Admittedly, I’ve watched too many Christmas specials in my life, to the point that I feel I become That Guy.
You know, the protagonist, often the one who has something happen to him early on in the hour that causes him to lose faith in the holiday, only to have the Forces of Good restore that faith by some miraculous series of events. Derivative, to be sure, but if you watch the same special over and over again enough, it gets into your head nonetheless.
This year, I am That Guy. Nothing really bad has really happened in my life – on the contrary, things have never been more awesome – but I’m not feeling Christmas this year, and I’m down about more than a few things thanks in large part to the holiday. I’m not waiting for some miracle to change my mind, though. I’m going to do my best in these last five days to shift my own mindset and walk my own talk.
There’s a blueprint that exists for how every holiday *should* look like. That blueprint varies from person to person, but there are common trends. And for me, my blueprint very closely resembles my old expectations of how my life overall *should* have looked by now.
According to that blueprint, first drawn up when I was like seven or eight years old, I was supposed to be like at least four or five of my closest friends: with a house, a spouse, new cars, and kids. As it happens, in 2012, I’m spouseless/girlfriend-less, living with the ‘rents, driving a used Toyota made the same year I started high school, and childless (which I don’t mind so much, but, again, part of the blueprint). I spent most of the year dealing with that old life blueprint and crafting a new vision for myself and I’m much, much stronger this Christmas than I was last time. I’ve dealt with this before, but it unexpectedly came back, so now I know. I’ll acknowledge that and move on.
To paraphrase Gary Vaynerchuk, everything that I’m working towards is coming, including someday a house, a new spouse, a new car, and, assuming the miraculous, a little munchkin or two: I should stop crying and keep hustling.
The next thing is the religious/spiritual part of the holiday. The materialism crunch sucks in and of itself, but for most people, they’re able to fall back on the “Christ” portion of “Christmas”. Not being a Christian, I can’t do that, but I find myself being really mean to actual Christians and religious people for their beliefs lately, and I shouldn’t. I have my own set of crazy beliefs about the Universe (Law of Attraction, vision boards, etc..) that work for me the same way that a belief in the Gospels, or the Koran, or Buddhist mindfulness, Hindu or Jewish ritualism, etc.. does for those followers.
Well…no, actually, I don’t think they work in the same way. I view the Law of Attraction as an underexplored science, the same way that the sun didn’t wait until scientists understood the principles of nuclear fusion before it decided to shine. I see real results regardless of whether or not I understand the ways and means by which the results show up. And I understand others don’t see what I see.
So why do I feel this need to go after someone else’s faith at this time of year?
It’s obvious I’m going to have to sort through and re-articulate my own beliefs in a way that I’m secure enough not to default to attack mode when challenged. There’s a difference between engaging differing beliefs in dialogue and just plain smacking them, so that something I’ll have to work on. Jesus is the historical reason for the season, and though I can’t fall back on that when the crowds of shoppers tear into each other for the sake of celebrating a day of peace and togetherness, that doesn’t mean I should disrespect others who find their meaning in Christ, and that one day.
Last thing is my own family. I’ve had a lot of people call me “arrogant” in the past while. It hurts because I really do feel good and happy and confident, better than I’ve felt since my divorce, and even before that. This confidence is new in my life and almost completely self-generated and self-sustaining, except for a few bad days, but even then, I lift myself back up. Yet for expressing this confidence, I found out recently that my two sisters in particular think me arrogant, mean, a bully, all because I walk around with more swagger than I ever have. They never say this to my face, but always behind my back to my Mom and Dad. That’s their perception of me – for two people who are perpetually depressed and angry, it’s understandable to want to tear down people who are actually doing well – and outside of my control, but the sad part for me is that I really don’t know what else to do.
Mom and Dad raised three very different kids whose only ties are bloodlines, history, and TV shows, movies, and video games that we all shared until I turned 20 and moved out. Now we’re very different adults who, in all likelihood, will only stay connected as long as Mom and Dad are alive. It’s what it is, and I have to make up my mind about whether or not I want to change that, because I’m not censoring my joy to make unhappy people feel less unhappy about themselves. Still, these are relationships I should strengthen: they’re my sisters, after all. I’ll do my best not to trigger their own emotions while still being true to my own expression. It’s a difficult challenge, but it’s one I should look after.
Anyway, I think that’s it.
I’ve read in many places that, for North Americans in particular, Christmas enhances both existing connections between people and the sense of disconnection for those who are more sensitive. Much of that is that blueprint of how we think the holidays *should* look, should end up.
On an episode of HBO’s “The Newsroom”, one character describes Valentine’s Day as “the bully of holidays”, forcing people who aren’t in love to act like they are, because they’ll “ruin” the holiday if they don’t. You can say much the same for every holiday to some degree, though, especially Christmas.
Sometimes families really do function better with distance than being together even for a few days. Often, your beliefs really are incompatible with what everyone else believes. Many times, you feel your life isn’t where it’s supposed to be because of a blueprint that applies to a world that no longer exists for you.
But most of the time, you get through it all okay.
This is a season for wishes. My Christmas Wish, as best as I can muster, is that you do more than get through this holiday okay. My wish is that you create your own measure of joy for yourself and those you love, and do your best to spread that joy, spirit, and love as authentically as you possibly can to everyone around you. You can’t give what you don’t have, but you may surprise yourself and everyone around you.
It’s my wish this Christmas that you stop being That Guy and become This One,