Sunday, December 09, 2007

The Winter of My Discontent

Say what you will about the holidays: at this time of year, the good cheer of the season is invariably at odds with the general mood of the populace.

You hear it as the checkout lines at busy stores; you sense it when one shopping cart bumps into another, or two hands reach for a single, fashionable clearance item -- the last one in the right size.

There is this feeling, first and foremost, that *I* matter above all others. That only *I* am in a hurry, and only *I* need to get home to my family.

It would do the world of us some good, I think, to open our eyes a bit wider. To see the universe around us for what it is, to leave our egocentrism at home before we venture out onto the dangerously unsalted sidewalks and crowded streets.

The hustle and bustle of this season is most assuredly that: and there is no denying a permeating sort of... sadness... in that space between the lines. The girl walking alone, eyes down, with smiling couples on both sides. The paraplegic in a wheelchair unable to navigate any limbs between the aisles, relying instead on the cold hands of a relative.

The mother yelling at her daughter. The kids telling their father that what they really need is...

Oh, let's be honest. It doesn't matter.

It doesn't matter what you think you need because more often than not: you don't.

Not the iPod or the GPS. Not the digital camera or the diamond earrings. Not the epileptic Elmo or Butterscotch the Pony.

These things may distract us, I suppose, from what really ails us. We're stuffing possessions in-between the gaps in our lives, filling our shopping carts with stuff enough to compensate for what we can't find elsewhere.

A meaningful solution to the curse of our existence, a sort of cosmic comeuppance that haunts us from the cradle:

Fears of death, and loneliness, in a world where everyone dies and no one entirely escapes the latter.

But the fact remains that if you allow yourself to give into these fears, you'll spend a lifetime counting the lines on your own face, tracing the ever-changing path with a limp in your voice and a stutter to your step.

So you do what you can to distract yourself. You start your family and celebrate your Holy Days and line your fence with all the colors of the rainbow, too often forgetting that all around you are people very much so stuck in the same trap, the same dilemma, the same existential quandry.

But surely it occurs to you, from time to time, that you are not alone. That the world is full of people caught in varying degrees of happiness, and suffering, and sometimes it's up to you to make their day a little better: to smile when you want to look away. To put a dollar into the cup when your instinct is to ignore that unquestionable jingle of change.

It will come back to you some day, most certainly, when you need -- or fear it -- most.


Along with sundry other changes in my life, this Christmas will mark the last day I see my brother for a good while, and I think -- in a way -- I'm attempting to mask whatever it is I feel (or don't) with more gifts than I (or my banking account) can stand.

Intoxicated as I am by this same spirit, I am trying, with all my might, to not give in to the topical depression of this season. I have my Charlie Brown tree up.

And my stockings are hung with care.

And I think, maybe, this December will end more quickly than the long, slow drawl with which it began.

I want somehow to stop it. For the New Year to never come.


At work they're having a cube decorating contest; some are designing theirs as a ginerbread house. Others Santa's workshop.

Mine, if I muster the energy, will look a little like the decor I've established at home (see photos above).

I'll give you one guess as to what I'm calling it.


Supafly Turbo Cyborg said...

Oh, how I loathe the holidays, let me count the ways...

I think you pretty much summed it up for me. People buying crap they don't need because they've always bought crap they don't need. Never stopping to think about it, never taking time to just enjoy the moment, just sitting there with a little stock broker in their head chanting, "BUY!BUY!BUY!" I firmly believe my outlook on existence would be decidedly cheerier if there were no Spanksgiving/Xmas. Maybe then I wouldn't wish the non-christians would have targeted major shopping centers each Black Friday, thereby giving that day the meaning it should have.

Jamie Willow said...

good insights. love this.

M@ said...

Beautiful post. Your best yet. Speaking of social intelligence, I'm beginning to realize that I am in part culpable for how other individuals treat ME. For some, that's a real eye-opener.

Merry (fucking) Christmas.

Michael K said...

There you go thinking about everything again. Just go to the parties and drink yourself silly.

disgruntled world citizen said...

there is something to be said about michael k's comment. maybe worth looking into.

Anonymous said...

This is why my family doesn't give presents. We realize that one of the best gifts we can give each other is the gift of not having to shop for people.

I am living with someone who owns nine boxes of Christmas stuff that she keeps in a storage unit most of the year. She actually thinks she is going to turn me from The Grinch to Mr. Christmas. To that I say "Bah! Humbug!"

I hope your Holidays are full of family time and that your brother comes back in the same condition he left in.


thirdworstpoetinthegalaxy said...

STC - Believe it or not, I think there's some value to both holidays. It's just that the same things that give it "meaning" are the same things that make it a little too hectic all around; and entirely depressing for more than a fair few.

Matt - Crazy isn't it? The Golden Rule may be a cliche, but that doesn't make it any less true.

Michael K - Now there's a solution if I've ever heard one.

DWC - I had hoped he was kidding. Thanks for the double take.

BPP - There's no need to become Mr. Christmas, but it wouldn't hurt to indulge her a bit. The holidays don't HAVE to be bad. It's just that for some of us... they usually are.

ds said...

so that parking garage you use - you can't shut up your space and sit in the running car... can you?

stay positive. pretty soon it'll be gray raining skies in 40 degrees march.

so much to look forward to. but it'll be ok. I used to want to kill myself too. how does that saying go... you were sick, but now you're well, and there's work to do. remember that one?

Unacademic Advisor said...

It is such a cop-out to point a finger at people indulging in rampant commercialism and say, "I hate Christmas." I know that's not exactly what you are saying, but you are coming close enough to it to win in a game of horseshoes. I love how it's always "other" people who are the cause of our own woes in this country. And we, as a society, are giving greater and greater validation to self-pitying wallows of cynicism. Yeah, that's something we want to encourage. Certainly it makes for beautiful writing, in that Edgar Allan Poe sort of way, but if these situations depress you so much, why fixate on them?

I know this response will garner the ire of most of your readers, but the truth is, many of them don't know you. They just like that you express what they feel. I do know you, and I come here for more than just a good read.

As cliche as it sounds, life is what you make of it, and part of that is what you choose to focus on. Broken ornaments and frowning stockings may reflect your mood, but they are certainly not going to improve it, which cheery holiday decorations can, to some degree, do. And if you put up a Charlie Brown tree because it's small, sad, and neglected looking, you missed the whole point of that show.

I love Christmas. And I make the most of it. Call this denial or avoidance all you want; see it in a sad light if you wish. It won't hurt me. I can't say the same for you, though.

ds said...

well put, un ad. it's nice to share the minority.

thirdworstpoetinthegalaxy said...

DS - I'm not suicidal, man. Just discontent. Big difference.

Un Ad - Man, I love the Charlie Brown special. And I think the tree is cute, and charming... in part because it is neglected looking; in part because Charlie's friends all come together to make it purty in the end. As for the frowning sock, I appreciate its irony. Makes me laugh, in fact. But it's true I do think Christmas brings out the best and the worst in us, simultaneously, and for some people who spend this holiday alone, the worst becomes all the more apparent.

Fact remains, I'm decorating more this year than I ever have in the past. I thoroughly expect this Christmas to be uniquely difficult, and I'm doing what I can to ameliorate the effects for myself and my family.

Unacademic Advisor said...

It doesn't ameliorate the effects, though, if you do it as a sad attempt to ameliorate the effects. See the difference? It's all about attitude.

Pamela said...

I don't loathe the holidays - in fact I know that somewhere inside of me I have great affection for it.

However, I am like you. I get the blues.

great post.