Not So Happy Holidays

Well, we have made it through Thanksgiving and Christmas, now all eyes are looking toward the New Year and the promise of new beginnings. Some will look upon the end of the holiday season with a sadness, a realization that the magic of the season has left along with the clearance-priced ornaments, Christmas cards and the ever-present box of chocolates. Others will welcome an end to the forced cheerfulness, the endless demands of the holiday season, including but not limited to Black Friday shopping, the unspoken expectation that everything must be FESTIVE and everyone should be DELIRIOUS WITH HAPPINESS. You must get the perfect gift, sit alongside family members you haven’t spoken to all year and do your best imitation of a happy, loving family. I think more effort is spent each year acting like we are happy, not alone or lonely; pretending we are immersed in the joy of the season, when in reality, we are immersed in a sadness that colors all the holiday lights a brighter shade of grey because everything and everyone is grey. For those of us who feel this way during the holidays, there doesn’t seem to be a place where we can just be what we are, which ultimately is some degree of depressed. Maybe it’s the forced merriment, maybe it’s the manic pace of the season, the never-ending demands of shopping, decorating, attending parties, kisses under the mistletoe and boatloads of eggnog or the over abundance of alcohol and sugar-laden foods or maybe it’s just the fact that we can’t be with the one we want, for whatever reason. Maybe it’s because the holidays always make us think of family members who are no longer with us, loved ones who maybe don’t love us like they used to, family that isn’t quite family any more. Maybe it’s because the real message of Christmas has been drowned out by the crass commercialism and unrealistic expectations set forth by some ad folks in some corporation somewhere. Whatever the reason, no matter how many, those of us who struggle through the holidays don’t stop struggling when the holiday season comes to a close. If anything, we may experience some tiny measure of relief when they pass, but depression is not a seasonal disorder; it is a year-round, take no holidays, 24/7 kind of condition.

My wish is for the spirit of Christmas (the real spirit) to burn brightly within my heart, be shown in my actions and be shared with all I encounter, this New Year and all throughout the years. Just because the calendar says January and the Christmas tree and decorations have been taken down, the Christmas music has (FINALLY) stopped playing in the stores doesn’t mean that goodwill towards your fellow man has to be put away, too. Keep those thoughts in the fore front of your mind, keep the love alive in your heart and above all else, love yourself, celebrate everything that makes you who you are, even if you’re not crazy about those traits. I personally am not overjoyed when my mood takes a trip on the Rocky Roller Coaster ride that only bipolar disorder could design but it’s a part of me; it’s not a curse nor is it a blessing, just a part of me as much as my curly hair and hazel eyes. It has taken me a long time to accept it, not rage against the unfairness of it all, wishing things could be different while doing nothing to change anything. For the best gift we can give is love; to oneself first and foremost and from that self-love, we can send it out to others.

If there is someone you haven’t connected with in a while and they’ve been on your mind, pick up the phone, give them a call and reach out. Chances are that they are thinking of you, too. We don’t know how many Christmases we will have, how many opportunities to say we love them, we are sorry or we just miss them. The smallest gesture can make the biggest difference to someone who is starved for kindness.

Thank you for your support, your encouragement and your love. You continue to make a difference in my life and I appreciate you tremendously.

Happy New Year to you, my friends.

Update – I’m Back and I’ve Missed You

Sorry I’ve been away for so long; I got sidetracked, but now I’m back with you!

So, we’ve made it through Thanksgiving, Christmas Eve & Christmas day and now, back at work, I feel as though I’ve been blessed many times over. I spent the weekend in San Francisco with my dear friend through her generous (early) birthday gift to me. We dined at Morton’s Steakhouse, rode a Christmas-decorated trolley, singing Christmas carols and waving to everyone as we passed. We watched quite a few Twilight movies, so I could get up to speed on the whole saga, then watched the latest movie upon our return to town. It was the most fun I’ve had in ages and there’s nothing like having a room full of strangers sing “Happy Birthday to you” to make one feel truly special. We met some wonderful people and the entire time was just full of laughter, friendship and holiday festivity. This being only my second Sober Christmas, I was somewhat concerned about being around alcohol but it wasn’t an issue at all. I had my own little buzz going, fueled by carols, bright lights and the crisp, cool air that is specific only to San Francisco. It was wonderful to get dressed up, put on some makeup and go out with a group of people that ended up being a group of friends by the end of the weekend. A heartfelt thanks to Fawn for making my year!

Thanksgiving is always a treat; not only do we have an unlimited amount of food to eat, we also have time to sit down, catch up on current events with everyone and just relax. Time to reflect on the changes from our last Thanksgiving and look forward to Christmas, then onto the New Year. This Thanksgiving was a first, as Mom didn’t come to the celebration. My sister and I went to her home (assisted living/memory care) to have our own Thanksgiving dinner with her the week before. She thoroughly enjoyed the dinner, complete with pumpkin pie and posed for pictures with us. Her condition progresses and I know some day she may not recognize me or might mistake me for someone from long ago; but for now, I know that she is being taken care of, watched over and is happy in her own little world.

Christmas has always been a difficult holiday for me, although I can’t really say why. I think it started in my youth, when I would come back from the Christmas holiday and all my classmates would be going on and on about all the wonderful gifts they opened. I knew I shouldn’t be jealous of them; that I should be happy that their family could afford to buy them everything they wanted. But deep down, I was angry, jealous and feeling sorry for myself because we didn’t have the “perfect” Christmas morning. It’s taken me years and years to realize that those kids didn’t have the one thing that they wanted the most; their parents’ time and attention. I had so many reasons to be thankful, so many gifts that I had already gotten but I thought they didn’t count. Now, I realize that we didn’t have a lot of presents not only because of financial issues, but because my father was dismayed at how Christ had been removed from Christmas and replaced with greedy-gimmeness.  The whole spirit of Christmas was lost; it was all about the biggest, the brightest, the newest, the shiniest toys, games, bikes and whatever else was on the shelves at Toys R Us. Goodwill towards man? Gone. Unconditional love? Gone. Praise to God? Gone. Now, before you all get upset with me, I know there are people out there who celebrate Christmas all year round, give to the poor, do service for their church and in general, live their lives in a very God-like fashion. I am speaking to the majority of society and my feelings/attitudes about the holiday season. Holiday. Holy Day.

Now we are looking forward to the New Year and all that that contains. New Years Resolutions, New Year’s Eve parties, dropping the ball in Times Square, closing out the old calendar and opening up the new calendar, it’s squares empty and ready to be filled. What will they be filled with, though? My hope is that I will be able to fill my time with more constructive, rewarding, self-less deeds and actions. If I happen to lose some weight along the way or finally manage to lose a bad habit, that’ll be nice, but it’s not my goal. I resolve to be a better person, keep Christmas in my heart all year long and open my eyes to the gifts that are given to me all throughout the year. A smile to someone who looks unhappy and I am given a smile in return; paying for someone else’s coffee/parking meter/newspaper; finding a need and meeting that need. After all, we are in this together, right?

I will leave you with this thought; if you were told that you had only one day left to live, what would you do? What would be thrown out of your mind as unimportant and what would replace that? It’s all about priorities and the New Year is the perfect time to check our priorities, learn from last year and move forward. Let’s make 2013 the year that we all laugh a little more, gather together as a community, pick up the phone and make that call you’ve been putting off. Lastly, hug your loved ones for no reason at all.

I’ll leave you with an Irish toast.

Slàinte!

 

Count your blessings instead of your crosses;

Count your gains instead of your losses.

Count your joys instead of your woes;

Count your friends instead of your foes.

Count your smiles instead of your tears;

Count your courage instead of your fears.

Count your full years instead of your lean;

Count your kind deeds instead of your mean.

Count your health instead of your wealth;

Love your neighbor as much as yourself.