Getting real for the holidays
Okay, I’m going to say it. The holidays make me uneasy.
I don’t come to this conclusion without experience. I have 5 children. I have 9 grandchildren. I have lost count of gifts and dinners and the times I've stood in line two days before Christmas, the coveted toy in my hands, the smirk on my face for having found said toy. But underneath I felt a fraud.
The clamor for gifts, the craziness of consumerism, have always unnerved me. I am not a shopper, wear the same jeans, put my tee shirts on inside out, and consider comfort before fashion. I like the newest electronic for what it does, not for what it signifies. This doesn't make me holy; it makes me slightly out-of-step.
For the holidays, everything has been pre-packaged and handed to us as if it’s been ordained. Yet these are holidays we create, these are pressures we endure, and most of the time without thinking too deeply why. Each year I try to simplify and each year I’m reminded that simplifying means being left out, because the world around me isn't interested.
The forced happiness from Target commercials to family expectations wearies me. If we come to joyfulness through the normal channels, then so be it. To be coerced into a false joyfulness is unfair. We have all been indoctrinated to the point we don’t know which ideas are ours, and which ones we are reenacting because we feel we should.
This applies to writing as well. If I am compelled to write about the oddly marked seagull that lagged at the back of the flock, the writing is better. If I write about the seagull because I think something outside of me requires it, the writing is dry like cardboard in my mouth. Thinking of where a piece might be posted before it’s even written is damning my work to mediocrity. To the sameness we go to writing to avoid.
As we wade through the holidays, it is good to ask ourselves what we expect. And when we look back, was the experience, the gift, the meal, ever what we imagined? Like opening that first package of books, the ones with my name on the front, the disappointment is not often spoken of.
I’m not advocating mutiny. I am advocating thoughtfulness, compassion, and less greed. And acceptance of that friend or relative who is not comfortable with the often-forced holiday mood. That person might be in the process of becoming real. Allow them their space.
Possibly it isn't the holiday that makes me uneasy, but the expectations around the holiday. And as much as I’d like to be included, there is an equal pull to be true to myself. In life, as in writing, being an outsider is rarely a choice. The world is changing though; people are becoming more honest, like The Velveteen Rabbit, more real. If we choose not to participate, we will deal with the fallout, but we will have chosen for the right reason, and that in itself is something to celebrate.
My writing often deals with the environment, my poetry filled with allusions to natural and man-made disasters. I have unlimited hope though; there is just too much wonder in this world to become a defeatist. To quote Margaret J. Wheatley, '"Hopelessness has surprised me with patience."