FOMO, or Fear Of Missing Out, was true for me when I had a lot of money. Now that I have little money, every decision is certain and deliberate, the purpose and value clear, and thus I have less regret of what I have not chosen, or even what I could not have. I have a better appreciation of the concept of timeliness, and trusting the process.
With the Christmas season, abundance is the theme. So much of everything. Extravagance and luxuries. Hyped-up expressions of joy and love. Noise and loudness. You're weird if you're too quiet. You can't possibly be really HAPPY and MERRY when you're quiet. Big gatherings and social interaction and performances. You're strange if you prefer small groups, worse if you expressed a desire to slip off by your lonesome self for a while. Heaven forbid that you actually want some ALONE time during the holidays. Simplicity is out. Even solemnity is out -- churches have turned themselves into some kind of variety show as extra programs are tacked into the schedule before the midnight mass, children of well-connected parishioners dancing and singing a modernised reinterpretation of the Nativity while cameras flashed and phone screens and tablet screens hovered in the air forcing everyone else to watch through a forest of gadgets. I miss the old days when there was simply a candlelit plain humble reenactment with simple makeshift costumes. Not a grand production. I remember the midnight masses then were held in the open air, and we all shivered in the cold but we were also excited, and we were rapt as we watched the shabbily dressed pair make their way through the crowd and onto the stage. Then the live burst of hallelujahs from the choir when the holy child is revealed from beneath the crafty folds of a blue and white robe, accompanied only by a simple church organ, none of the synthesised earache blasted through speakers. The voices rise over the music, carried out into the night.
Because it is a lean holiday, I have a keener appreciation of every extra that came in, things that I would have received casually if I had money, possibly even dismissed as nothing to get really excited about. It's easy to be that way when you know you have access to "better" things or that you can afford to get more of everything. The little things, the small gestures, tend to get drowned, their preciousness paling amidst the glitter and the fireworks.
I am almost beginning to think that the denial of my paycheck this year was a blessing in disguise to save me from being simply swept away by the mainstream of how things are done. It has been years since I had more than enough money in my hands at one time, and the tendency to be recklessly generous is high when everyone else around you is spending money like there's no tomorrow. Because I cannot spend, I stay mostly at home, only stepping out for errands. I count every coin that I spend. Most of my money has been reserved to provide for my parents' and the household's needs. I have no expectations of help or gifts. I learned a long time ago to just rely on what I can do and the Universe will send along what it sees fit and timely.
When Star Wars came out in the theatres I felt sad. I want to see it. But I cannot afford it. And even while I may be able to scrape the ticket money together, it is a bit sad to watch it alone. I have been secretly wishing someone would ask me out for a free dinner and a movie.
My mom found out and so tomorrow she will be treating me to lunch and then we will watch Star Wars. She said she has been wanting to give me an extra gift for all that I have spent to cover her recent medical bills, and for all that I kept covering for a lot of other things. Apparently she came to some money through gifts so she had more than enough to spare. Consider me like a joyful ten-year-old.
When we visited my grandmother, she gave me handmade gifts, since she also did not have much by way of money to spend on typical big gifts. My favourite is this recycled container tub that she decorated with cloth, fabric flowers, and a painted bird's skull.
Our Noche Buena (the midnight meal on the 24th, after the mass) used to be an overflowing feast. Now we stick to the basics : queso de bola, ham, fruit salad. We eat together, then we open gifts. Our gift-giving is practical as well -- we give each other wishlists to make sure we give what is most needed or wanted. Since we give and receive very, very few gifts, we want to make it count. So for my part, I know what I will get, but I don't know from whom, and if anyone would put in an extra surprise (my dad would sometimes put in a bit of extra cash, or my sister would put it a purely whimsical but also functional piece that alludes to a private joke). We know each other's gift budgets, but somehow that makes the gifts even more precious. We know that after having spent on these gifts, we all had much less for ourselves, or sometimes none at all.
We like the smallness and privacy of our celebration. It is our own tradition, to be by ourselves instead of merging with a bigger group of other families. In the past few years we have participated less and less in family reunions -- they were not what they were supposed to be for us. They were more like duty, and tests for endurance and patience. At some point we began to realise that life is too short to spend in customs that have lost all meaning and value and authenticity.
It will be Christmas Day soon. My pockets are empty. My social calendar is blank. But somehow, I find that my heart is full, and my spirit echoes the brilliance of that certain star in the sky.
"...abundance is not often associated with having little money. Instead we are taught that money IS freedom because it is the basis (we suppose) of free choice. Yet money can also blunt you to the power of simplicity and the potency of your own imagination."