Yielding Sweetness

On Tuesday I learned about a Christmas tradition that I absolutely could not believe was real, despite my source being someone that I trust to tell me the truth.

In Catalonia, families decorate a log—the Tio de Nadal, or the log of Christmas–with a smiley face, a hat, and 2 short front legs. The children “feed” the log all December, and then on Christmas Eve or Christmas Day the adults place a blanket on the log’s back end and the children sing a song, Caga Tio, while they beat the log with sticks. To wit:

You have no doubt noticed that it appears that the candy and toys that the children are running to gather appeared from the back end of the log, as if the log pooped them out. Well, good eye, because you’re right. These are the lyrics to Caga Tio:

Shit, log,
Shit nougats (turrón),
Hazelnuts and mató cheese,
If you don’t shit well,
I’ll hit you with a stick,
Shit, log!

I love this idea so much. I cannot possibly wrap my head completely around it having only learned about it a day ago. It is a metaphor for, well, everything.

Pressure is supposed to be a refining process; after all, diamonds come from all kinds of things:  pressure, heat, subduction zones, meteorites. And 2020 was a year of pressure where we were handed a world full of natural hazards and from it we did our best to create diamonds. The pandemic was raging, vaccines and treatments were still just a future blip, and we tried our best to produce diamonds, as tiny as they were.

2021, on the other hand, is just a shitshow. Vaccines were rolled out, things got a lot better, and then everything changed. The huge number of people who won’t get vaccinated stopped the progress toward a kind of normality, and then omicron showed up. There were booster shots and effective treatments, and now there are antivirals on the horizon and yet Covid cases are reaching all-time highs. And we’re all too tired to make any more fucking diamonds.

I noticed that the Twitter thread that introduced me to the Tio de Nadal had another tweet in it, so I went back to read it. And then it all made sense.

The image of beating the shit out of 2021 is very appealing, isn’t it? And the image of that beating eliciting torrone (I LOVE torrone) is both disarming and delightful, and just like a yield of sweetness should be.

My First Draft colleagues are looking back over 2021, and both Adrastos and JamieO have published their assessments. I wasn’t sure what mine was going to look like, but once I came across the El Tio de Nadal thread I knew want I wanted to say.

Life is often shitty, and this year has really tried its best to be worse than 2021. And while a lot of us were lucky enough to have the emotional reserves to finish out 2020 with some bright spots–and I was one of those lucky people–I hit the wall in 2021.

And so when I started beating the Poop Log, I found in the pile of gifts a deeper relationship with my mom. I’ve always loved her but we are so much alike that we constantly butt heads. For the first time ever I took my deepest pain and frustration and discouragement to her and she gave me the gifts of her empathy, encouragement, and bedrock love. It turned my entire year around.

Now don’t get me wrong—I still want to beat the shit out of 2021 while it’s still here. But I also scooped up the gifts of the Poop Log and know that what Reverend Perry wishes for all of us is both possible and has possibly has already happened for you this year. (He’s also a great follow on Twitter for checking in with your spiritual life.)

Somehow with all of the Anthony Bourdain stuff I have watched and read over the years, I missed this (h/t Benjamin Perry). See you next year. Joy be with you all.