Sunday, November 20, 2011

Lightening Up ... at the holidays

It's not even Thanksgiving yet and I am already on sensory overload from the way-too-early Christmas music and holiday sales and red and green decorations dripping from store windows.  And, of course, I've already subjected myself to the traditional Festival of Bitching that always begins with an annoyed acquaintance's "I can not BELLLLLIEVE they already have Christmas decorations out!  I'd like to enjoy my Thanksgiving!" 

Yeah, wouldn't we all.

The thing is, regardless of an arbitrary calendar date, I'm no fan of the holidays.  Whether it's October 11th or December 21st, nothing about a front lawn covered in inflatable santas and blow-up snowmen makes me feel jolly. (Though this is fair warning to anyone whose lawn ornaments always insist on leaning just slightly to the left:  If you find me in your front yard some wintry morning straightening your reindeer and tipping your manger folk ever so slightly to the right, I won't hate you for triggering my OCD if you promise not to have me charged with trespassing.).  

Add to the premature, decorative gaudiness the fact that the holiday party chatter has started to permeate the groups and organizations to which I belong, and the result is an avoidant, annoyed, wake-me-when-it's-over Hasky.  Incidentally, as far as the parties go, I have signed up, once again, to bring paper products.  And my holiday Rice Krispie Treats.  Because nothing screams "Get off my back, I've got problems of my own" quite like a package of napkins and a no-bake, M&M-filled, cereal-based dessert.  Hassle-free is how I roll.

Here's the problem:  I would like to enjoy the holidays.  And I believe that such enjoyment can be a learned behavior, like kindness.  And patience.  And sublimating one's rage with copious amounts of coffee.  On the whole, I think there is something joyous and blessed about this time of year, and not because I was conditioned from infancy to give praise for Jesus and Santa.  But because the kindness of others, even if it only emerges a few weeks out of the year, is something I would genuinely like to appreciate, rather than scoff at.  I know many people who spend this season volunteering their time to various causes and charities.  Some donate money and goods while others pray for the suffering and spend time with those who are ill, or lonely, or in need of companionship.  And compassion.

For most of my adult life, I have made it my holiday tradition to avoid the whole scene as much as possible.  And generally, I don't stop to think about it.  Or feel anything about it.  My seasonal gratitude usually sets in around January 3, when everyone else has started their destined-to-fail resolution diets, and life as I know it has begun to settle back into itself - quiet, alone, no expectations, no interactions.  Ahhhh ... the sweet sounds of normalcy.

Right? (She asked, rhetorically.)

I'm beginning to think the holidays are, like everything else, what you make them. For yourself.  They can be miserable and depressing with very little effort on your part.  Because, despite what the miserable and depressed may say (and I have lived inside this world which, from time to time, I still visit on occassion), misery is the easy way out.  It's the default that requries no movement. No growth. No effort.  In fact, it is generally defined by what is lacking: Happiness.  Love.  Connectedness.  Hope.  Spirit.   I have decided that it is possible, not easy, but possible, to inject something positive into an otherwise difficult time of year.  It's not about "contradicting" one's feelings.  Or replacing them with a gingerbread-scented slice of faux happiness.  It's merely about choosing to shake it up a bit.  To let go of the boredom that comes with negativity and cynicism. To genuinely wish someone a "Happy Holidays" and mean it.  Or to anonymously write a check or donate a baked good to someone in need and ask for nothing (including recognition and undying praise) in return.  Maybe it's even about driving by a random house on November 5th and not criticizing the lawnful of sleighs and reindeer and glowing 6-foot elves, but instead glancing out the car window and genuinely appreciating the effort and the time someone else took to add a little more light to the world, instead of embracing the darkness.


  1. Thanks Heather, enlightening and entertaining as usual. I would like to add an observance of my own. My two neighbors across the street from me have some holiday decor on their porch stoops. Let me add that these people are related too! One house STILL has it's big plastic jack-o-lantern and pumpkin lights on the porch and the house next door has had a LARGE plastic Santa Claus who is waving at me. Santa has been out since 11/1! I k now the pumpkin people put their tree up the week before Thanksgiving, so WTH? Jack needs to get back up in the attic and what happened to Tom Turkey? He got forgotten all together. My turkey and indian corn have been proudly displayed since early November and Santa and his friends won't emerge until maybe the weekend after Thanksgiving, a little at a time... Happy Thanksgiving to all the Hasky fans out there

  2. Turtle - your response made me smile and laugh.

    It's so true that when you broaden the lens beyond just that single lawn covered in ornaments and Santas, and look at the whole neighborhood (or at least the street), you get to experience a cacophony of rituals, beliefs, holiday preferences, celebratory styles. You can see who is eager to jump into the next holiday and who is reluctant to let the last one go. Or, perhaps more realistically, you can see who has just been too darn busy (or deterred by the blustery cold) to get out there and tear down one set of decorations and put up another. It's kind of like a living calendar of sorts. Or a neighborhood Rorshach test, perhaps.

    I hope you and your family have a wonderful, blessed Thanksgiving, regardless of what celebratory symbols are sitting on your front lawn or staring at you from across the street!! :)


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