Monday, December 19, 2011
The Dark And Light Side Of Christmas
There's a scene early on in Cameron Crowe's modern day classic "Say Anything," where John Cusack and his sister Joan, playing brother and sister in the film, have a short but meaningful bit of an argument. Joan's character seems to be whining and complaining about minor everyday irritations, and continues by taking some of her hostility out on her brother. He asks her, "How hard is it to get in a good mood?" He continues with, "I'm sorry Tim left you, but I am not Tim. You were hilarious once."
How hard is it to get in a good mood? I won't go against type here when I say, a good bouncy version of "Silver Bells" isn't always enough. I have a friend who was "hilarious once." Still is, actually. But not this week. Not any week where Christmas is involved.
Every year I see friends and family getting pushed to the edge while trying desperately to display what we've come to understand as necessary behavior for the Christmas holidays. They try to muster an acceptable attitude, when deep in their hearts, they'd like nothing more than to not be pressured or guilted into spending money, having to be somewhere, or suddenly having to wear some cheek-spraining grin because some Clydesdales are galloping through the snow. This Christmas, I'd love to see those who feel it, to feel it with all their hearts. And those that don't, to be given a free pass. Sometimes, you just don't feel it. It's not a crime, and no one should be made to feel that it is.
I used to have some fantastic Christmases. Most were before I was 25 years old. Most were before I didn't have a care in the world. But as you get older, your responsibilities change. And so do your priorities. And so do your feelings. Christmas is really not the "most wonderful time of the year." It's the most "unforgiving stretch of pressure and must-dos" that inevitably make the broke broker.
What bothers me most is, for the rest of the year, the same friends and family who have such a hard time with the holidays, seem to handle their daily hardships like kings and queens. They live life day to day, and if you forgive the phrase, often make lemonade with their lemons. Why? No one expects as much from others in March or August.
Now the title does say "dark and light side."
I've eaten some great meals on Christmas Eve. I've had some amazing laughs on New Year's Eve. New Year's Day will find me once again, plunging into the ocean with the Polar Bears on Coney Island. I don't hate Christmas music. While I do hate Mariah Carey, there are few Christmas songs that make me as happy as her's does. I love seeing friends and family. It really can be okay. But I've also experienced first hand, family members crying over getting the wrong gift, or saying things like, "Did you really think I'd wear this?"
One year, when asked what I wanted for Christmas, I replied, "I don't care. It's not about that. Whatever. Nothing is fine." I won't reveal who asked me, but this was her reply, "What's wrong with you? Can't you make this easy for me?" To avoid a holiday smackdown, I simply said, "A new Yankees cap. That should be easy enough." Christmas Eve, I opened my box, and it was a Mets cap. I couldn't help my reaction. I'm sure my face changed just a bit, but I said, "Wow. This is great. Thank you." "What's wrong," she asked, "you made a face." "Well," I said, " this is a Mets cap."
"THAT'S WHAT YOU SAID!"
Merry Christmas to me.
Sure, this is one story out of thousands that we all can share in one capacity or another. The crazy Aunt who sends peanut brittle. The sister who hates hoop earrings. But, if we really want to experience Christmas spirit, my wish is to see people left to their own devices. Chances are, all will play out exactly as expected. I just don't find it helpful when I hear stories of people being told, "You have to buy these for my daughter. You said you would." My answer would be, "Buzz off! You have money. YOU buy them for your daughter. I'll buy what I can afford."
The holiday season can be a joyous time. But we should all remember those who may not be feeling as joyous. Their feelings are just as valid.
How hard is it to get in a good mood?
Not hard at all. Just live your life. As long as it's legal, whatever you want to do should be ok. And if you've got siblings, or kids, or close friends, or an aunt and uncle...if they are good people, they'll understand.
Merry Christmas. The music returns tomorrow.
(This was written for a friend, as much as it was written for me and all of you.)