{low bridge, high water: how to cope with December}

Christmas Cookies 2011 08

“No one is useless in this world who lightens the burdens of another.” – Charles Dickens

Coping Mechanism #1: Find quotes like this. Cling to them.

It was going well. I was going to be happy this month.

I had plans. I was going to attend a concert in which I was not performing. I was going to decorate. I was going to bake and experiment. I was going to arrange a fun trip for our entire family. I was going to make a meal, and invite guests and strangers…

While I acknowledge that the month is not over, none of this has happened yet. Instead, I’m in the usual mental… er, whirl that so many mental people share:

  • Try to get everyone exactly what they want, which will guarantee their actual happiness
  • Feel increasing anxiety, when they can’t tell you what that thing that will make them happy might be,
  • Realize that one’s nieces/nephews/younger sibs/great-grandparents have access to more expensive tech than you own or can afford, and realize you can get them nothing that they actually want – because their desires lean toward things like, oh, cars, Xboxes and additional iPhones
  • Get caught up on the feeling of helplessness, that you can’t do anything right
  • Be filled with dread at the thought of having to go to an Actual Store and shop
  • Know very well that the things you mail-ordered aren’t going to arrive in time
  • Berate oneself for obsessing over this again and getting no work done
  • Unsuccessfully combat the disappointment with gifts from people who don’t stress as much, but clearly don’t know you well or care, either
  • Unsuccessfully combat the feeling that gift-giving is a meaningless shuffling about of things no one wants, and yet we do it anyway, because, reasons
  • Worry that everyone else understands those reasons
  • Worry that you aren’t finding joy in this season of joy
  • Realize anew that something is wrong with you
  • Lather, rinse, repeat

Every year, people who aren’t prey to anxiety disorders throughout the rest of the year succumb to the Holiday Crazies and every year think, “Okay, I’m not going to do this again next year.” But, just like some of the same people vow not to overeat, to not over-spend… yeah. December – and mealtimes – keep coming back. And we face getting caught in a loop.

Coping Mechanism #2: Find one thing to do for someone who needs it, and do it.

Your one thing may be tiny, or it may be huge. It may be becoming a paid-up member of The Untied Way, which is a fab idea since it has $0 dues, it might be giving someone a ride to the mall… and picking them up again in rush-hour traffic and an evilly overcrowded parking lot. It might be un-decorating, or cleaning up after the festivities are over. It might be wiping a runny nose for an evening. One thing. You are not truly adrift and helpless and being battered by the high, dark waters and drowning if you lighten someone’s load. You are not useless and overwhelmed. You can do this one thing. Promise yourself one thing. Better, promise yourself nothing more.

I think this is a good place to stop on “promise yourself nothing more.” I have more thoughts, but I’m going to sit with this one: Nothing more. Nothing in addition. Good enough as is.

I’m going to sit with this, and see if I can’t apply it to myself for awhile.

Edited to Add: Jon Carroll says much the same, only far better.

5 Replies to “{low bridge, high water: how to cope with December}”

  1. I haven’t done a lot (most) of the things I feel like I’m supposed to do this year, but I’m feeling mostly okay. I’ve had a couple moments, but I’ve gotten a lot more accepting of my need to keep the holidays simple to enjoy them, and my people seem to tolerate that, bless them.

    Thanks for writing this post. I’m sorry you have all that anxiety, but I am glad to know that other people feel it, too, because sometimes I do feel defective–like I am seriously missing something everyone else gets.

  2. I hope your One Thing brings you joy! I finally realized I was not getting a tree, so I whacked my Yew bushes and made an emboughment with red ribbons and Death Berries (pre-attached) on it, that at least makes me feel as though I tried. Also I sorted the Pile of Important papers today (M. had a bad case of Malingering, and had to stay home from school) which has made me feel In Control. All an illusion, but one tries.

    For me, the particular whirlnesses don’t apply–the challenge comes when everyone is gathered, and I will have to try really hard to give the gift of my smiling presence (instead of making a cave out in the garage).

    1. I don’t mind giving gifts, but there comes a point when I want to throw cash at the older teens and then run away, because it’s hard to want to spend time with people so patently disinterested. I’d rather being doing my own thing, too, but…

      Well. Some hypocrisy must be managed during the holidays, no?
      No? Well, if not, we all need to agree to leave each other alone and do our own thing. So far, we’ve not agreed to that yet. Maybe next year…

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