Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Cheers

Christmas Spirit. It’s one of those mythical things to me, kind of like a unicorn or phoenix. Not that I don’t believe they could exist. It’s just that the Christmas spirit is kind of slippery and evasive for me. And I think it’s this way for many others too.

I belong to a group called “People Who Had Something Horrible Happen To Them on Christmas Day”. This is not in the caliber of, say, Aunt Martha getting a little too tight on the eggnog and calling her brother Milt a horse’s ass or that year you didn't get those fancy jeans that everyone else was wearing--not that I’m belittling your pain, but really, we would gladly have had that than what we got. Death, disaster and violence don’t hang up their gloves on Christmas day, and for some of us, it’s an anniversary of the hardest or most terrifying moments in our lives. I won’t go into my experience as: A. I like to keep up a little decorum and B. I don’t want to distract from my larger point, but trust me when I say that my life was altered by my Christmas Day experience and that it took years to heal from it. I’m not alone; plenty of others have their own terrible stories of a cruel Yule.

Let it be said: We aren’t out to ruin your Christmas, it’s more that everything that Means Christmas can potentially come with a side of post-traumatic stress disorder. It’s a stretching time for some of us, because we want to participate and, if we’ve come far enough, we can enjoy ourselves in the moment. And if Christmas were truly one single day it would be easier to do so. But it’s not: Christmas starts earlier and earlier each year. This summer we were reminded of Christmas in the stores, and it seems to officially start everywhere just as soon as Frankenstein's Posse and all their candy is cleared out of the stores. By the time December 1 rolls around, the television and radio are airing their Christmas specials. I don’t mind all of it, really---sure, there are some things that offend the sensibilities, but they would bother me, Christmas or no. But overall, on the short side it's still at least a thirty-one day Post-It Note reminding you that That Horrible Day is coming up.

I know that Christmas is a very special and important day for a lot of people and I don’t want to take that away from anyone. At the same time, how can we be completely genuine and true to ourselves if we feel like we have to fake an emotion to fit in? I’m pretty matter-of-fact about Christmas myself. I enjoy parts of it; even before I had my son, Joe and I still played Santa for each other. It's a treat, introducing Kiddo to the concept of Santa Claus—I think I can be that kind of a fun, giving mom for my son. But I’m not even close to jolly, happy, joyous or in the Christmas Spirit. At best, you could say that sometimes I get a contact high, and that’s about it. While many people gather with family, some of us hide a little at Christmas or we take good care to be with people who can accept us for who we are on that day. When I was younger I spent more than one Christmas alone and was glad to. As I’ve gotten older, more comfortable with life, each year passes and I become a little more comfortable with Christmas Day. It’s taken me thirty-one years, and I’m not done having hard feelings around Christmas, I know this. And yet, each year brings hope because it feels more bearable.

So, all this is just to tell you: if someone you know seems blasé or uninterested in Christmas, don’t take it personally or think unkindly of them. They are likely not thinking unkindly of you. They could just be like me: doing the best they can with what they’ve got on the anniversary of the worst day of their lives. I’m laughing as I write this, because it’s kinda funny, isn’t it? Now go have yourself a Merry Little Christmas (if that’s what you celebrate) and don’t forget to Santa your kid up.

Cheers.

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