Well, the holiday season is underway again. I’m weary of it.
I wish I had the internal resources to approach the holidays with the joy and anticipation children have naturally, and which the advertisers try to generate with their Santa clad models and sparkly champagne, with smiling families all around a turkey (and if you’re one of the newly defunct liberals, certainly acknowledging that their are “issues” and “unacknowledged grief” but agreeing magnanimously to set that aside so we can stuff ourselves).
I’m ready for a diet, and I might begin on Thanksgiving.
I recall a conversation with a woman at a church I attended once; she was probably in her sixties or early seventies. I had young children at the time, and of course I was in the midst of planning the Santa visit and wondering which matching dresses I could pick for my adorable daughters. I must have asked her what she was doing for Christmas, and she looked at me somewhat ruefully. “I’d be fine if we did this every five years” she said. “That’s about right for me.”
I haven’t enjoyed Christmas for years now. It’s possible that I am a Grinch, or that my Jewish roots, long suppressed, are exerting themselves. Perhaps I need a Day of Atonement before the winter holidays so this natural tendency to ruminate on my sins could have formal expression. Or…if I could just focus on the True Christmas, the gift of new life and a savior for all? And the best values of America for Thanksgiving, the American Holiday?
I’ve got to admit, after this election, that last statement seems like a sorry joke. And I sort of resent having to bolster myself to see through the trivial in these events. Where’s the heart? And am I the one that has to dig through the nonsense to find it?
I’m aware that I am weighed down by loss and grief which by social rules forbid expression at the happy holidays. In fact, my most joyful holiday in the past few years , (one I’ve always liked a lot, in fact) is Halloween, the holiday that acknowledges pretending and relationships with those no longer with us. I can say out loud “hey, all these people I love, they’re dead!” and everyone says “yes! they are!”
We don’t want too much of that dead people stuff, though, and so we move on to the joy and smiling, and the unacknowledged pretending and family truces.
The mindfulness and meditation movement coaches gratitude, and I agree in theory and try hard in practice. I will say it here-I have much to be grateful for. I wish gratitude outweighed anxiety. I am anxious in the arrival of the holidays, because I will be sad.
This year, both by choice and coincidence I will actually escape, or at least I will be on plane on Christmas day, returning from a pilgrimage I hope will put a positive spin on a very challenging year. What is remarkable is that even though I would love to skip Christmas, I feel a sense of loss for the very thing I want to avoid. How sad not to have your family all round you at Christmas, brothers, sisters, parents, children, spouse. How doubly sad to realize that those relationships are absent, distant, or isolated to a spiritual realm. The plane actually makes little difference; there are not that many people to celebrate with, and certainly not the people I miss most.
But here is a bit of gratitude: Halloween comes every year.