Mixed Emotions

My husband has a funny saying. When people ask, for example, how he feels about retiring he will say: I retired with mixed emotions; joy and happiness. The Christmas season is full of mixed emotions. But not always joy and happiness. This year, more than usual for some reason, I’m noticing a lot of people are downright miserable. I’ve tried to get a handle on it discussing possible scenarios with Rudy. But I think a good old fashioned interactive survey is in order. I’m going to start with my own family. I think the results may be surprising.

I personally love Christmas and everything about it. It’s a joyful time in so many ways. But I choose to see the positive side of the two-sided coin.

Like family gatherings it’s wonderful to have kinfolk assembled for meals and libations. No matter the menu or the venue it’s cheerful and lively. For some, however, it’s a stress sandwich. Rather than delight in the company they stress about who’s not there; some by choice, done by fate and some by tragedy/death. They agonize over the menu. It’s never enough, they forgot something, food is over/undercooked. Libations are truth serum; some get melancholy while others lose their filter. Others (clearing my throat) turn the event into a raging karaoke party. Groan.

Gift giving is so sweet. You show your love and friendship by choosing thoughtful gifts for your loved ones. And their reaction upon receipt is priceless. (Well maybe not the suture clip from my brother with personal nose hair attached). Rudy always has a bag of tricks too. It’s a highlight to have him haul out the knapsack at the end of the gift frenzy. He’s usually stumbled on one store late Christmas Eve. My dad has long ago given up on the gift thing. Funny when I reminded him about the fountain pen he didn’t recall that, but he does remember all the gifts he used to by for my mom only to be rebuffed. (He bought her expensive perfume; it gave her a headache. Chanel No 5?? He bought her a beautiful outfit. It’s wool; too itchy. He bought her jewelry. Not her style. He bought her an electric knife. How unromantic. He couldn’t win so he gave up). When I see the jammed stores and parking lots I imagine shoppers hustling and bustling in complete denial of the bills next month.

We aren’t religious anymore. I think we have our personal spirituality it’s just not displayed in an organized way in church. I must admit that the church gathering and hymn singing is comforting and peaceful. It also forces you to focus on the meaning of Christmas. I would love to attend a service if anyone was interested. But. A family festive gathering is enlightening too.

My personal opinion on the foul moods and anger in general this time of year is due to light (sunlight) deprivation. The shortest day and longest night is Dec 21! No wonder the wise men could follow the star .. it was visible for over 12 hours! Darkness can be menacing. Most scary movies take place in the dark. Nefarious activities are carried out under the cloak of darkness. Severus Snape was the Professor of the Dark Arts. I think Christmas is a Beacon during the seasons darkest days. Twinkling lights and decorations brighten the dark skies. Our annual tradition of touring for lights has been interesting there’s so many creative installations. There are a few Griswold types still out there. (I should add that this year our tour was complemented by a special hot cocoa that was simply delicious). Bringing light into the season is lovely and necessary.

Snow. Sure, lots of people are dreaming of a white Christmas. Winter sports depending on the snow are overjoyed with snowy forecasts. I think snow is a gorgeous backdrop to Christmas. But it can wreak havoc on simple things like dog walking and driving. In fact, we operate our schedules for travelling based on snow conditions. Who wants to turn a short drive into a blizzard-ly marathon? No thanks. When I hear about the fatal 20 car pike ups I cringe. I can’t imagine such devastation especially at this time of year. Emotions are high.

Marketing madness. It’s Q4 for retailers and the ads and gimmicks are flourishing. Charitable organizations prey on our willingness to give at this time of year the opportunities are abundant. Kettles at every store. Grocery gift boxes overflowing with donations. Feed the world flyers jamming mailboxes. (I wonder if it’s the same marketing geniuses that came up with UNICEF boxes around every kids neck at Halloween… we still used pennies then). Then the cynical types flooding social media with the list of charities showing how much from each dollar actually gets used for good rather than administrative costs (and marketing). Like union dues and taxes, we never seem to get a straight answer on the real size if the pie and how it’s divvied up.

Is the cup half full or empty. I think this comparison is particularly pertinent at this time of year. Is it as simple as choosing to be grateful and positive or do the Christmas blues really exist for some no matter what. I’m grateful for the family that gathers and toast those who aren’t there in person. I’m grateful for the bounty of food and drink and the ability to cook for others and enjoy their enjoyment. I’m grateful my parents are still with us to celebrate knowing that many wish for the same. I’m grateful for the companionship of my husband and my dog. I’m grateful I have such an amazing sister (who’s heart is as big as her brain). I’m grateful for our freedom and being able to experience winter without snow (Florida here we come). I’m grateful for real friends. My cup isn’t half full. It runneth over.

Merry Christmas 🎄

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