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Por Lo Que Soy
by Raven Rodriguez

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By the time this edition comes out, Christmas will have come and gone. Presents will have been opened, eggnog will have been guzzled, drunken relatives will have behaved inappropriately and more than a few gifts will have been returned, exchanged or re-wrapped and given to someone else.

One thing I did notice this season that was strikingly different than the ones before was my surprising sense of festivity. This year I was actually quite into the whole holiday season, decorating the house with snowmen and little Santas, hanging frosted fruit from glittery purple garland in the kitchen and even taking our daughters out to a tree farm to chop down our own Christmas tree.

Oh, I don't like to pretend. Christmas for me has lost all its religious meaning, which I know used to piss off that lady seeing how she tried so hard to raise me Catholic. To me Christmas is the really GOOD excuse to spend money on those you love. Not that we don't do that any other time during the year but there's something about Christmas that makes overspending and overindulging quite acceptable.

Being that this was the first Holiday Season I did not spend with that lady and her satanic offspring, I expected to feel a little saddened and perhaps even a little guilty. Instead, I felt liberated and more joyous than I had in years. Certainly my own little family has brought me more happiness than I could ever say but I don't think I was ever truly able to enjoy the gifts of love they gave me because I always had the "mother" cloud of doom and bitterness hanging over me. This year was so defiantly different. It felt as though I was given a new pair of eyes and everything was shinier, cleaner and more radiant and beautiful than ever before. My children have reaped the benefits of my no longer feeling obligated to a family that was poisoning me. I have been able to dote on them and pour all my love, enthusiasm and affection on them to a degree that, I am ashamed to say, I hadn't been able to do before.

I soon realized that the best Christmas/Birthday gift I was able to give myself this year (yep, being born three days before Christmas meant getting jipped out of two presents every year so why should this be any different) was the gift of faith. Faith that I despite what I was taught, what was beaten into me as a child, what I was made to believe and forcefully made to swallow, I proved that lady wrong.

I wasn't weak as she often told me I was. I wasn't stupid as she often made me feel as though I were. I wasn't ugly, a mistake, her ruin, her punishment on earth or any of those things she would belt me with to make herself feel better about why her life was as it was. But most importantly, I was no longer hers.

By the time you read this, this will have been the best Christmas of my life because I spent it with my beautiful wife and my two incredible daughters. I will have spent it in comfort knowing that I have gotten all that I was meant to get out of the family that wanted to bring me down with it.

I will not have succumbed to being one of them. And to know "them" as well as I do, you'd know that was the best Christmas gift anyone could have ever given me.

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