It’s Christmas time, and even though the holiday season is lauded as a time of giving and thinking about others, it’s also a time when people end up thinking about the state of their own lives.
For a number of overlapping reasons, this time of year often triggers some pretty heavy self-reflection, whether or not we want to call it that. In households around the world, some common scenarios are poised to unfold as the holiday season rolls in:
- As the average person’s spending hits a peak, this time of year we often think about our finances, and how they got to be that way. Is this the one month when your Visa card will carry over a balance? Or is that every month?
- Many people perennially find themselves sitting across the dinner table from someone with whom there’s a history that might be… touchy at best. Old wounds can surface, as well as the reasons behind them, especially with a bit of wine.
- With the seasonal proliferation of Salvation Army Santas and World Vision commercials, we sometimes find ourselves in an uncomfortable reflection about what we actually contribute to society and the people in our community. Do you change the channel when “So This is Christmas” comes on, over images of starving children? How do you feel about that?
- By the same token, we often can’t help but reflect on what kind of family member we’ve been, this year and in years past. Any lingering disappointment with regard to the fulfillment of familial roles — in ourselves about others, in others about ourselves, and in ourselves about ourselves — tends to reach a head in December, for some reason.
- As we encounter friends and relatives we haven’t seen in a few years, we sometimes can’t help but compare our progress in the realms of career and family.
“Oh you’re running the company now, oh…”
“Are you still seeing what’s-her-face? No?”
“Yeah things are totally great with me, actually. I’m now assistant head manager of food additive development.”
- In December there are a lot of deadlines to meet, not the least of which is getting our shopping done. Depending on your industry, it may be an especially hectic time at work too. We have gatherings to attend and expectations to meet. Combine these stressors with the insane number of people on the roads and in the stores, not to mention the in-laws in the guest room, and people can reach levels of anxiety they may not experience at all during the other eleven months.
- Famously, nearly everyone ends up eating and drinking too much, and becomes acutely aware of the lurking self-control problems nearly all of us have. Sometimes I’ll even find myself chain-eating from a bowl of old candy canes — mass-produced sticks of low-grade sugar, from which I derive zero joy — just because it’s there. Honest to God, candy canes.
- As a natural reflex to these collective urges to stuff our faces and spend out of control, we begin talking about New Year’s Resolutions, which gets us thinking about exactly what it is we can’t stand about ourselves. Sometimes we’re moved enough to take a stab at a habit change, because it looks like a clean slate is just around the corner (but if it is, why can it only begin in January?)
- And as a backdrop to all this personal angst, this is the time of year when consumerism mushrooms from its year-round, casual inanity to become the grotesque, annual abomination we know as Christmas Shopping Season. Regular people, possessed by some sinister magic emanating from the television, trample and elbow their way through others to get a better deal on a Blu-Ray player than the next guy. If you’re somehow able to stay level-headed throughout this shrewdly-engineered winter orgy, it’s hard not to get a bit cynical about the whole thing.
Yet, amidst all the retail and social chaos, most of us will also find ourselves, at one moment or another during the season, recognizing with an unusual clarity what and who are truly most important in our lives.
Welcome to the end of the year. It’s a natural time to look at who you are, where you’re headed, and what you’ve been up to all this time.
My question is:
How are you doing? Right now.
I’d really like to know. Don’t just answer “Oh, good!” or “Not so great.” Be specific. What are you finding hard in your life at this very moment? What about your life do you feel a need to change? Think about it, and share it with the other readers in the comments below. Even if you never leave comments.
You can even remain anonymous if you want, just use a fake name and email address.
Share whatever’s on your mind. It doesn’t even need to be about your troubles necessarily. What’s most important to you right now?
Why share this? A few reasons. First of all, as much as Christmas is portrayed in our culture as a joyful, fulfilling season, for a lot of people it’s a particularly difficult time of year. With all the festivities and expectations of Christmas, sometimes we don’t have a place where we feel comfortable saying so.
Secondly, this time of year many people find themselves enacting roles where they tend primarily to the needs of others, whether it’s as a host or hostess, a gift-giver, a romantic partner, a parent, or an retail employee. With all the seasonal busyness going on, it’s common to become so preoccupied with the needs of other people that we forget to tend to ourselves.
It’s also comforting just to know what’s on other people’s minds, which we might otherwise be oblivious to, with so much going on.
So tell me, how’s life?