Happy Christmas? Thoughts on the holiday season.
I have been working on making the Ministry of Happiness posts more consistent, the schedule is supposed to look something like this:
Monday – Happy News
Tuesday – Art related posts (art, poetry, music, photography, etc…)
Wednesday – Resources for living a happier life
Thursday – Adventure related (Appalachian Trail, travel, other hiking, etc…)
Friday – Something light and entertaining
Saturday – Reruns, hey TV does it, why can’t I? A day to recycle older posts and spruce them up a bit
Sunday – Personal posts about my own life
Of course during the holiday season I also post something everyday to make sure those who struggle a bit with the season, like me, have something to try to pick them up a bit. So December means lots of posts, currently I’m doing a 12 days of Christmas set along with the Holiday Season Posts.
I sat down last night to do my normal Sunday night post and frankly I didn’t have it in me. I don’t want to call it writers block, I just wasn’t motivated to write about any particular thing. Eventually I caved in, pulled up episodes of Justified and vegged out for the night. I’m in one of those spaces where I just feel blah, it has a lot to do with this time of year. I know that, because I’m eating and sleeping well, working out six days a week. I’ve lost five pounds since coming here in November and that’s after also putting on a couple of pounds of muscle. I’ve fought past the surprising anxiety I was caught up in after my granny’s death. The weather has been spectacular, I’m writing and reading every day, I’m at the beach at least once a week.
This time of year just sucks for me, always has. I dread “Christmastime”, it is the time of year I feel most alone. The only way I can explain the feeling is if you were to go outside, someplace where there is real winter, go stand in a darkened field or on a darkened road with no lights around and just stand there alone in the cold. That is what this time of year feels like to me. I think it stems from the feeling that I’ve always been an alien. In my life I very often nearly fit someplace, I’ve yet to truly find my community. I’ve encountered members, I count them as some of my best friends, but a whole community of those folks to tap into has always eluded me.
The holidays drive home the fantasy of 1950’s America and the Leave it to Beaver nuclear family. We all see scenes of perfectly decorated trees, happy families drinking eggnog, perfectly wrapped presents under the trees. Happy smiling faces open presents on Christmas morning and the gifts are always, “just what I wanted, how did you know?” Beautiful Christmas dinners with hams and turkeys, long tables covered in crisp white table clothes, family members happily conversing and gathering that night to sing carols around the piano. Fuck, in my family, and I mean the whole extended family, I don’t think anyone even owned a piano and I’ve never heard anyone in my family sing a Christmas carol.
The reality of Christmas always was, grudgingly dragging out old musty smelling decorations, knotted strings of lights, fights over how much tinsel to put on the tree. There were no family gatherings of folks sitting around sipping eggnog, holiday gatherings meant far too much booze and inevitable arguments, Christmas trees fell down. Christmas dinner with extended happy family members getting along was a fantasy rarely if ever attempted. Don’t get me wrong, sprinkled throughout my Christmas history are shinning wonderful moments. The greatest first kiss of my life was a peppermint schnapps filled moment of bliss while watching Rudolph the Red Nose Reindeer. Unfortunately those moments are dulled by the drape of discord, drunkenness and argument. It always seemed the pressure of the perfect holiday season combined with alcohol inevitably brought out the worst in folks. Add in times without enough money, tired hard-working people who felt like they weren’t upholding the Leave it to Beaver standards, the inevitable snow and ice storms of winter and quite frankly it’s a Christmas Miracle no one was ever murdered.
As a smart and curious child I’d busted the Santa myth before the age of five. But I was still young enough to believe that everyone else was having those perfect Christmases. This was further driven home by how damn excited everyone seemed to get about the holidays. As you get older you realize a lot of that is fronting and bullshit, reality is everyone’s family struggles with its own level of inbred insanity. Things are never as Hallmark would like us to believe. Of course we all put on the show for visitors and try to continue the illusion, it comes from a good hopeful place. By time I was old enough to pierce the illusion I was already fully disillusioned and overly cynical about the season.
The kicker of course being New Year’s Eve, as our neighbor Jack Wrigley called it, amateur night. I didn’t get that until I got older and bought into the idea of the New Year’s Eve party. You know, the party where people who hardly drink are given societal permission to get drunk off of their ass and become belligerent drunken messes. For some reason, once they do, I seem to inevitably be their target, I grew tired of that scene very early on in my twenties.
So my memories of this season are shit. I can recall few good Christmas and New Years, the first Christmas I hosted in Tennessee does count among them. A very wild New Year’s Eve in Times Square when I was 19 another one. But most have left me depressed and lonely.
The trick of course, is not to wallow in the morass that the holidays have become for me but to find ways to make them better. That’s what I have endeavored to do, this year I’m purposely staying out of the cold, I’ll spend Christmas at the beach for three days. New Year’s Eve will be spent writing and listening to music as it normally is and that has become a night I enjoy for that reason. I work very hard to try to help make the holidays better for my nieces and nephews, the one part of the season I like is gift giving and I work hard to find them gifts they’ll like. One of the biggest things I have done is the Ministry of Happiness Holiday Posts and putting myself out there for others who feel the same way. My holiday posts include my email address for those who need someone to talk to even if it is through email.
Likely I’ll never find my way out from under the weight of the season but it has become soooo much better over the years. This time of year used to mean fairly deep depression for me, now I get times like last night where I’m just blah for a bit. The advice I give on this blog goes two ways and I have far more tools now than I ever did before to bring my mood back, including working on the blog. Today, as I sit in the library writing this, the sun is shining, I just smiled at an old lady in a wheel chair with 10 books in her lap, she smiled back, her eyes lit up and she said, “I like to read.” A smile can be an amazing thing.
What I want most for people to take from this window into my Grinch-like Christmas existence is to just keep your eyes open. In America it’s ok to dislike any other holiday except Christmas. I can tell you from much personal experience, show any dislike for this season and you get a lot of crappy comments. What’s wrong with you, why do you have to be such a Scrooge, the script we follow in American society works very hard to reinforce the Hallmark, Leave it to Beaver, Norman Rockwell view of the holidays. Some people really struggle this time of year, they appreciate your invitations to your house even if they will never accept. Instead of running them down for their lack of Christmas cheer, just tell them you hope this is a good year for them. In this time of insane busyness, shopping, holiday parties, and gifting try to find a little space for kindness to those who don’t enjoy this time of year, folks who may actually be hurting. These folks are incredibly good at hiding in plain sight, so please, for their sake, just keep your eyes open a bit more than usual and have a wonderful Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, Winter Solstice, Festivus, New Years and any other holiday you celebrate as well as a very happy day my friends ~ Rev Kane