Self sequestration…”I just remember that one string of lights”

I wish this was a nostalgic post where I was opining about a Charley Brown Christmas tree. But it isn’t.

The topic is kidnapping. Sequestration. Auto-sequestration, or self-kidnapping, is big business in Mexico where one can hide, communicate as if kidnapped, collect ransom money supplied by the charity of others, and disappear with the money.

Here, in this country, in this season, women are being kidnapped by their own emotions. Blue pill men run themselves thread bare as ransom for these self-kidnapped women, usually their wives. I will offer an example from my own recent days.

When we lived in Texas we had a stately home, plantation style, on a couple of acres, set back 50 yards or more from the road. It was painted white brick with lots of gables and a wrapped front porch. It was perfect for Griswaldian Christmas decoration. I threw the power switch yearly, sans a weird cousin. It was usually in the 70’s and dry and I was in my late 30’s, had fewer kids and animals, and far less responsibility with work and life in general. We home schooled, my wife stayed home, and our schedule allowed me to do something I didn’t even realize I was doing. That was to pay ransom to my wife’s emotional self kidnapping. I’d go so far as to say I think its part of what a Christian man is called to do as a form of loving his wife. Seeing to it she not suffer too greatly from this affliction is not an off limits duty.

But it is subject to reality.

This (my example) is, in life’s scheme, a trivial thing. But hopefully its illustrative enough that I get my point across, and some folks share their experiences with it.

These days we live suburban, not rural. Our house does not lend itself to the sort of decorating that one in Texas did, and therefore I have not even attempted to duplicate that. My wife, each year, reminds me that as a child her father would put one strand of lights across the gutter on their 1970’s three bedroom ranch home outside Fort Worth. That one strand of lights, as she recalls now (key point) meant everything to her. So, Ive put some lights in bushes and bought one of those balloons with an animation that has a reindeer helping Santa out of a chimney. Its been our contribution to our version of Live Oak Lane (a  street in Austin TX famous for its Christmas decorations). We don’t rate.

This year, with wife in college, 2 kids in college, one in high school, a broken arm on one, basketball for my eight year old girl, a schedule so insane that only recently have I embraced sanity again (for a very specific reason), freezing rain and ice, and last night tornadoes and several inches of rain, late as usual with our shopping which is not over the top but still takes time, a recent blessing of a promotion, etc. etc. , Ive not placed any lights outside. It is Sunday evening, the 22nd, and my wife said we need to go buy net lights so it will be easier.

I said no. I do not attempt to convince her beyond explaining that, if I go get lights, wade the soupy muddy mess that our flower beds are out front, run these lights, and anchor that balloon, we are leaving on the 25th in the afternoon, so its all being done for 2.5 days of enjoyment and I’m not willing to do that for the reason I suspect it is wanted.

“But when I was little my dad hung the one string of lights, and little eight year old Empatha, she will notice their lack and it will bother her.”

My wife demonstrated being kidnapped by her own emotions. This is a perfect example of her wanting to feel like she did this thing that she believes will make our daughter feel the way my wife has convinced herself she felt about that one string of lights. I believe this tendency afflicts almost all women. Its an urge to vicariously experience something nostalgic that in truth didn’t ever exist as recalled in the first place. I believe that because I know women who would not stop decorating until the day its time to take the decorations down.  They are slave to the emotions they want to feel in the imaginary yearnings of their children. I witnessed it this past summer as a friends daughter married and the mother ran the father (and me as helper) to exhaustion adding “just one more thing because (fill in nostalgic memory here). This is what pastors call the gift of mercy. This is what counselors call a man servant leading. Its a perfect way to show the folly of that expression. How is a man leading if he goes along with things, the consequences of which, he and others bear, and the reward of which is nonexistent.

Marketers know about this condition and they maximize the auto sequestration of women to these feelings. Fewer women fall for the marketing and go purchase things than fall generally into this type of trap regarding things that are not necessarily about buying stuff. But they do fall into some kind of mental control, like automatons chasing made up remembered emotions.

Am I a total scrooge for even raising this point? Is this what Christmas, or any sentimental time,  is about, scratching itches that are born of  bites and rashes that never existed in the first place?

Its one thing to not go along with it. Its another to wonder, how can a man actually penetrate that thinking and avert some of it? I dropped it in front of you, anyone picking it up? How can men teach efficiency? There are traps. If he refuses to cater to these things and he has a good wife, she will smile and do them for herself. This has unintended consequences. Other things get put back, left undone, and dominoes fall, the husband is somewhere in the sequence. Its a shell game of time management.

The more I encounter these things the more convinced I become of the need for strong men, unafraid. Not to avoid hanging some Christmas lights. No. But to not allow 60 years of married life to go by in a blur of kidnapped emotions.

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15 thoughts on “Self sequestration…”I just remember that one string of lights”

  1. I was semi-lucky in that I put my foot down year one. I insisted that we ‘build our own traditions’. I was helped in that my mother-in-law was so over the freakin’ top about ‘we *must* do this, and we *must* do that, and I just CANNOT REST unless…’ etc. A real shrew about it.
    Why does this help? You’ll see.
    I enjoy making my own traditions with my own family, but I must watch out for that, too. Just last week was a major test. For 3 years in a row I put up lights on Gaudete Sunday. This year I told her ‘I have a different job where I can set my hours. so I can do it Monday, that way I am not doing it on the sabbath’.
    She was visibly unhappy,
    ‘But you always put them up on Gaudete Sunday’
    ‘Because I had to. Now that I don’t I won’t’
    My oldest son (almost 17) called me Monday
    ‘Dad, I hate to bother you at work but Mom wants to know where the yard lights are’
    ‘Why?’
    ‘She wants to make sure they are all working so you can get replacements on the way home’
    ‘Good idea. But I forbid you or your mother to place lights until I get home’
    ‘OK’
    He checks and we need 2 new strands. I get them on the way home and pull into the driveway to see my wife hanging lights on the porch.
    My son meets me and says ‘I told her what you said’
    I just went up, took the lights from her, and started taking them down
    ‘What are you doing?’, she asked, ‘It took me 20 minutes to do that!’
    ‘Yeah, and it is done wrong. They are slack and you have a plug *inside* the rain gutter. I might as well just short these out myself. I know the boy told you what I said. Go inside and wait for me’
    I took finished taking them down,. went in, changed clothes, had some coffee, and refused to talk about the lights.
    Then my oldest and I went outside and had a nice talk about sports and gaming while we strung the new lights. Took maybe 15 minutes, even when I ran a cord to a 6′ evergreen in the yard and we put lights on it like a Christmas tree. The wife came out,
    ‘Ooooh! I like the tree!’
    ‘thanks.’
    ‘And the new lights look great on the porch’
    ‘thanks’
    ‘But where are the lights in the bushes?’
    ‘with the tree it looks better, gives us a less cluttered line, and isn’t too busy. Plus we lose 2-3 strands a year but only from the bushes.
    ‘But if there aren’t lights in the bushes it will bug me’
    I reply with ‘we *must* do that or you CANNOT REST?’
    Long pause, then she said,
    ‘Let me get used to it’
    next night as I enjoy a cigar and port with her on the porch. She says,
    ‘You were right. No lights in the bushes is better’

  2. My family of origin had almost no holiday traditions. We did put up a tree and had a family dinner. The yearly tree ended rather abruptly when I turned 13 (I was the youngest). We started putting a little mini one up on the coffee table that year. That was also the year that the gifts became cash; $200 to be exact so that we could go buy whatever it was we actually wanted. Not a whole lot there to be nostalgic about.

    My husband’s family on the other hand, had lots of Christmas traditions, and those are what we do. It is a yearly struggle here, the way he enjoys Christmas and all the *stuff* that goes with it. Contrast that with the fact that I have to really get into doing it before I can start to enjoy it a little bit.

    The more I encounter these things the more convinced I become of the need for strong men, unafraid. Not to avoid hanging some Christmas lights. No. But to not allow 60 years of married life to go by in a blur of kidnapped emotions.

    And yes, though I’m sure it seems that I often miss the point completely, I know this wasn’t about Christmas lights per se. I agree that strong men, unafraid are desperately needed in families. Even if I had a long list of family traditions that I clung to, we still would have ended up mostly adopting his. ‘Cause he’s the man like that.

  3. Yea I decorate the you know what out of my house. Got a whole candy land theme going that has won couple of small/ local awards.

    But women are born to be slaves, to their emotions, to a bad boy, the government or corporate masters etc etc.

  4. My wife’s family are happiest when they are adding to a list that is already impossible to achieve, if its things that are “for the children”. Code for it making them feel good

  5. Empath:
    “If he refuses to cater to these things and has a good wife, she will smile and do them herself. But this will have unintended consequences.”

    If it has ‘unintended’ consequences, I’d have to stop and question whether this was ‘a good wife’ or not. If she was paying attention to managing the household, and working for its benefit I don’t see why it wouldn’t have gotten done without all the side-drama. It sounds to me like the real trap being set here is baited strongly with misandry: something doesn’t get done, so the man can be blamed and shamed.

    If I were in your situation, I would take a trip out of town tomorrow for about a week (alone). Let them all find out how Christmas feels without you there at all and maybe they’ll learn the value of a man in the house the hard way.

    It sounds extreme, I know, but the more I read of relationships, the more convinced I am that women are never going to stop treating men as expendable until we teach them how expendability feels.

  6. @Empath:
    “How is a man leading if he goes along with things, the consequences of which, he and others bear, and the reward of which is nonexistent.”

    Friends of ours laughingly shared a story with us the other night. The husband was rushing around town ticking off a checklist of Christmas wishes his wife had given him. In the heat (Southern Hemisphere:)) and madness of it all, he stopped to call his wife and yelled that things had to change, and that next year he won’t do it, that they’re going the way of Hannah’s family…

    While our friends were recounting this incident, the husband was expressing how done with the pagan tradition he was…. while asking his wife for directions on wrapping the gifts as instructed!

    The wife said she’d happily stop except that their daughters would be so disappointed and pressured at school.

    Great post Empathalogism, my observations echo your understanding that it’s an emotional bubble that draws women in every time. Traditions are hard to leave behind when feelings are involved. Look at Rachel taking the idols from her Uncle Laban’s house….

    When we decided not to celebrate any pagan festivals (Christmas, Easter, Halloween) in this household, my husband was both relieved and somewhat surprised that I’d be willing to give it all up. Same with doing birthday parties…. he’d assumed that I’d be emotionally connected to the whole thing, and was pleasantly surprised that I was ok with being very low key.
    I think men like to keep their wives happy, sometimes at a huge cost. Think of Solomon led astray by wanting to please his foreign wives….
    Seems to me that women are very influential with what is or isn’t important in any given household.

  7. No. This was Scrooge: he denied his employees basic human comforts, he was cold and unpleasant to his remaining family when they paid him simple courtesies, and was rude and dismissive towards the poor. Christmas is often so ridiculous I can’t stand it.

  8. My mom was a bit like this. Huge tree, tons of decorations and presents, party on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day; the works. It was definitely a change for me in marrying my husband who came from a background of no tree, minimal decorations and gifts, etc. Honestly we pretty much still do things his way, as in no tree etc., but he is ok with me saving up in the Christmas club to buy gifts for the children. But I would say we pretty much do things his way though, which has been an adjustment for me as I like all the hoopla to an extent lol. He really threw down this year with his sister as she has always pressured for exchanging of gifts for all of us, and we have four children and so does she. This year he told her “No, we are done” and so that was that. Even though I was glad not to have the expense, I missed the excitement of the children on Christmas Eve getting to open all those gifts.

  9. @Empath:
    “How is a man leading if he goes along with things, the consequences of which, he and others bear, and the reward of which is nonexistent.”

    Friends of ours laughingly shared a story with us the other night. The husband was rushing around town ticking off a checklist of Christmas wishes his wife had given him. In the heat (Southern Hemisphere:)) and madness of it all, he stopped to call his wife and yelled that things had to change, and that next year he won’t do it, that they’re going the way of Hannah’s family…

    While our friends were recounting this incident, the husband was expressing how done with the pagan tradition he was…. while asking his wife for directions on wrapping the gifts as instructed!

    The wife said she’d happily stop except that their daughters would be so disappointed and pressured at school.

    Great post Empathalogism, my observations echo your understanding that it’s an emotional bubble that draws women in every time. Traditions are hard to leave behind when feelings are involved. Look at Rachel taking the idols from her Uncle Laban’s house….

    When we decided not to celebrate any pagan festivals (Christmas, Easter, Halloween) in this household, my husband was both relieved and somewhat surprised that I’d be willing to give it all up. Same with doing birthday parties…. he’d assumed that I’d be emotionally connected to the whole thing, and was pleasantly surprised that I was ok with being very low key.
    I think men like to keep their wives happy, sometimes at a huge cost. Think of Solomon led astray by wanting to please his foreign wives….
    Seems to me that women are very influential with what is or isn’t important in any given household.

  10. Oh and this ties in with memories being ‘untouchable’… a sort of shrine is made to preserve them, a snapshot in time played out forever after because of the emotional connection.

    Well friend that’s lovely you remember your mum/dad/auntie whoever doing such and such every year that left a deep impression on you, but at some point I’m going to question the sacred ritual of regurgitating the tradition.

  11. You know Hannah, I used to really have conflicting emotions about the lack of traditions in my family of origin. Starting from my mother’s passing and forward with other struggles, we just didn’t make that kind of thing a priority.

    We were about making it. Not materially, as my father was always a more than adequate provider. I mean making it emotionally and spiritually. And then he married a woman who was the exact same way. Young and beautiful, but not tied to anything other than doing what needed to be done to make it.

    That “lack” in my life made it much easier for me to embrace my husband’s traditions and follow his lead on things like this. I had a ton of other baggage and emotional shrines and whatnot. More than a enough as he can attest to. But there were very no idealized memories that he needed to reproduce in order for me to be happy.

  12. @Elspeth:
    “Even if I had a long list of family traditions that I clung to, we still would have ended up mostly adopting his. ‘Cause he’s the man like that.”

    This is very rare, and is part of what makes you completely set apart from the VAST majority of women Elspeth.
    You are fortunate that your father and step mother raised you this way and that this comes almost naturally to you. Your husband is a blessed man to have a woman like you. And your daughters are in good hands with parents who plan to send them out in the world equipped with the same tools they have. May the Lord continue to bless you and your household!

  13. Hannah,
    I am not trying to be confrontational, so please accept this with love.
    I am a systematic theologian (a degree and everything!) and Christmas, Easter, and even Halloween are *not*, and never were, pagan. The idea that they are was mostly invented well within modern times and popularized by secularists trying to discredit them and ‘wiccans’ trying to appropriate them.

  14. Aquinas Dad:
    I don’t know about Easter and Halloween, but the 12 Days of Christmas were grafted directly onto the Roman Feast of the Saturnalia. It began after December 24th (the shortest day of the year, and year’s end by the Roman calendar). Those days were a festival that filled in days from the defective Roman calendar system.

    The Roman Catholic Church celebrates September 8th, as the Feast of the Birth of Mary. Actually, there’s some evidence that date was the original date of Jesus’ birth.

  15. Eric,
    Just a few problems with your statement:
    1) The shortest day of the year is the 21st or 22nd of December, not the 24th
    2) Saturnalia was a 1 day festival on the 17th of December. Although regions often had gladitorial games and such until the 23rd, a week later, the festical itself was 1 day
    3) The date of 17 December is from the Julian calendar, not the Roman, and the Julian had no festivals to correct the (much smaller) errors.
    And the placement of Christmas on December 25th is not meant to be the specific day of Christ’s birth, it is based on liturgical considerations

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