father was the pilot of the plane.

Regardless of how I got it though, it doesn't make life great for me or my husband. I once forced him to fly all the way to Italy without peeing because he had to stay in his seat and hold my hand so that when we crashed we would be together. He bought me a great book in 2000 called The Fearless Flyer. It truly helped but it did not calm my greatest fear, which even pre-Sept. 11, was terrorist attacks. I was determined to conquer my fear. I felt like it was an insult to God not to trust that He would take care of me, and that only if it was His will would I die, and even then he would take care of me. But my determination only got me so far. I tried a variety of things, but by then it was a physical reaction -- even seeing people fly on television made my heart rate rise.

So, after Sept. 11 and the American Airlines crash the very next month, I talked to the psychiatrist at my church. My mom had used medication when my dad was working in England and she had to fly by herself to visit. He prescribed some medication. In some ways, I felt I had failed God, but I think He knew I had tried. The medication is great. It made a complete difference. And the really cool thing is that last time I flew I didn't even need it. I was able to overcome the physical part, and now I can control the rest mentally. I still have 1 1/2 pills left if I need them, but I'm determined to continue trying to go without. An additional thing that I think actually helped was a dream I had. Usually a few days before I fly, I will have a dream about planes crashing. A year or so ago, I had a dream that my plane was crashing. My husband and I hadn't found seats together and were sitting across from the aisle from one another. We reached out and held each others hands and were totally at peace. Somehow conquering that part in my subconscious helped me conquer it in real life too. Probably partly because I'm not really scared of dying, but of the terror that people must feel in the seconds before a crash.

I apologize if this blog doesn't seem very Christmas-y. Really, it is though. It's about looking to the future and knowing that things can improve. It's about hope and peace. At least it's supposed to be.

So, if there are any readers out there -- I wish you peace and love this Christmas. If you don't hear from me in the next few days, I'm shopping with my mom and eating Tex-Mex.