I almost wish there weren't a holiday season.
I know nobody likes me. Why do we have to
have a holiday season to emphasize it?
— Charlie Brown
Well, it looks like my annual holiday depression has arrived and this year it's kind of a doozy. For the past few days, I've been struggling to mentally keep my head above water. My standard joking line over the past few years has been, "Buy one divorce, get a depression free." Sadly, all good humor is rooted in truth and there have been times when it has been difficult to wake up and get through the day. These have been thankfully brief and haven't been nearly as severe as they could have been. I've known some people who have been in such a depressed state that they haven't been able to get out of bed for a couple days at a time. Maybe it's a factor of my pragmatic personality but I can at least say that I never stopped being a functional human being through these glum periods. I'm sure that I wasn't the greatest person to be around during those times but I got up and did what had to be done.
The holiday season has always been the worst part of the year for this. Christmas was always such a family oriented celebration and, since she was a homemaker, my ex always set the scene and kicked things off with the help of my girls. I would go to work one day and when I got home the whole house would be decorated. We would all go and pick out a tree and decorate it that evening, all the while bringing up memories of this ornament or that decoration or what have you. And building new ones that we would talk about in the years to come. We would all gather to watch the same movies and specials every year. On Christmas Eve, the kids would leave our traditional snack for Santa. (Go ahead and think it through. I'll wait.) Once they were asleep,
we would put — er, I mean the gifts would magically appear under the tree. Then every year, she and I would just sit together on the couch with some music playing and just bask in the soft light of the tree.
Certainly we weren't unique in these things and I'm sure that many of you can relate similar things. But when that family structure was uprooted after so many years, I was struggling just to take care of my daily routine. Thing 1 stepped into the role of Christmas kicker offer and would drag me into the spirit, sometimes kicking and screaming. And each year it was lovely. But each year I felt rather out of place — a little incomplete even — doing a solo act on things that had always been a duet.
And now that Thing 1 has moved away it's even harder because Thing 2 is much more utilitarian about things and doesn't spur me along like her sister did. Last year, we only got a tree about a week before Christmas and I'm not entirely sure I would have if she hadn't still been living here.
Don't get me wrong. I love Christmas for all that it means. Without the incarnation of God in the person of Christ, nothing else in Christianity means much of anything. I love the added measure of warmth and love that people display toward each other. Well, at least they do here in small town America where we still say hello to people we don't know on the street and sometimes strike up conversations with total strangers in line at the grocery store. I like the lights and the music as long as it's after Thanksgiving. But going through it alone can be, well, pretty lousy at times. I now have a better understanding of why the suicide rate always spikes during the holidays. I'm not there by any means, mind you, but I understand it. It kinda sucks to be lonely at a time which is intended for sharing.
In the end, this little dark cloud of emotion will pass just like the rest and things will get back to normal. Whatever that means. And in keeping with my goal of living more intentionally, I'm trying to jump start myself better this year and not let these feelings get real traction. But I'm not gonna lie. It's still pretty rough.