Now that it’s over, I am coming out of the Christmas closet and proclaiming that I am not a fan of the euphemistically called “holidays”.
“Holiday” implies fun and relaxation, and I rarely experience either between Thanksgiving and Jan 2nd. I am consequently not only not “happy”, I am usually more tired and stressed than any other time of the year.
This is in part due to my work as a therapist and a teacher. Both jobs start to simmer around the end of November and reach a full boil by Christmas. Clients either lament the lack of a Normal Rockwell-esque family, or reconnect with their “family of origin” (translate – the people most able to both display and activate all kinds of childish petty behaviors). Students face the reality of final papers and grades (and also lament the lack of a Normal Rockwell-esque family or reconnect with their family of origin). Consequently I spend a good month A) preparing clients for and then debriefing them from family gatherings (or the lack thereof) and B) grading papers and compiling and entering final grades which are also often lamented and need to be debriefed). In short, it’s performance anxiety hell for all involved.
Now add an intra-personal double whammy – I am unable to create a meaningful connection to the “big three” mainstream religions and am also unable to fake it. Most of the year, this is not a problem, but it gets tricky during “the holidays”. Granted, over time, I’ve built myself a fine religious-language translator module (disguised as a tiny nose-ring stud, in case you’re wondering) so that “Merry Christmas” and “Happy Hannukah” and “Have a Blessed Day” come through as “Namaste” (the light in me honors the light in you), and this certainly helps. But there are three things in particular that just make it a rough month for me.
First, I don’t like the war between the “Merry Christmas” people and the “Happy Holidays” people, or the feel of the mainstream-ignored “Happy Hanukkah” people. My brother would call it “the intolerance of intolerance”. If you’re insistent on celebrating something then get on with it and leave others to do the same. This isn’t football, there’s no need to paint faces and beat on chests.
Second, I’m not a “Merry Christmas person” or a “Happy Holiday person” – I’d much prefer a “Swift Month’s Passing to you” or a “May the Force be With You” (to which I could heart-feltedly reply “and also with you”).
Lastly, I have both a lack of Normal Rockwell-esque family AND a set of mandatory holiday obligations that trigger all that is young and insecure inside of me each December, and that’s just no fun.
I’ve been working on this for a good 20 years. I’ve boycotted the holidays altogether. I’ve thrown my own. I’ve gone to other people’s. So far, no perfect solution. The closest I get is when spending time with others who aren’t riding the happy holiday train. We play The Beatles’ “Here comes the sun” and discuss seasonal metaphors for personal growth. Our happiest holiday falls on Jan 2nd, when life settles back into everyday-sacred.
Having arrived here in the everyday-sacred, I say “whew”, and wish myself, and all of you, a Happy Whew-year.