December 28, 2012

The Holiday Hangover.

There’s no escaping it.

From the time stores begin pushing holiday “cheer” on you in November, there is a sad inevitability to your relationship with December.

If you’re one of the millions of Americans who celebrate Christmas, you know the tenacious, pre-programmed belief that you must purchase until your wallet bleeds. If you’re a parent at Christmas, there’s a built in guilt-clause that ensures even if you’ve purchased until your wallet bleeds, you’ll never feel like you’ve done “enough.”

It’s a bunch of bullshit.

There’s no end to the nonsense that drains the spirit of the season from our helpless, unprepared selves.

To start, there’s the decorating. There’s decorating the tree as a family, there’s the scattering of seasonal items throughout the house like some sort of Christmas birdshot, there’s fixing all of the “decorating” your children (who have no viable aesthetic merit at ages three and seven) have attempted, and there’s the decorating of the outside of the house—probably in the cold—and you don’t yet own those handy fingerless gloves. You’ll probably have a bulb or two out as well.

The scene in any department store for the six weeks prior to Christmas is something straight out of a zombie apocalypse film. In unassuming seconds, the overcrowded, overheated space triggers an unyielding anxiety attack complete with sweating, hyperventilating, and decreased faith in the human race. The day I witnessed two women get into a scuffle over a Christmas ornament was the day I looked into online shopping. Thank you, amazon.com, for saving me from a solid month of self-medication.

Unfortunately, the purchasing frenzy doesn’t end with gifts for your closest family members or your children. You buy gifts for your kids, then you coordinate with every other adult that wants to buy gifts for your kids. You strategically provide ideas, carefully guarding the most desirable gifts as your own: “No, no, Aunt Josie. Honestly, he really needs socks; he loves socks.”

Because of the overabundance of purchasing, there’s the disgusting amount of wrapping; you’re sentenced to wrapping in secret corners of the house into the wee hours of the morning to ensure your child’s innocence is preserved that one final year.

This year we got each of our boys a bike. No wrapping (rejoice), but you have to assemble those bastards with tools, mind you, that the manufacturer doesn’t put in the box.

If you’re a “supermom,” which I make futile attempts at on a regular basis, you might bake cookies. You might bake a ton of cookies. That’s mess, time and a mountain of calories. If your kids are helping, that’s an even bigger mess, and even more time.

Merry Christmas!

I just don’t know why we do it. We engage year after excruciating year in feeling inadequate as human beings; we buy into the consumerism that defines being American today.

And in just under 20 minutes on Christmas morning, it’s over. The wrapping paper and scattered toys are like metaphoric chunks of shrapnel, taking with them chaotic minutes of your once recognizable life. You’ve spent a month forfeiting sanity and sleep to prepare, shop and wrap; you’re the shell of your former self, and it’s over.

But when it’s gone, there’s a sudden heaviness that you can’t define and didn’t quite expect. “I just want it to be over” turns, rather quickly, to “I can’t believe it passed so fast.”

Only then, after it’s much too late, do you realize the source of all this self-imposed insanity. There’s a drive during the holiday season to show the people in the world and the ones closest to your heart that there’s a part of you that exists in them.

You are capable of great love, and it is recognizable in them.

We get lost in the hustle of day to day existence for 11 months of the year, so when the lights glisten on houses lining streets you make a decision to embrace every imaginable facet of this maniacal holiday season. Elvis’ heart-wrenching lyrics in “If Every Day Was Like Christmas” make sense to you, and you mourn the passing of the season. It’s gone. Again. You missed it.

I have a holiday hangover.

The remedy? The day after Christmas I spent time with my family and friends. The day after Christmas I counted the blessings I have. The day after Christmas I laughed and smiled and reflected on the incredible life I’m privileged enough to live.

On my to do list for 2013 is to embrace the spirit of the season through the rebirth of spring and the dying heat of summer. I will bring Christmas into my March and my August the same. I will recognize the importance of these individuals around me, as they impact my life for the better, no matter the calendar date, just by being in it.

The imperfect decorations, cookies, and pile of presents don’t matter. The endless parties, the special party outfits and the nauseatingly detailed holiday itineraries are our humble, misguided attempts at showing ourselves the value in our most precious relationships.

The Christmas season isn’t real, not by department store standards. We create this season, as a collective, in an earnest desire to connect and be connected. That has nothing to do with an arbitrary date in December.

Happy Holidays to you, from now until next November.


 Ed: Brianna B.

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