Thursday, December 23, 2010

'Tis the Season

The Holidays Are Here (And We’re Still at War) - Brett Dennen (mp3)
Who Took the Merry Out of Christmas - The Staple Singers (mp3)

My wife loves Christmas. She loves holidays in general. She’s a holiday person. But she loves loves loves Christmas.

I, on the other hand, am what people might call a Fuddy Duddy. I am generally opposed to the prejudice of treating one calendar day of the year differently than other days. While I happily grant exception to Christmas, I do so noting the exception. Birthdays don’t count, because those weren’t invented to honor some Pagan tradition or to generate higher sales returns in stores. Anniversaries, same deal. These are personal holidays and thus exempted.

(Note: I liked birthdays a lot more when 400 people didn’t wish other people a happy birthday by writing on a wall. Like I said. Fuddy Duddy.)

Seriously, I’m always twice as surprised and pleased by a gift or kindness done to me on a random and unpredictable day than one done to honor some Special Occasion that feels like part of the queue. The unexpected gift doesn’t get lost in the hubbub of the event.

When my father died, I sincerely appreciated every person who came to the visitation and shook my hand and hugged me. But the most salient memories of my friends and their support came during completely unexpected moments. A teacher and I left an evening meeting at the same time, and he asked how I was doing, and he shared his own struggles after the death of his father. An older man from church, a month or so later, came to me crying and saying he thought of my father every time he passed a certain area of our church sanctuary.

They were outlier moments. They stick. But I digress.

Back to my wife. She is miserable right now. Christmas means so much to her that she wants it to be everything. She wants everyone to be happy. She wants to see everyone as much as possible. Everything. Everyone. All. These are dangerous words. They are doomed to failure.

Every Christmas, she loses years of her stress life worrying about her family, worrying about our finances, worrying about the tree and the windows and the kids. For something she loves so much, it sure as heck creates a lot of worry and grief. I pick on my wife, but she’s in a very large boat with millions of people who seem to love these days so much yet find themselves miserable.

Perhaps this makes me a wee bit sociopathic. Don’t care too much, or you’ll be sad. This could be said of many things. Marriage. Children. Jobs. Hobbies. Dreams. But I guess I’m comfortable giving those things my emotions, risking my tears and blood pressure on them. Holidays, on the other hand, don’t feel worth it to me.

I don’t think this makes me a Scrooge or a Grinch, because I don’t hate Christmas. I love it. I love the midnight church service and the presents under the tree and Handel’s Messiah and cards with pictures of our friends and their children plastered all over our fridge and spilling over onto cabinets and other spaces.

But I don’t like piling it up with pressure and expectation. It would only take a couple of times of doing so for me to grow to hate Christmas.

So my wish to all of you this holiday season is to purge yourself of these silly stressors. In all the talk about “remembering the Reason for the Season,” most adults do really well with keeping perspective on the materialistic gobbledygook. But they seem to forget all that Reason for the Season crap when it comes to stress and misery and pressure.

As Sue Sylvester might say, were she portraying Mary in the school play, “You think hosting 30 members of your family for dinner and driving 20 hours to visit in-laws is hard?!? Try riding on a donkey five months pregnant and natural childbirthing into a bale of friggin' straw! THAT’S HARD!!”


Bob said...

I'm afraid I'm like your wife, and, as a result, have been in a complete, miserable frenzy for the past four days. And then the refrigerator broke.

cinderkeys said...

I'm happy to have been born Jewish. As far as I've noticed, Jewish people just don't work themselves into holiday frenzy like this.

Isn't day-to-day life stressful enough without imposing stress on times that are supposed to be fun?