Blue Xmas — The holiday season is a high stress time, due to our inability to say no. We might best explore other, more simple approaches, and let go of the drama.
An added Christmas note! Half Asleep in the Buddha Hall is now available on Kindle!
Back when I was in the ministry, some friends ran a “Blue Christmas” service just ahead of Dec. 2–5. I never quite “got it,” despite all the statistics about increases in depression, etc. this time of year. The other biggie was that many people really missed their dead family members.
I had never noticed any particular bump in my client load in December–if anything, client load was down, so it all seemed a bit like an urban Myth. Earlier today, though, I was reading a blog post, and the author simply was asking, “So, how are you doing?”
He raised the familiar arguments — overindulgence in booze, food, and spending.
And the dubious joys of family gatherings, where tradition can actually be a dirty word. Spending time with relatives you’d rather not see, reliving events you either don’t remember or are sure happened some other way.
And, you might not even celebrate Christmas (like Dar and me) but obligate yourself to show up and be merry for the sake of, say, your mother-in-law (Fortunately, I adore mine. It only took me three tries to get one I liked…)
So, how are you doing?
How are your relationships holding up?
How much strain is the Seasonal nuttiness creating? or better put, how much are you creating for yourself? It’s been 15 years since Dar and I pulled up—we used to spend thousands (yes, thousands…) on each other. I take responsibility for it.
“How about if I bang the drum with my gun?”
I’m an only child and was spoiled rotten. I couldn’t find a great picture of Xmas glut, but the one here is me, around 4 or 5, gun in hand and drum set in the background, being “properly” adored by my mother. I suppose I would have gotten 20 or 30 presents, and then another boatload on January 3, for my birthday.
I was well into my 40s before I could let go of what I had done with the tradition of excess. Dar hooked herself on it too. Actually, I did come up with a photo from the mid 80s. I’d painted a portrait of Dar, and we photographed it. The stuff to the left of the photo is 1⁄2 of the purchases, and it is stacked up 2 feet high.
Who’s in charge of your seasonal reality?
My mom, bless her soul, used to describe herself as a “Christmas person.” She dictated every aspect of the holidays, not only at home, but at church, where she co-opted the decorations for the whole church. And it was a huge church. There were not one but two Xmas trees, each 20 feet high. Mom would go nuts decorating them, as dad and I climbed 25–30 foot high ladders to make her dreams reality.
One of her classics was the Tree of Sin and The Tree of Salvation. The first was decorated and lit in red (red apples, red tinsel, and a big red serpent made out of garland.) The other had white lights, white bows, and, wait for it, gold sprayed chicken and turkey wishbones. You had to see it to believe it.
I won’t get into the dubious Xtian symbolism of wishbones (although many people use “god” that way, as a celestial slot machine…) I will mention that when mom died, we were cleaning out her closet and I found a locked file box. I picked the lock. Amongst her papers was a plastic bag, filled with wishbones! She had apparently hoped I was going to let her loose in one of my churches, and she’d stocked up for years!
Many people run themselves ragged trying to be all and do all, with combined and blended families dictating a maddening pace, and underlying all of it is the hidden message–which family do you like better?
We need to let go, and form our own year end, seasonal traditions.
There is nothing to be gained by entering the fray, trying to “win” the “who spent the most?” contest, spending days and weeks trying to impress others. At the end of the day, we must breathe, slow down, and ask ourselves what we really want. Exclusive of what others want, or demand of us.
The breaking of relationships
It is so that the familial pressures exerted can tank relationships. A few weeks back I mentioned Sandy, my first girlfriend. The year I went off to College, and she was still in High School. She was also in Youth Group, and my mom and dad were the sponsors. As you’ll remember, mom decorated the Church.
I got home for Xmas, and mom and Sandy were not speaking. Mom had gotten the kids to collect jars, glue them together, and paint them gold—they then became candelabra, with one or two stuck below each stained glass window… and there were a lot of windows. Sandy decided that the candelabra would look better black. She was the president of the Youth Group, so she started repainting.
Mom insisted that I sort Sandy out, so Sandy would not “Ruin Christmas with black candelabra”—to, in other words, choose her over my girlfriend. At 18, that seemed reasonable. I went into the basement of the church. There Sandy sat, pissed as hell and spraying black paint everywhere , which had settled, in a fine mist, all over her. I tried logic, flattery, annoyance—everything—and finally gave up both on winning and on her. I walked away.
Over spray-painted candelabra. And nothing you are on about, pissed off about, or judging others about is any more important than that, let me assure you.
I was watching the Xmas episode of “Glee,” and “Will” made some point about recapturing the wonder of one’s first Xmas. The problem with this is that you can’t. The first one you remember was when you were 3 or 4, and adults were running the show. It was magic back then, because stuff you wished for just showed up. And candy, cookies and Santa.
It truly is a time for 3‑year-olds.
Magic is like Santa, and we do outgrow it. Or, better put, adult magic might just be sitting with a few of your nearest and dearest, talking, and sharing a meal. It may not be excess, running to and fro, or mindless engagement with people you don’t actually like.
Some, times you get exactly what you ask for, and then discover you didn’t want it in the first place.
So, how are you, this year?
What did you hope for, this time last year?
How much of that has come to pass?
What have you done differently, so as to get different results?
What are you doing now that you wish you had the courage or fortitude to stop doing?
What, in short, would “simple, Zen living” look like, if you gave yourself half a chance?