You’d think that after sixty-eight years on this planet, the holidays … in our house, Christmakkah … would no longer be able to sneak up on me, especially with decorations going up in the stores right after Halloween. But Monday, on the way home from Arizona, as Muri wondered how we’d get our holiday shopping done and how we’d squeeze in the friends we’d want to see before we go back to Arizona, and whether we should put up all of our decorations to save time, I knew … they’d done it again. I think it’s because I’m not a calendar person. Yes, I record important appointments and events on the calendar in my Samsung Galaxy II but I never really look at the monthly calendar page or notice how many weeks before anything. I think that’s my nature, although it may be a product of forty-four years of marriage to someone who lives by the calendar. Either way, as I began to think of the month ahead, I could feel my anxiety level rise.
I found an interesting poll on the CNN Political Ticker. It asked people how they felt about Christmas and grouped them into 4 categories: Gung-Ho (it is the best time of the year), Ho-Ho-Ho (love it but don’t go overboard), Ho-Hum (like it but don’t decorate), and Bah-Humbug (say it’s a bad time for me). In the U.S., the percentages are Gung-Ho, 27%; Ho-Ho-Ho, 32%; Ho-Hum, 25%; and Bah-Humbug, 12% (4% don’t participate). So, at least according to the poll, 84% of our citizens like Christmas. Yet mental health professionals report that depression and anxiety run rampant at this time of year, and an article in Psychology Today says that 45% of the people they surveyed dread the holiday season. They must be talking to a different crowd. Or people may be more willing to admit their difficulties with the holidays to a psychologist than to the general public. The truth is, part of what stresses people out at this time of years is the societal pressure to be a Ho-Ho-Ho, when your insides are saying Bah-Humbug.
Just for the record, I fall in the high Ho-Ho-Hos. But my Inner Curmudgeon, who’s fond of shouting out, Bah Humbug, as we try to navigate a shopping center parking lot where Goodwill Toward Men is nowhere in evidence, likes to remind me that 84% of the people we see out and about don’t act as if they like Christmas. To stay in the Ho-Ho-Ho category, I have to remember to let IC rant … it’s therapeutic (and makes for good posts). I have to acknowledge sadness or anxiety when it turns up in an elf costume. I was talking with some friends the other night about Getting Through the Holidays. A benefit of having friends from 12-Step programs is that most of them tell you how they feel, not how they’re supposed to feel. It turns out that many people get grumpy during the holidays because they don’t feel they’re in control of their lives. I can see that in my next door neighbor as he puts up six million lights under the watchful eye of his wife (all the while looking longingly at my several lighted wreaths). And I can feel it when I give up the Christmas traditions I prefer to spend Christmas Eve with my grandkids in my daughter’s house.
At the end of the day, staying Ho-Ho-Ho is about spending the majority of my time looking at the things I love about the holidays and when I see the Holiday Hypocrisy that drives me crazy, taking Contrary Action … going out of my way not to be that guy. So, The Season is here. Between now and Christmas, you’ll read some rants and some reminiscences and some perspectives. Hopefully, you can hear the Ho-Ho-Ho behind each of them.