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Tag Archives: New Year

Let Your Heart Be Light*

charlie brown

The days are getting noticeably shorter and carbohydrate cravings are growing stronger. By mid-October there’s no denying that there’s a change a coming. The first scattering of little costumed people and dogs have appeared (either going to pre-Halloween celebrations or having trick-or-treating dry runs.) By this weekend the streets will be alive with all manner of elaborate costume. Children will take on the mantle of popular movie, cartoon and video game characters. Young (and not so young) women will dress as slutty; nurses, waitresses, devils and angels. It will all build to the crescendo that is the Village Halloween Parade, an event that celebrates wit, witticism, irony and drag. And then ladies and gentlemen the party really gets started.

Before the last candy corn has been eaten (or tossed) it will be time for “the holidays.” As you pull the fake cobwebs down from your walls you will be implored (by television, radio, podcast, website, magazine, and newspaper) to perfect your turkey. Every year the “experts” come out to tell us the failsafe way to remedy our annual poultry failings. Personally I have never known any Thanksgiving that hinged upon the perfection of the bird. There is way too much family drama (not too mention side dishes) to really focus on grading the turkey. Besides, isn’t gravy’s job to democratize and flavor? But never us mind, the airwaves will blast with brining, frying, boning promises. Tips for new and exciting ways to invent old favorites will appear. As if Thanksgiving is a cocktail party not a holiday celebrating tradition and very specific foods. Let’s face it the only help any of us need, short of an invitation to someone else’s house, is the Butterball hotline. Those little holiday angels make up for every bad customer service phone bank everywhere. We love you Butterball!

While all this media “filler” (or should we call it “stuffing?”) occurs, the rumbling of the real “holidays” train can be heard. The “holidays” as we now seem to call Christmas, begin to be feverishly pitched earlier and earlier, but still subscribes to a certain; Thanksgiving first, etiquette. At 11:58 AM EST Thanksgiving Day, Santa Claus heads into Herald Square signaling that it is now polite to discuss his special day. (By the way, if there is any confusion over the overt euphemism of “the holidays” pay close attention this year. Chanukah will be over on December 5th yet dollars to donuts the talking heads will still be referring to last minute “holiday” shopping and “holiday” gift ideas until December 24th.) There is actually much to be said of this time of year. People’s spirits (outside of shopping malls and large toy stores) are lifted and light. Everything looks prettier as Christmas wreaths and trees pop up in even the most secular of locations. If you’re lucky, invitations and chances to dress up increase and there may even be presents.

For some however, it’s mostly frenzy. Even if you don’t work as a Christmas elf, chances are your workload dramatically increases before “the holidays.” Deadlines and meetings get squished into that après Thanksgiving, pre-getting the hell out of town, period. People (and by people we mean mostly women) who feel it’s their responsibility to create the holiday, don’t necessarily bask in the sights and sounds of the season. There are many people whose activity or responsibilities don’t seasonally increase, but their loneliness or sadness does. Even those not mired in loss or illness, may find this time of year triggering a short-term discrete melancholy. Memories can be haunting as can unfulfilled dreams. Whether we’re leading the holiday charge or feeling the parade is passing us by, it’s important to keep in touch with how we’re feeling. For people who love nothing more than a 4-page to-do list and arms filled with shopping bags, there’s not much internal checking in that needs to occur this time of year. But those little Santa’s helpers are in a great position to check-in on those around them. Everyone knows someone who’s suffered a loss or is naturally fragile. This time of year provides ample opportunity to reach out. Issue invitations or drop by with small gifts or treats. All that matters is that you connect. For those who have a hard time, know your triggers. Step away from the television, especially when It’s A Wonderful Life comes on. Stay away from places that feel overwhelming or lonely. Do less that you don’t enjoy and more that you do. Plan lovely things for yourself. Is there a book you’ve been meaning to read, a place you’d like to visit, a food you’d like to try? Now is the time to plan gifts for yourself. It may seem as if the whole world is trimming a perfect tree, clinking egg nog glasses and singing carols. But the truth of the matter is that very few people actually live in a fantasy world. Most of us struggle in one way or another, and knowing that can be a great comfort.

The best we can do, this time or anytime of year, is to not get ahead of ourselves. Christmas and the New Year are four days of celebration two months away. There are over 60 days worth celebrating until then.

*Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas (1943) – Ralph Blane & Hugh Martin

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A New Year’s Resolution

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January is not the cheeriest of months. Unless you celebrate Martin Luther King Jr.’s birthday in an exceptionally festive manner, there’s not much to break up the long cold dark month. February has Valentine’s Day, March has St. Patrick’s Day and (depending on the year) some festive religious holidays. April has hope that the winter is over, and so on. But January is tough. It lands right at the shortest day, longest night time of the year and after months of anticipation of frivolity. Depending on the degree of anticipation or frivolity, January 2nd can be quite the bummer.

The noisemakers have hushed, the streamers swept and the glitter has flaked from our party hats. The decorations have been put back or tossed and it’s just the same old home again. Gone are the pretty distractions and “I’ll think about it tomorrow”-ness. We look around and the world (our own and the larger one) is crying out for our attention. Our work misses us, as do the mundane chores of our lives. The world is desperate for our attention both internationally and right here. We wake refreshed from our New Year hangover having to give serious thought to realistic gun control, mental health policy and fiscal matters. We toss out stale holiday carbohydrates as we consider local lives still upended by disaster. It is all quite sobering particularly after weeks of festivity.

There are those (during any time of year) who choose not to face the sobering reality; their tolerance level cannot bear it. They tuck deeply into their work, focus on family members and/or employ their substance of choice and manage the best they can. But somewhere between being swallowed up by the world’s ills and responsibility for repairing them, and turning away (literally or figuratively) is a sweet balance. Humans are responsible for the world they inhabit. People are also responsible for their own happiness. There are people whose very definition of happiness is caring for others and/or repairing the world, and we are grateful to them. For the rest of us we are most happy when are lives are a mix of internal/external and work/play. There is no greater feeling than doing something (anonymously) for others. But going out to lunch with a dear friend can be a kick in the pants too.

As we go forth in this new year let’s commit ourselves to being near and far-sighted in our view of the world. Let us be kind to ourselves, but never at other’s expense. Let us find ways to repair the world; at home, in our neighborhood and worldwide. Let us also find reasons to celebrate regularly. Let the calendar guide you (a full-blown MLK birthday party) or just your mood (take-out pizza is only to be eaten in formal dress.) Every month (if not every week and every day) there’s a reason to celebrate the fact that we’re still here! And everyday there are countless reasons to help to create the world we want to inhabit.

Happy New Year!

 
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Posted by on January 2, 2013 in Cultural Critique, Holiday, Well-Being

 

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Santa Claus Is Coming To Town

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I’ve been thinking about Santa lately. That’s not really all that unusual given the time of year and all. But as I have not accepted Santa as my personal gift-giver, thinking of him at all is moderately novel. I’ve always had deep affection for him in all his fictional forms. Edmund Gwenn (as Kris Kringle in Miracle on 34th Street), Mickey Rooney’s voice (in two classic animated tales) even the Norelco (shaver) cartoon Santa have swept me off my feet. But the real Santa? I hadn’t given him much thought.

This all started with the (not nearly as distressing as it might first seem) thought of sitting on his lap as an adult. I wondered what would I, as a grown woman capable of filling my own stocking, ask from the bearded stranger. This led me to thinking of his raison d’etre. Santa, it would seem, exists as a repository of dreams. Children visit the jolly fellow and (if they’re not crying uncontrollably or rendered speechless by his Oz-like presence) tell him what the really want. This dynamic works well as children will rarely filter with Santa. They will not tell Santa what they think he wants to hear, but instead what they in fact want. Many is the Santa (post 1970) who has heard “I want my mommy & daddy to get undivorced.” Children know what they want and rarely have shame in asking for it.

How does this scenario play out for an adult who has been (somewhat) socialized and mostly expresses herself with a (somewhat flawed) filter? What it seems to entail is doing a little hard work and digging deep to uncover what one really wants. Santa (to my understanding) cannot cure disease or enforce cease fires. Santa seems to deal on an individual basis, addressing only the personal. So then what, if given the chance, would I ask Santa to bring on Christmas morning? An idea sprang to mind, and then one more, and before you know it I had a score. They all seemed to be of a similar ilk and to the untrained eye would appear to be New Year”s resolutions.

And that’s when it dawned on me for the first time ever; New Year is Christmas for grown-ups! The eve of the New Year is spent in sparkly clothes sipping sparkling wine, waiting for something to happen. Instead of listening for hoof sounds on the roof, or jingling of sleigh bells, our ears are primed for noisemakers and countdowns. When the moment arrives we whoop and holler and when it’s all over there’s a big mess to clean. And the next day is when we receive the gift of fresh starts and begin to play with the resolutions we’ve made.

There is still plenty of time to write your letter to Santa. When you’re standing in line (at the bank, the post office, the store, the wrapping desk) let your mind wander. Ask yourself; ‘what do I want?’ Let your imagination run wild. There is no wrong answer. “I want to be more patient with my teenager” is just as valid (and perhaps as daunting) as “I want to become a doctor.” Discovering what you really truly want is not complicated but it isn’t easy either. You might just need to jump start the process with a little visit to Santa. Sure you might feel a little self-conscious, but trust me, Santa’s seen it all. You needn’t sit on his lap, maybe just a “hello” and a hearty handshake will do the trick. The thing is, once you’ve stage whispered, “I’m working on my list” to Santa, you’re going to finish the list. Santa never loses his power to motivate. This is a man who knows when you’ve been bad or good.

 
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Posted by on December 7, 2012 in Holiday, Well-Being

 

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