I am not going to say I hate the holidays because that would admit to a greater investment in the whole sketchy affair of good cheer and “gratitude” the holidays purportedly promote. I do prize genuine good cheer and gratitude, but enforced holiday spirit not so much.
It is common to hear this complaint–about the obligatory holiday gift buying and cookie baking and niceties that go with. Just look how thrilled most people look in the overcrowded parking lots to impossibly busy malls, stores and roadways. And yes, that seasonal depression thing is real.
Fortunately, I do not get depressed so much as annoyed, fatigued, exasperated and grumpy. And it is much better now that I have grown old and beaten up enough to have far fewer fucks to give (so happy for that current expression). My stress over getting everything done–shopping, baking, wrapping, shopping, cooking, tree-decorating, candle lighting, card-writing (yeah, who am I kidding there?), and shopping–is half of what it used to be when the kids were younger and I had more fuel to burn.
But there is still a lot of shit to do, much more than should be done in a two-week period, one of very few, during which the nation slows down to celebrate and appreciate the goodness of life granted us by a benevolent God or universe or both. We get an entire day off–all together.
But I do not need to mention the obvious–that the consumerist hypocrisy of the holidays exhausts a very noble idea, one of good will and graciousness toward other human beings. The lost message is as much of a shame as the squandered opportunity to wind down and rest, lost to self-induced comatose gift buying and giving many of us can neither afford nor truly relish for the sacrifice of sanity the activity steals.
I am neither a shopper nor a craft maker. Though I am a gracious gift receiver, I want for nothing that can be bought in a store or online. I am a lousy gift buyer, no imagination for it. And perhaps the traditions I have grown up with and created are far too consumer-centric.
I regret not changing the habit in my children, who I did enjoy baking cookies for and eventually with, as well as decorating trees and lighting menorah candles, when those activities were as wondrous as the gifts wrapped in expectation. Then the holidays eked out some cheer, some joy and love, despite the heightened stress of teachers’ gifts and Christmas cards and too many gifts purchased with too little money spent in far too distant and varied places among the too stressed and sick throngs.
So, as I sit here in a momentarily near vacant store two days before Christmas Eve, watching the rain, thinking about the gifts I still have to buy (have not started actually) and the dinner I have to cook in a couple of days that I have not planned yet, and the entertaining I have to do the following day and the day after, I audibly sigh the sound drowned out by the “Happy holidays!” a customer chirps as he walks out the door. Ugh!
I truly want everyone around me near and far, known and unknown, to have a happy holiday and new year, to find peace and love and happiness, but I just have to figure out another way to express it.