Tis the season…to be depressed?

1 Dec

We’ve all heard it.  More depression and suicides around the holidays than any other time of the year.  That alone can be depressing to hear.  But, it doesn’t have to be that way, and we can do something to boost our own moods.

It’s also a fact of life that few people are doing as well as they would like in terms of their finances.  Many of us are struggling harder than ever, and the holidays seem to add to the strain.  Maybe that’s partly because of the marketing of the holiday season.

You heard me right.  It’s the marketing of the holiday season that makes it all worse.

Everywhere we go, we hear ridiculously cheerful and remarkably sentimental holiday music.  We are practically assaulted with “good cheer” and “buy me.”  We are continually told how we need to buy more and be happy.  But, does buying more really buy us happiness?

I don’t think so.

Just like I don’t think we’re all going to be holly jolly heralds of good cheer, I don’t think we can buy our own happiness.  All these high expectations put additional pressure on our emotions as well as our wallets.  It’s no wonder that people feel the strain.  How much fun are we really having when we’re forced into command appearances at company parties, cocktail parties, friends’ holiday parties, and family get togethers where we may share little common ground with our companions?  Add in the budgetary assault as our kids are inundated with products to beg for, our spouse’s expectations, and that silly Secret Santa role at work, and it’s almost enough to make anyone snap.

Some people just don’t recognize that other people might not have any “holiday spirit” to spare.

I remember the first Christmas after my son died.  While it had been several months since his death, celebrating was not something I could do yet.  I slapped on a smile for his older sister and my family, but even that was pushing the envelope for me.  Then, one day at work, as the holidays approached with a finality that was crushing my emotions, I was asked to help decorate at work.  I tried to beg off, to explain I just couldn’t.  It didn’t work.  I think they thought they were doing me a favor, after all, I’d returned to work long before and resumed my usual duties with a smile, right?

I glumly carried the decorations out, and felt more like the Grinch than Santa.  Apparently, the first area I decorated lacked the usual artistic talent I gave such things, and looked more like gremlins than elves had done the work.  I was relieved of the task for the remainder of the building and no one said anything more about it.  I didn’t care.  I didn’t want the holiday to even exist, actually.

The following Christmas wasn’t much better, but I wasn’t asked to do the decorating at work either.  I didn’t decorate at home, and my sole decorating was done in honor of my daughter and mother.  I got a tumbleweed, spray painted it green, put it in a spray painted coffee can, and created a miniature Christmas tree on my mother’s entertainment center in honor of the holiday.  That looked pretty good, unlike the previous year’s half hearted attempt at work.  I can actually remember that holiday, my daughter and her husband gave me a camp stove that I still use to this day.  I cooked a massive pork roast for dinner, I remember it as being practically a whole hind leg.  I remember that roast vividly, as it was cold when I’d gone grocery shopping, and Red Dog had accompanied me, waiting in the jeep, closed in by the soft top.  On the way home, I’d stopped by my daughter’s house, leaving the dog and the roast with the other groceries in the jeep.  We visited for a bit, and she asked me about the dinner, and I told her what I had bought and that it was in the jeep.  She asked where the dog was, and was horrified that I had left the meat and the dog in the jeep together.  She went rushing out, and I followed her, wondering what the alarm was.  I knew Red wasn’t going to touch it, she never has stolen anything in a vehicle (can’t say the same in the house though, she’s been known to steal from a skillet while it’s cooking on the stove!).  Apparently, my daughter thought all dogs robbed all food when left unattended.

Holidays were very hard for a very long time for me.  I kept seeing the empty space where my son should have been, and never seemed to notice all of the people who were there, in one way or another.  Don’t get me wrong, I still miss him very much, but I’ve learned along the way.

The holidays are not about what you don’t have, but rather what you do have.  Too often, we forget that, and we only notice the “don’ts” when all of the “do’s” go totally unnoticed.  That goes from people to material goods to our wallets and our shopping.    It should not be measured by the number of invitations, gifts, purchases, or donations we make, but rather about the good things we do have.

Even the homeless guy panhandling on the corner with his dog has something to appreciate.  He has his dog and he has his freedom.  He can make a lot of choices from there.  Most of us have a lot more than that guy does to appreciate too.  Most of us have at least a few genuine friends, some family somewhere, a pet, a job, a place to live, a vehicle to drive, or a lot more.   We also have the ability to choose whether or not we’re going to buy into the whole holiday cheer thing, whether we’re going to give a gift or not, and what we’re going to buy for our holiday meals.  We can turn off the television, and pick up a book or magazine, escaping the continual stream of advertisements to program us into feeling bad because we can’t afford the latest Gizmo Box or Gadgetry DoDad.  We don’t have to feel bad or guilty because we don’t feel like “ho ho ho” this year.  We don’t have to wear the Grinch label because some grumpy donation soliciting guy was unhappy because we couldn’t afford to donate to his cause either.

We don’t have to buy into the whole thing.  WE have the ability to pick and choose which parts of the holiday we’re going to own.

So guess what?

I’m not sure about Christmas yet.  I’m going to host the family holiday dinner, but..I think we’re going to wait to exchange gifts until January.   I think January 5th looks like a good date for it.  Maybe the 6th.  That coincides with the Feast of Epiphany and almost with the Orthodox Christian day for Christmas (January 7).

Why?

Because it takes off the stress and strain.  We can all shop the post-holiday sales and maximize our dollars.  It lets me concentrate on creating a lovely holiday feast rather than the stress of a whole Christmas-and-gifts-and-decorations sort of thing.  Besides, it lets that rebellious bit of me come out to play, as I thumb my nose at tradition and create something new for us.  Christmas had lost so much of its glitter and joy when I lost my son, but now, I have a beautiful little granddaughter, and it needs to come back again, and this will help me rediscover the joy of Christmas without the pressure of being perfect and on schedule.

Oh, I love it when I can PLAN on being late, don’t you?

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