Saturday, December 29, 2012

Not so happy holidays

I loved Christmas growing up. The music, the tree, the presents. It was the time of year I got to cuddle up in warm flannel pajamas, and chase my brothers around the house.

Christmas is magical for children, and as you get older, year-by-year, the magic slowly fades away. Christmas becomes a chore.

As an adult I still want the magical Christmas that I had as a child, but unless you have children of your own there is no real way to reenact what you experienced growing up. Then there are other people who never had magical Christmases, or maybe they had too few. This time of year looms heavy in their heart because they know not to expect anything. Maybe they never celebrated Christmas, and going to school after the holidays meant having to explain that you didn't get any presents, that you didn't get the newest toy or backpack or lunch pail.

Then there are those, like my Mother-in-law, who don't get to have Christmas with their family. And others who are experiencing their first Christmas since losing someone important in their lives. There is a reason that the holiday season brings with it so much pain and sadness -- the memories of our childhood Christmas that haunt us.

Maybe its the fact that I'm unemployed, and I was unable to participate as enthusiastically in the buying and giving this year. Maybe its the fact that I'm seeing the unhappiness of the people around me, or feeling it myself. Maybe its because I've grown up and realized that these holidays are a little too manufactured, a little too forced, but Christmas has lost its magic for me.

This year's Christmas tree. 
I saw a video from Jay Smooth that really echoed how I feel about the holidays, and the pressure and stress it can put on people, and I've come to realize that it isn't healthy building up the expectations of a holiday.

And at the same time I saw my friend Nanette share her daily elf on a shelf pictures, and I know that it is something that her daughter will remember her entire life.

So it's a conundrum. Do you give your children the magical Christmas you had growing up, knowing that there is a large chance of them having seasonal depression as an adult? Or do you try to communicate a more realistic version of the holidays? I think that is the key--finding a way to show them while they are young, that not everyone gets to have a happy holiday. Maybe through volunteering, or donating. I can tell you right now it is not through the exorbitant buying of crappy toys and games.

It's not our parent's faults that they wanted to give us a good holiday. I will always cherish those Christmases past. But maybe it's time to reevaluate how we celebrate these holidays, and find a way forward that doesn't include buying into the industry built around mass consumption and black Fridays and malls being open 24 hours. Because after it is all over Christmas is just a dead tree disposed unceremoniously on the sidewalk, and nothing about us changes except the balance in our bank accounts.


After reading through the above a couple times I realize how depressing all this sounds. I would like to say that I had a good Christmas, despite everything I said above. I was able to buy thoughtful, inexpensive gifts for my loved-ones. I wrote 43 Christmas cards to friends and family all over the country. I'm extremely grateful, and I guess, I just wanted to acknowledge the same way Jay did that there are others who experience sadness and pain on the holiday season. I wanted to acknowledge them and say it's okay to have a shitty holiday, and that you're not alone.

Monday, December 24, 2012

Being patient in suffering

More thoughts on unemployment.

When you're a child you can't wait to grow up. You want to be able to do whatever you want without your parents correcting or controlling you. But what children don't understand about being an adult and making your own decisions is that liberty means you have to find your own way without a safety net. As an adult, reprimands and punishments no longer come in the form of time outs and groundings--they come as traffic violations, DUIs, pregnancies, illness, jail and death. Uplifting, right?

So in order to protect yourself from life's injustices you get a job. You compromise. You do something that isn't important to you so that you can collect a paycheck, pay rent, buy things. And if feels like you live your day-to-day as an investment in your future. You invest your money for retirement. You plan your children's lives in order to give them a successful life. You live to benefit other people. You live for another time.

I've been in such a hurry for so long--sprinting towards my goals wanting more money, more accomplishments, more of everything. I'm finally coming to realize that the wanting has brought me to a place of dissatisfaction. If I'm always looking ahead to what I don't have, I'm not looking around to appreciate what I do have. 

I have a luxury that many others who are without work do not--I have savings, and a husband with an income that provides us with enough for now. I'm collecting unemployment which also helps. So I'm not going to compromise on my next job. While interviewing I'm going make sure that the company is the right fit for me instead of only thinking about selling myself to them. I'm not worried about finding a job, I know it will come.

So my goal for the remainder of my unemployment, and really something I hope to do going forward is to slow down. I want to take time to do things mindfully, and to let the passion and eagerness and ambition that sparks white-hot inside me settle into a slow, sustaining burn. I'm going to take the time that I so willing shucked away as a child right now. I believe it will make me a better writer. And my hope is that it will also make me a happier person.