In A Little Town Called Bethel(hem)…

Small town America. A town of roughly 18,500 people. There is a nice downtown with quaint shops, a true homey feeling.

And yet, there is something that divides this town.

For years, decades even, the town has displayed a nativity scene during the holidays on P.T. Barnum Square, a triangle piece of land right smack in the middle of the charming downtown. It is where almost all the town events occur. It houses pizza joints, our special ice cream shop and a bridal store among others. I am constantly over there since my gym is right across the street.

The nativity has been an icon to the downtown area, and now, now it is the source of the resident split. This year there is a new nativity:

Creche

I am not going to lie, it is beautiful. Funded by a GoFundMe and several residents, it sits right in front of the Christmas tree. Although breathtaking, it is huge. I mean big, bordering on massive. I think it is because of this reason that certain residents became not irate, but annoyed that other holidays weren’t being represented while the nativity just grew bigger. One resident, an Atheist, decided to submit an application to display a banner on P.T. Barnum Square:

athiest banner

Well, this caused quite an uproar on the local Facebook pages and within the town itself. This is where true colors showed. This was when I realized we are a town that is divided. There is only love if, if you are a Christian, according to many residents.

A good number of residents didn’t understand why the Atheists would want to put anything on the Square… after-all, they do not celebrate anything. A few told the anonymous Atheist banner submitter to move out of Bethel, that they do not belong there. With all the recent antisemitic news, I, a Jew, began to feel uncomfortable in my own town. People were becoming just downright cruel.

But where this is dark, there is light, right?! Some of us religious minorities spoke up. Inclusion! If you can have a creche on a public, town-owned, piece of property, why not have other things?!

We discussed a possible Menorah (Hanukkah candle holder) and a Kinara (Kwanzaa candle holder). Those of us that wanted inclusion were renewed with honor and strength in the possibility of displaying our faiths, of increasing the knowledge of them to the majority of the town residents who are Christian.

But, the town realized that with all this, they needed a rule. In the first meeting held for the Atheist banner, the room was divided. Majority felt it wasn’t needed, that it was a way for the Atheists to call out themselves (because a nativity on the green doesn’t scream Christianity?!). They thought it ruined the holiday spirit of Bethel, ruined the Christmas feeling of Bethel. Back and forth, back and forth… the good news was that after this first meeting, many people understood the Atheist resident’s desire in the banner, the need to include every member of this town regardless of religious belief. By the second meeting, the banner was approved. A committee has now been formed to look at the long term guidelines to displaying things on the Square.  It has been about 2 weeks since the approval and the only thing on P.T. Barnum Square is the creche & lit Christmas tree. Where is the banner?

I had mixed feelings on all of this. I am Jewish by birth. I am not religious by any means but I take pride in my religion/ethnicity. I light the Menorah every year. I make challah and will bake Hamentaschen for Purim. I love my given Hebrew name (Shalva Maera). I also married a Catholic. He is not religious either which is good because there were no arguments when our daughter was born of which religion to raise her. I have respect for all religions and their practices. I am a very fair and just person. So where did I stand?

I think the nativity is beautiful. It is a great symbol for those that are Christian and deserves to be displayed. But where to display it? The town owns the Square. By displaying a religious symbol on something that is town owned, is this not overstepping the separation between church and state? If the town committee starts allowing all religions to display things during the holiday, what happens when we run out of room on the Square? Are the nativity and banner grandfathered in at their size and everyone else’s displays become smaller?

Ultimately, I am with a minority group of residents concerning a certain solution. Because the land is town owned and because it is not a big piece of land to start displaying everyone’s holiday, I believe it should just be left empty. Leave the walkways and benches. Leave the foliage and landscaping. Leave it to its natural beauty. Move the nativity to one of the many churches.

If you can’t include everyone, then include no one.

When Specific Dates Are Excessively Triggering

I’ve been a Depression sufferer for most of my life. Because of this, I tend to live in the past.  At the moment I am coming up on certain months in my life that cause me guilt, anxiety, regret, and deep sadness… 

October 26th (2014): The day Tyler moved into our house

October 31st (2015): The day I left my new job early to rush my little boy to the Pediatrician because he wouldn’t eat or drink.

November 12th (2014): The day Tyler got kicked out of the first daycare because he wouldn’t follow their schedule. 
November 16th (2006): The day I admitted myself into the hospital for Severe Postpartum Depression and Anxiety 
December 5th (2014): The day at work where I had my cell in one hand talking to Birth to 3 about Tyler and my work phone in the other talking to the nurse at Sophia’s school about an anxiety outburst. 
December 30th (2014): The day I went to the ER for a severe panic attack. 
December 31st  (2014): The day I moved out of my house to my parents waiting on Tyler to be removed from our house.  The day my psychotic break started.  The day I didn’t want to leave work early to go home.  The day the delusions took over. 
January 2nd (2015): The day Tyler left us. 
January 3rd (2015): The first day I started to die inside. 
January 14th (2015): The day I went to the Behavioral Crisis Center at the hospital and spent the night there. 
January 15th (2015): The day I knew I could not be left alone by myself.  The day I went back to the Behavioral Crisis Center.  The day I laid on the bed there and tried really hard to come up with a way to removed a screw from a table and jam it in my head.  The day I admitted myself again to short term psych. 
I try hard every year to look at how far I’ve come, but these dates and the images associated with them instantly pop into my head if I don’t keep my brain busy.  It’s amazing how quickly I can forget the good.  How images of my daughter’s euphoric birth are pushed aside with memories of the postpartum months that followed.  I sit with them, the hurt, the pain, the shear agony, ignoring the good.  Each year it does get slightly better.  EMDR therapy has made a world of difference in how I process these memories.  
Then the dates quickly approach.
Somehow, even with all my effort to push away these negative moments, there is always a moment where I find myself sitting with the anger and the frustration, and of course the guilt, and it seems nearly impossible to focus on the good.  So many happy memories.  
… An intensely cute little cherub of a boy, a dimple in one cheek… instead my focus goes directly to how in the end he was a huge trigger for my Anxiety and Depression. 
… Hearing him speak, seeing him learn how to eat solid food, seeing him discover how to love and loving him back…  to the point it hurt so much to let him go.  To the point I put my Mental Health aside again to try to save my family of four.  To the point I almost sacrificed my life as I admitted defeat, as I raised my white flag and surrendered to my Anxiety and Depression… 
The struggle is in how long I let the negative memories sit with me.  How long to let them dwell in my house, eat my food, drink some tea.  The longer they sit with me, the more deeply rooted they become, and the harder the struggle to pull myself out of them.  I am still working on this step.  Still having issues letting the guilt I have for myself over these events go completely.  After decades of dealing with Depression, I am learning how to live with it, instead of fighting to remove it from my body, mind and soul.  That latter battle is pointless.  It will never fully leave.  I am learning to control it, instead of it controlling me.  
As each of these dates approach, I will let in all the emotions and memories and will work my hardest at not letting the negative ones become permanent house guests.