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Holiday Cheer and Associated Cleanup

January 2, 2010

It is January 1, and I am glad the holidays are over. Oh sure, I still have a few things to do (make chipotle black eyed peas, decide whether to remove Christmas lights). But overall, the holidays are over and I am glad for it.

The holidays are hard for me because of the enforced happiness of the season — the belief that I am not enjoying myself if I am not laughing, that I ought to be puttering around channeling Martha Stewart or Rachel Ray, the obligatory happy holidays to people I meet in the grocery or bank, and, new this year, the caroling.

The truth is, I am not happy. Not right now. Oh, some days I’m content enough. I notice the bright days and enjoy them. More often, this holiday season, I have struggled with the low-level buzz of anxiety of what will happen next in my life. Some days I have altogether not wanted to get out of bed. I have held off until the last possible moment because I dread facing the relentless cheer of holiday-goers who actually are merry this season.

I discovered this feeling as a kind of depression, a seasonal ennui, in the early part of December. A friend asked me about Christmas decorations. I didn’t know. I didn’t care. There were two boxes of lights bought at the local grocery store in an attempt to stave off further conversations about Christmas cookie parties and New Year events. Then the boxes sat on my desk for two weeks until I finally got up the effort to put them up.

This is one of the ways that unhappiness appears — unhappiness is the dragging out of preparations for an event, hoping it will only stay a short while. And while they stayed quite long enough, the holidays this year did not overstay their welcome for me. Even so, I’m glad they’re passed and life can move on.

If there is anything that I am grateful for after the holiday season, it is that life will move on. The holidays are a time to dwell on happiness, to pause life and taste it again, to spend time with what we have done so far. I’m not there; not right now. I am straining for the taste of the next thing, wanting to put an end to what have been a few very bad months at the end of 2009, ready to sample the next part of my life.

I am hoping, too. Hoping that this year is not so sour as parts of last. That I learn to be calmer and more patient. That I learn to be more at ease. Most importantly, that I learn to sit with the pain in my life and let it be there — it has as much right to my life as the happiness does.

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