I wonder why this time of year is fraught with disappointment, loneliness, unmet wants, and selfishness, on all parts of the relationship scale: parent-child, siblings, partners, and friends. The usual give-and-take of being in a relationship, any relationship, somehow is unconsciously scrutinized this time of year. How much to spend on that person? Will they appreciate whatever it is that they get from me? Do they think about me the same way? How did we get the message that the year-end festivities will make all things right in our lives just by magic, just by being December? What myth was foisted on us as children? One too many viewings of It’s A Wonderful Life? When we are really more like Jean Shepherd’s A Christmas Story. It’s a time when we should all love each other, care for each other, be on best behavior. But face it, most of us are not. We cannot repair years of neglect by a brightly wrapped box. The perfect holiday card will not make you feel any more loved than you were back in September. A liter of eggnog will not make that annoying coworker see the folly of their ways and stop stabbing you in the back.
I am not saying don’t try. I am not saying humbug, this season sucks. I am just saying be realistic, and yet, look for something larger than yourself. Anticipate the truth of the situation. Yes, you may still not have that person in your life. Yes, your kids or Aunt Sally may just drive you nuts. One too many relatives will ask why there are no grandchildren yet. Find the joy that has been there all along; that friend that gets it like you; that thing that makes you laugh no matter what. The incongruities of life. Celebrate the silliness of the season. Acknowledge the reason for the season (be it Christian, Judaism, or Druid). Do a random act of kindness for a stranger. Pay the toll for the car behind you. Slip a quarter in a parking meter for some out of state car. Make this season about something else aside from you. Instead of many presents for all, donate something to the local food pantry, or animal shelter. I was talking to a young woman at work who says no one ever gets her what she really wants, because she has expensive tastes, so she doesn’t do Christmas at all. Huh? I was struck by how sad that was. Fine, buy yourself that ring, those shoes, that handbag that no one in the right minds would spend that much on. But how, then, do you say, “You matter in my life even if you don’t meet my needs and wants”? This is that time of year when we need to say, “I am sorry, I am thoughtless sometimes”; “I care for you even though you make me nuts with criticism.” Then go outside the room and outside yourself, and look at the moon, the falling snow, the dogs sniffing for yesterday’s markings, the rainbows in the rain puddles, the treasures in the trash, the colors of the sunsets; all those things we ramble past each day without notice, and see how little we and our lives really are. It is together we are something, we are indeed greater than the sum of our parts. We are out hearts. Who knows, by opening them now, they may remain open well into spring.