A particular scene from Ally Mcbeal keeps popping into my mind these days – must be the season… For those of you who don’t remember/know, Ally Mcbeal was a somewhat atypical lawyer show in the late ‘90s. I remember liking it back then just about as much as I liked SATC, although they were very different (some magazine articles insisted on the fact that a girl had to choose between the two shows, but I just didn’t see it that way).
I occasionally still enjoy binging on some of the first seasons. But I digress… The scene I was referring to consists in a dialogue between the Richard Fish character and his girlfriend, who is somewhat depressed over the impending holiday season, one of the reasons being his reticence to propose to her. The dialogue goes a bit like this, from what I recall:
“I have a friend who’s a chiropractor”, Richard says, “and his business doubles in December.”
“I can’t wait to see where this is going,” she replies.
“Neck injuries. That’s what people get from looking around, craning their necks to see what others have.”
Humorously put, yet quite an accurate description. Who among us can really claim to have never been afflicted even with a mild case of greener grass Christmas tree over the holidays? Some people make it look so easy, don’t they? Everything seems to effortlessly fall into place for them, they’re composed and in control, they have time for anything and they have everything that matters. In my experience, this deceptive appearance requires a lot of planning, focus and self-control, not to mention that it’s not always cheerful and pretty behind the scenes.
For reasons big and small, some more obvious than others, December tends to bring a surplus of stress, frustration, disappointment and depression, not just the prescribed dose of “joy and happiness”. It’s that time when festive atmosphere and the impending end of yet another year collide in order to emphasize what we don’t have, what we “should” have achieved, where we should be and the “right” way of celebrating. We go to such great lengths to make others happy and/or to build that oh so precious image of personal bliss and fulfilment, that it’s really no wonder that we often collapse under pressure. To add insult to injury, we also burden others with unrealistic expectations…
Been there, done that, from multiple perspectives, and I can’t say I much cared for it. So just to preserve my mental health and to avoid running around like a headless chicken in December (yes, I know, for utterly trivial reasons), I had to stop spiralling and put together a small December survival kit for myself. The secret, I believe, is to figure out what really works on a personal level and how to tune out others’ loud guilt-inducing expectations and critical attitude.
Many of us have such mental lists, I’m sure, and here’s what’s in my metaphorical December survival kit (in no particular order, except for the first item – that’s a must for me).
This is a controversial one, I knew; and rightfully so, fortunately, it’s not for everybody. I’m referring to family in the strictest sense, genetically speaking, the one that was not my choice. There is no pleasing toxic people, that much I eventually learnt to accept after years and years of spreading myself too thin and driving myself insane trying to make them happy, to mediate conflicts and be everything they supposedly needed me to be.
No greener grass
There’s always going to be someone better, who has more, who is happier… But let’s not forget, there are also those whose “more” only spells more misfortune. Comparison goes both ways, it doesn’t help to merely notice when we are (or appear to be) outshined. It’s not exactly easy, it takes lots of focus and a good dose of humility and appreciation, but it’s certainly worth the effort. After all, it’s supposed to be the season for giving, not flaunting…
This, for me, goes hand in hand with the previous item; and I’m not talking about the gifts under the tree. Sometimes the budget is tight, even if we don’t have severe financial issues, sometimes it’s not easy to find the necessary resources even for us and our loved ones, but if we take a few moments to really analyse our belongings, we can at least discover some things we can donate. Those books we enjoyed, but know we won’t reread, those clothes that are still in good condition, but we just know we won’t wear again, those ornaments that haven’t been on the tree for years because he have newer, nicer ones, and so many other things… they could all be a nice surprise for someone less fortunate. And let’s not forget how good giving also feels, what it does for our brain chemicals and how it can make us feel so much better.
No international travelling
Since most of my December international travel time had to do with visiting family, item 1 has solved this problem. I can’t say I miss all those overpriced last minute flights or those airports full of tired, stressed and frustrated fellow travellers. I’ve had enough of that and I don’t I miss it yet. I’m not saying I’m never going to go see foreign places over the holidays, but for now I’m fine where I am.