A week or so before Christmas, my yoga instructor asked us to turn to the people next to us and tell them what our favorite part of the holidays was. The only thing I could come up with was “When they’re over?”
Class started, and instead of concentrating on my breathing, I wondered about my response. Why, exactly, do I hate Christmas? Why does it make me, by turns, wretched, sad, furious, catatonic? I’m normally a happy, optimistic, equable person. In fact, most of the time I feel the way we’re all supposed to feel during the holidays. I’m filled with gratitude for just about everything in my life.
But all that goes out the window as Christmas looms. I know I’m not alone in this—there are plenty of us lurking scroogishly in the shadows, loath to admit our depraved secret. No, that’s not right. We’re not Scrooges! We want to be generous to all, joyful, filled with love and hope. We try our damnedest. But somehow, the collective weight of our unrealistic—and inevitably unfulfilled—expectations drags us down and makes us miserable.
Everyone knows these unrealistic expectations are virtually impossible to escape. Since infancy, we’re inculcated from every possible source—well-meaning adults, books, TV, movies, advertisements, stories, non-stop renditions of It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year, Winter Wonderland, etc.—with the idea that the Christmas season should be a foretaste of heaven. All stress and tension will vanish and together with our loved ones, we’ll float through the festivities on clouds of bliss.
It’s a lot like The Matrix, except not as seamlessly done. It’s way too easy to see the barren landscape of crass commercialism through the gaps in the rose-colored clouds. This jarring juxtaposition is at the root of our anguish. (Does anyone know why it’s called Black Friday? I haven’t a clue, but it’s a perfect name for the beginning of the Xmas season.)
The saving grace to all this is that hope springs eternal. One of the wonderful things about us humans is how tough and resilient we are. By early January of each new year, I’m usually optimistic about the prospect of next Christmas finally being perfect. So far I don’t have any ideas about how to go about achieving that, but I figure, I’ve got a whole year to ponder it.
Are you a closet Christmas-hater as well? I’d love to hear how your holidays went, and if you have any helpful suggestions, please comment! I wish you all joy, peace and a FABULOUS Christmas in 2012.