Saturday, December 24, 2011

Faking 'Happiness' on Christmas

Years ago, I remember running around doing last minute Christmas shopping used to be fun. I actually did it on purpose. All the decorations were in full bloom, people seemed happier and the overall feel for the holiday was much more evident. Yesterday, as I was driving store to store, I realized it’s no longer that ‘quaint joyous feeling’ - it’s become absolute rage and chaos. Between traffic being backed up for miles and people trying to nudge their way into the mess, one kid almost slammed right into my passenger side of my car. I kept beeping and beeping, but he kept coming. I had to go on the other side of the lane in order to avoid him. Of course, I ‘silent screamed’ at him through my windows with a few choice words, but then, I saw his face. He had the face of a pitiful and stressed out young man. I read his lips: “I’m so sorry! I am so so sorry!” He had his hands up as if he was surrendering. Then it dawned on me: I’m the holiday bitch from hell. The kid really didn’t see me, even it I had the right of way. I had to reel it in and take a few deep breaths. It’s funny how we’re more polite face-to-face, but once we’re in the safety of our cars, we become deadly enemies full of road rage.

Lately, my mother has been hanging out in the emergency room because she is prone to getting cellulitis (infection of the skin), to where it becomes very dangerous. (And yes, that's my mom in that picture taken with my phone in the ER.) It’s always the same drill: antibiotic drip, and a long, long wait to get the prescription and check out. While we were waiting, I had her laughing so hard, she was in tears. The nurses were all coming into our section trying to join in on our little ER party - even went as far to invite us to their holiday party - and that’s when we knew we’ve been visiting this place a bit too much. I said to mom, “We know them on first name basis now, do you realize this?” Then she pointed out all of my hypochondriacal visits to the ER and blamed me for being ‘well-known’. As we left, the nurses said, “It’s nice to have people like you to lift us up during the holidays!” I remember last Christmas Eve, I came home and started having chest pains. Madelene rushed me into the ER and the staff hooked me up to EKGs, took blood from my arm, gave me chest x-rays and then said, “Are you stressed out?” I didn’t think I was, but after the clean bill of health, they had told me that many people come into the ER on Christmas Eve. Most people are sad, stressed out, or have been with their family for long periods of time (perhaps too long), and end up having chest pains or heart attack-like symptoms. Others come in with those symptoms due to indigestion or alcohol poisoning. Many patients take their frustrations out on the hospital staff and start threatening them or even assaulting them in some cases. Hats off to anyone who works in the ER on Christmas Eve.

If you really think about it, Christmas isn’t fun at all for most adults. Stressors from 'what to cook' to entertaining family and friends to even the tugging of whose family to visit, or worse off, no family to visit. It depends. Christmas can be so devastating for so many people. An old friend called me up yesterday who happened to be in town for the holidays visiting family. While having a quick ‘catch up’ conversation, she bursted into tears over the phone telling me how unhappy she is. I tried giving her the best advice I could give, but ended up crying to her instead. We both laughed through our tears and realized how lucky we were to have such a friendship. I think many people are bursting at the seams with tears. Holding them back only creates that tension that sometimes manifests into anger, ie: road rage, angry shoppers, etc., etc. We’re all trying to ‘keep it together’ and be ‘joyous’ and some of it is genuine, but if you look deep enough into the crowd, you’ll notice many watery eyes waiting to burst at any given moment. It’s not only that, but people get desperate due to loss of employment, which creates the most honest of all people robbing stores or doing things out of their character just to have Christmas the way it used to be. They don’t want to disappoint their family. What makes this holiday so heart wrenching? It starts with Thanksgiving, but there is something about Christmas that makes people feel obligated about being happy, or perhaps, faking it?

What if we could just look at this holiday as just another ordinary day - (an extraordinary birthday) - but an ordinary day nonetheless? What if we stop focusing on trying to please everyone and realize that this holiday is about Jesus’ birthday? It’s about doing what Jesus wants you to do: being kind to others, giving to others (in any form you can), spending time with your family (does not have to be blood-related, but chosen family), and creating an atmosphere of relief. “Happiness” may be a forced word, so I would say “relief” - a place where you can go to feel relieved of all the anxiety, stress and sadness. A place where you can just be yourself, give of yourself and forgive yourself for feeling so down on this holiday. And if you’re spending it alone, make it special. Treat yourself. Put candles all around your bathroom, and soak in a bubble bath while sipping your favorite wine listening to your favorite music. Do something for “you”. And for those people who are suicidal, remember - Christmas is over in 2 more days. You can party next week on New Year’s Eve that you’re still here with us.

And now, I will try to take my own advice and gather my composure when the next idiot pushes his way through the traffic and cuts me off. I will lower my ‘bitch-o-meter’ and try to smile and say, “It’s okay, go right ahead of me.” It may hurt and I may hold back a few choice words, but it may be the one person I come across who’s holding onto his last thread in life. So be nice! Tip more! Smile more! Love more! And...laugh more!

And to all my readers, family & friends, Merry Christmas & Happy Hanukkah!

For more of Deb's articles, please visit: www.debrapasquella.com

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