As a child, my Christmases were very joyful. My parents, while maybe not always able to provide everything my greedy child's heart wanted, certainly provided plenty and kept up the great charade of Santa Claus with much enthusiasm. Then, when I was 11, my father was lost in Viet Nam. While I'm sure my mother knew where he was, I and my brothers had no idea and our world fell apart. Since that time, the Holidays have always been very melancholy and difficult for me, and especially so now that my mother has passed. While it was difficult after my father was lost, she made a great effort to still put on all the trappings, long after our belief in Santa Claus had ended, despite her own loneliness and sense of loss. She truly embodied the spirit of generosity and giving, providing our family with cohesion, and it is sorely missed. I blame much of it on all the commercialism of our society, showing that every family should be "picture perfect" with no bickering, no family black sheep, no lack of monetary trappings and lots of social interaction and companionship. Yeah, right! Were that it were so!
I know that one of the issues I have dealt with since my father's loss is depression; it runs in the family, so it is not surprising. It has always been worse during the holiday season and I have struggled with it strongly since Mom's death. It has made the last several seasons totally without pleasure and I had come to dread them and just wanted to hurry through them. I find this season slightly different. This past year has been a trial on many levels but at the time of year that is usually the most difficult, I feel an introspection that I haven't in the past. Don't get me wrong- I haven't seen a miracle or been shown the light. Although, come to think of it, in a way maybe I have. I still feel intensely sad and terribly alone, especially since the family has drifted far apart, but I also for some reason have started to deeply realize that the expectations that commercials put on us are totally without basis in reality. Does anyone not feel some sense of expectations not met at this time of year? Not too many, I would bet. Does it mean we shouldn't enjoy the spirit of the season, no matter how we celebrate it, even if we don't utilize all the trappings our society shows as "normal"? Obviously not. This seems logical, we shouldn't even have to think about it, and I have always known it on some level. Never the less, it has been the case that I wallowed in self pity for what wasn't, what should have been. Maybe this is what my bottom is- I don't think I could have become much sadder, although this I also ignored on a superficial level. Old cliché, but true; when you hit the bottom, there is no way to go but up. I chose to ignore the trappings this year- didn't put up lights or a tree at home, didn't try to buy gifts for family we never see or hear from. And instead of thinking about how badly I feel, although it does leak through at odd moments, instead I feel motivated to look outside myself. Duh, huh? I think about all the usual world wide tragedies, especially the families who have a member fighting for our country and all the homeless and abused animals. But I also have had it brought into my heart all the people who strive to do something to balance these sorrows. Did anyone see the Rachel Ray segment that aired today? About her contest to support worthy animal rescue operations? OMG. It made me feel so petty yet so inspired. I finally (or again, maybe?) understand the cure for depression, loss, grief and worry: to devote yourself to balancing these sorrows.
How is that for a cliché?
Best of wishes to all for this season.