It is difficult to be one of those horrible human beings who struggles with the Christmas season, especially when my sentiment allows me to accidentally say I hate Christmas. I was speaking with Dad the other day, and he told me that I am not alone. Oh, really? I’ve never met another one, or maybe I’ve never met one who is willing to admit it. Dad assured me that they are out there that they just might not be as honest as I am or they might not even realize how terrified they are. I loudly admit my sickening fear and resulting hatred with some and thus I am ostracized. It’s understandable that folks would view me as not very tolerable as they are going around experiencing all of the joy. There is no reason to allow someone to diminish your season merely by being in your company.
This morning I was realizing something that I learn again each year, year after year: When Christmas finally gets here, I love Christmas. This may not sound like a big deal to you, but it is to me. I am allowed to hate the “Race for Christmas,” but I don’t hate Christmas, and as a matter of fact it is the opposite. This make me feel more human. It’s nice to feel good about giving, to feel good about the essential joy and hope that surrounds the Christmas I like. The race is awful.
It happens every year, usually on Christmas Eve, sometimes late on Christmas Eve, but I feel tremendous pressure coming out of my body. It’s as though someone over-inflated me and now they are releasing some of the air. I can feel a new ability in breathing. I start to feel that I am not having the longest heart attack in the world because the extreme tightness in my chest that is the anxiety that is derivative of depression begins to take breaks and the breaks get longer and longer. I start to feel lightness of being, but this year that does not extend to joy. I have been under a heavy blanket since March with the exception of one day in April when I had a really good day and the rest has been bad or worse than bad. So I do not have the joy of the season right now, but the immense pressure that comes from my core seems to be gone.
I inherited this from my mother, and I have painted it with poetry: here and here and here and here. I do not remember anytime when Mother was happy with how her sons performed during Christmas time. (Parents, if you have any doubt on the impact you might have on your children, please listen to me, and this is 19 years after she died and 22 years since I spent a Christmas season with her.) For Mother, who possessed hundreds of Advent calendars, the 24 days in December provided her with 24 ways she could hate her children for falling short. Don’t get me wrong; there was joy too. I am fully convinced now that she loved Christmas so fiercely because she suffered badly from depression and she wanted the magic of Christmas to cure her, along with loads of scotch and prescription painkillers. Of course, Christmas does not necessarily cure much. It sure has not cured society. For sure, to those who did not know Mother well, she appeared to be the most joyous woman ever during the Christmas season because they would see her decorations and festive clothing and jewelry including the huge peace dove, and they could never look below her twitching face for that horrible, ugly hate.
I live with the terror of fear of that hate every season, and I could try paintings and a million words and could not adequately describe the horrible feeling. Sure, you say, people can blame their parents for all sorts of things, and that is no sort of excuse more than 20 years after it was imbedded. I know there is no excuse, but I inherited a great deal from Mother that I cannot get rid of and some of it beautiful, so I will hold on to all of it. Having said that, B2 has the skills to rid me of this part of sickness because it is mostly cognitive.
Back to today, though I am not joyful, I feel the joy of the season. Something in me tells me that the race is over and now is the time to watch people open gifts and to love their reactions. Now is the time during normal seasons when we get to be with wonderful family and even the not-wonderful family, but we get to be grateful to have those around us who are willing to be with us and experience this time with us. (At this time, our business does not allow for the luxuries of the season, and in fact calls for more work now than at any other time, but our small family is together.) I feel all this goodness, and I tell you that I think the dogs noticed it too. Maybe not.
Last night I was in Wal-Mart to get a card and some kind of nice thing for my boss. I know it is bad of me to think of a present for my boss at the last minute. In my defense, I’ve only known her two years, and in general, I still have no clue what she likes in life. Anyway, Wal-Mart might has well have been a prison with death row inmates. Every face in the place would have a hateful look, one that told me I did not belong in the world. Hundreds of carts almost ran me over, and sure that won’t hurt but it felt as though I was invisible and there was no humanity in there. All the shelves were emptiness defined and people were running for the last item of this or the last item of that, and if they knocked you over, they did not care. I know much of what I saw was based on this fear-based perception, but as I walked around and around the store, never able to find anything, I started to feel helpless and hopeless and that I would not survive another minute in this world.
I cried all the way home, not having a clue what I might do for my boss. I told my wife about how bad my normal Christmas incompetence had been this year, even worse than all the other years. (One time my wife asked me why I didn’t believe in Jesus when I told her I hated Christmas. I think she understands my predicament better now, and while I believe in the historical Jesus, I have no clue about anything else.) My wife started thinking for me. She found a gift basket in the closet (with Mother, it was tens of tens of boxes in the basement, packed with ready-to-give gifts for this purpose, Mother giving gifts to everybody but often not being able to pay the mortgage) from Bath and Bodyworks that looked perfectly nice to me, and she asked me if my boss would like that. I told her I was sure she would, and I was right, my boss was thrilled.
Last night was the last night of terror and today was the first that allowed be to feel the joy. With the terror, I thought I surely would not make it to the actual Christmas day, but now I look forward to it with great anticipation. I always say that next year maybe I will do Christmas right. At least this year, most of the tears have stopped, and the days are getting longer, and sometime, not so far in the future, there will be small buds on the tree branches, and I will feel hope again provided I live to see that day. I pray for relief today, as I do all of the other days and today, I believe there is some relief.