So This is Christmas… and How Are You?

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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?

R

It'll be okay, little buddy

Photo by Viktor Bezrukov and dtweney


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{ 98 Comments }

Gerrit December 8, 2010 at 1:22 am

I am doing great!
Looking back on the last 12 months, they have probably been the best 12 months in my life, so far. And I did not make statements like this every year…
We all grow wiser with the experiences we make all the time. But over the last few years, I truly boosted my self-awareness, and this let me to where I am today: a place of genuine happiness.
I am not a positive thinker. I do not pretend that life is great when I feel like sh!t.
I have my worries, doubts and concerns. But I have learned how o deal with them and how to focus on what really matters.
My hope is that I will continue on my journey of acquiring wisdom, thus living a happier life myself and contributing to a better life for others.
Merry Christmas and Happy New Year 2011!
Gerrit

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David December 8, 2010 at 6:48 am

Right on, you too Gerrit.

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nrhatch December 8, 2010 at 10:56 am

I’m with Gerrit. Who I am is who I want to be.

After reading Simplify Your Life by Elaine St. James, I cut back on all the Holly Daze activities that didn’t appeal to me . . . adding to my enjoyment of this time of year.

I decorate the way I want (small tree) and enjoy the simple pleasures of the season without EVER stepping into a mall to engage in mindless shopping.

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TK December 8, 2010 at 1:42 am

In doing… Well damn, i don’t even know how i’m doing. Even after reflecting on this past year (2 years) and realizing that it was by far the best, most exciting and fun part of my life, that i’m actually doing something special and big with it and going strong on a path traveled by very few, especially at this age, it bothers be that i can’t even tell how i’m doing. Best approximate might be slightly frustrated with the few months i’ve wasted due to nothing but my own laziness, but optimistic and excited to see how the ride goes on.

Thank you for asking

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David December 8, 2010 at 6:50 am

That’s kind of where I’m at. Had the best two years of my life but I’m a little frustrated with how I’ve managed my free time — something which I keep telling myself I need more of.

The ride will go on :)

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Shaz December 8, 2010 at 5:00 am

Hi,

I feel grateful.
It was a crappy decade to say the least but I have decided to be grateful – it could have been worse.

Next year I will try to be more focused and hopefully next time this year I will be in a better frame of mind.

To everyone compliments of the season

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David December 8, 2010 at 6:59 am

Hey that’s right… new decade. Thanks for the well wishes. Enjoy the season.

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Linz December 8, 2010 at 5:45 am

I am great thanks! We have decided to boycott traditional Christmas and go surfing instead – I wanted to feel healthy at the end of the Christmas period, not bloated and hungover so we made a change. I also now don’t give presents to family members unless they are children, I don’t need anything and don’t like feeding the ‘machine’. Christmas has taken on a new meaning and it’s far more exciting now.

Merry Christmas to you and everyone else xx

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David December 8, 2010 at 7:05 am

Hey great idea… starting a new tradition. I’d love to go surfing for Christmas. I spent last Christmas in New Zealand, and it’s quite different than I’m used to here. It’s in the middle of summer, and most people go to their summer homes or spend it at the beach.

Merry Christmas Lindsay, enjoy.

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Mike December 8, 2010 at 7:02 am

I’m doing well, thank you! I’m retired. I have a good wife and good friends. My finances and health are fine. Since your question appears to be holiday related, I’ll add this: I’m indifferent to the holidays–don’t hate them, but don’t need them either. I live more than 1,200 miles from relatives and never see them during the holidays. Due to the Xmas advertising, music and decorating that always begins way too early, I’m usually immunized against Xmas before Thanksgiving. I never Xmas shop. But I do look forward to January. With the Xmas clutter put away and life back to normal, everything seems so fresh and clean!

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David December 8, 2010 at 7:11 am

I do like that “January clean” feeling too. Christmas can get a bit messy with all the activity. By January there’s nothing to ‘lean’ towards and I find it easier to keep my head clear.

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inkitnow December 8, 2010 at 7:06 am

Well, all in all, pretty good. I’m extremely grateful that my husband has a good job. A job he likes and that provides us with health care benefits. It’s hard enough to deal with illness – noone should have to worry about how to pay for something that will keep them alive.
I’m sad that that two friends of mine, good friends, have cancer. One may not make it. God I wish they would find a cure for this disease.
My cat Aldo, who will be 24 in Jan. is still hanging in there. I love that cat sooo much! I spoil him rotten and hope I can keep on doing it for another few years.
My mother, at 86, is still active, upbeat and happy. I’ve been able to visit her 3 times this year (she lives in FL; I live in IL). I’m so happy that she is healthy and happy and that I can still enjoy her company. I call her every day.
Finally, I’m dealing with both pride, awe and disappointment at our President. I wonder about John McCain’s sanity, I wish Obama were stronger and less compromising. I’d like a good fight. The world is a very hard place to live in right now. The stupidity of many in power makes me feel helpless and angry. I hope 2011 brings a lot fewer wars, floods, fires, kidnappings, hate crimes, puppy mills and, most of all, animal abuse.

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David December 9, 2010 at 7:09 am

24 years old! Wow. He was alive when Reagan was president. Not many cats can say that :)

Season’s greetings to you and your family.

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Lisis December 8, 2010 at 7:24 am

I’m doing great, thanks for asking! And you? ;)

This is our first post-Santa holiday season (the only reason we perpetuated the whole Santa lie was because my in-laws thought it was cruel to deprive a child of that “joy”, plus they are super religious, so celebrating Christmas was a *must* for them. Now, we moved too far away for them to have a say in anything.

No Santa and no in-laws means no more useless, expensive, stressful tradition or “feeding the machine”, as Linz put it. December is just another month in this house, though I must admit, I do bask in a sense of gratefulness as I look around me because I don’t have to play that game anymore. I never understood or liked it, and now I don’t have to pretend. :)

It’s interesting to me that most people, upon learning this, either feel sorry for me, or consider me a Grinch… while all I feel is joy and liberation. To each his own, I suppose.

Happy December, D.!!!

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Jay Schryer December 8, 2010 at 7:48 am

Grinch!!

Just kidding. Lotsa love, L’il Isis.

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Lisis December 8, 2010 at 9:48 am

Thanks, Toots! Happy December to you, too, Jay!! :)

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Linz December 8, 2010 at 11:18 am

yes, you’re not a grinch at all, wish I knew more people with your atttitude!

David December 10, 2010 at 7:08 am

Hey Lisis! Too bad about the grinch treatment, I don’t understand that. Don’t they know liberation when they see it?

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Ginger December 8, 2010 at 7:41 am

Seriously? Really? Feels like a gift to be able to really express how I’m feeling and someone will read it and I can dump and you won’t know who I am. Cuz I feel like shit ! My back hurts, it hurts all day everyday. It’s not horrible pain like cancer must be, but it’s chronic and it wears on me. It’s discouraging and it makes me feel much older than 50 something. My husband thinks I’m depressed, I don’t think it’s that bad. Just a “funk” if you will. I have read your post regarding a bad mood so I know that I don’t have perspective right now. I’m trying to just roll with it. I try not to take the emotional pits too seriously. Could be hormones at my age too you know. I’m just trying to accept without so much trying. Just sit with it you know. I can’t work because of my back and I’m used to a lot of travel and adventure and a lot of people around. Because I’ve traveled so much I haven’t been able to cultivate a sense of community here at home so I’m feeling isolated. I think there is a lesson here somewhere. I plan to come out on the other side with something valuable to say. This is such a great time to be able to write and I find I’m in a funk, can’t find the frame of mind to write. So when my husband puts his arms around me and says it will be okay I choose to believe him even if I don’t feel it. I should go take a shower, but I won’t. I’ll go eat another donut and then I’ll feel guilty. But, this too shall pass, right? Hey, keep a good thought for me would ya’? And thanks for this little box on my compute screen, it felt like a shoulder to cry on for just a minute and I needed that.

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Gerrit December 8, 2010 at 9:08 am

Hey Ginger,
Can I ask what’s wrong with your back?
G.

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Ginger December 8, 2010 at 9:35 am

Ugh, they seem like just words. but . . hey, thanks for asking . . . here are the words they give me.
Two herniated discs in my lower back, somehow causes pain and numbness in left foot.
Osteoarthritis in neck with herniation and bone spurs causes numbness in hands. Have trouble typing sometimes.
The pain is caused from severe degenerative disc disease. Just words really, the daily reality is pain in my lower back. Limited range of motion, can’t stay in bed for any length of time without pain. Huge problems sleeping. It’s not even the pain that gets to me, it’s the constant day in day out discouragement.Always tired. I want to be strong again, physically and emotionally strong again. I want to be able to accept and yet hope and have good days. I want to not feel sorry for myself.
So many people have things that are so much worse than this, so I feel selfish, but this is my thing. I need to find a way to get beyond myself and engaged in other things, other people. Beyong this selfish thing that distracts me. I want to be me, but this IS me now. So what if it never gets better, this me has to be productive and compassionate and creative and everything I am without pain. I KNOW that’s doable. I just can’t get there from here. So many times everday, I’m face with “I can’t” How do people in wheelchairs and REAL pain do it? I don’t want to just WAIT, I want a life !!
Thanks for asking.

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Gerrit December 8, 2010 at 10:01 am

I am sorry to hear that.

And I think it is absolutely alright to feel sorry for yourself. Sounds like you really have some burden to carry.

I know what pain means; not that I have experienced much physical pain myself, but my Dad is on morphines. For years. I sometimes wonder how he can endure that.

What I experience is when somebody has any problem, people come up with well meant advice. Go to a chiropractic. Do Yoga. Acupuncture. Meditate. Hypnosis. Stop thinking of s@x.

I am sure you have tried all these already. And if there is any cure, you may have to find out for yourself what suits you best. (What else would you like to try?)

Sometimes it also helps figuring out what is behind the pain. Personally, I do not believe that the mind can cure everything. But I am convinced that there is a strong (!) connection between the mind and the body. (Anything you can think of in your case?)

I think in all your suffering, you have made a great step forward already, and that is self-awareness. You know there are people still much worse off than you are.

“Every problem is the seed of an opportunity for some greater benefit,” says Deepak Chopra.

This may sound just sarcastic to people who suffer. Some lame excuse to justify the unnecessary suffering. But indeed I have experienced that from all negative encounters in my life, there was some learning to take away. And this is not just sugar coating.

I wonder if it’s ok if I ask you if there is anything positive for you in your situation?

I wish you strength.

Keep your head up,

Gerrit

Jay Schryer December 8, 2010 at 7:46 am

I’m doing quite well, actually. It’s surprising to me, because in the past, I always used to get depressed around this time of year. But this year, I’m feeling pretty good. I’m watching beautiful sunsets over the water almost every single day, which gives me time to reflect and give gratitude on a daily basis. Daily thankfulness helps keep me in a positive mindset.

I have friends and family both near and far, a job that pays all my bills and allows me to live in moderate comfort, plenty of free time to relax or enjoy as I see fit, and (relatively speaking) good health. I have all of these things to be thankful for, and so I have a good life. Yes, life is good.

Happy holidays, David. May all your wishes come true.

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Lindsay December 8, 2010 at 8:19 am

I’m doing pretty well! In fact, I woke up in this morning in one of those moods where I just felt like thanking the Universe for everything life has given me and all I have in my life at this point.

Last week I was fretting over how much money I was going to be spending over the holidays. I don’t want to put myself in debt over buying holiday presents when I’d rather be giving them at other times “just because”.

I’m also looking forward to starting a year anew and thinking about all it has to offer. Life is good!

PS – You’re fantastic. I look forward to your posts and this one is a great.

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Rose December 8, 2010 at 8:42 am

I am doing well. This year has been a great one for me because I have started to accept myself as I am by letting go of that “perfect me” fantasy I’ve been struggling to turn into reality. I talk more to my family and I have opened up more to friends. I do still have goals that I want to accomplished but I no longer feel rushed to get there.
With that being said, my new year resolutions are to maintain a healthy diet, start working out again, nurture my spirit, be in a romantic relationship, figure out if I want to start grad school, travel more than I did this year and read more; among other things.

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Rose December 8, 2010 at 8:43 am

Oh and your blog had a lot to do with my new outlook on life. Thank you so much for sharing!

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Destiny December 8, 2010 at 9:52 am

How am I? Part of me wants to say that I’m doing really great and I genuinely believe that, but there are always exceptions in every part of my life. I LOVE both my jobs for the first time in years (which is super important). I live with family so I don’t pay rent, which is awesome, but comes with the price of non-privacy, which sucks a lot.

This post was like someone gave a speakerphone to that little monster/voice in the back of my head: “you spend, eat, and laze way too much. You suck.” It’s nice to know I’m not the only one that can get the holiday neurotic-blues.

I get frustrated with myself during the season because I’m not religious AT ALL and yet I celebrate? Trying to come to terms with that and (also) the fact that in the last few months I’ve been arguing with myself about whether having children would be beneficial in my life at all. I have a few years left to decide, but ultimately I think NO. Seems like such a crazy thing to just decide one day. Can’t put my finger on it.

But I live with the love of my life, pay the bills doing what I love, and eat whenever I feel like it, so things can’t be that bad. I’m getting my first professional massage in two weeks and that’s epic. But I haven’t spoken to my brother in over year (because he’s an genuine a-hole) and that’s depressing.

Sorry for the ramble. Just got to thinking. Thank you for allowing such comments and I hope the season treats you well!

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Mike December 8, 2010 at 6:44 pm

I’m largely indifferent to Xmas, but I wanted to say that no one needs to be religious to celebrate Xmas. It’s a cultural holiday with religious aspects, but not exclusively Christian. Most Xmas activities have nothing to do with religion; they’re pre-Christian pagan customs or later secular developments. If you wish to celebrate Xmas as a secular person, you should do so with all the gusto you wish without setting foot in a #@$%&* church!

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Drew Tkac December 8, 2010 at 10:46 am

For me just the word “Christmas” immediately evokes a flood of emotions that I have accumulated over the past 55 years. Few good, most stressful. This is a shame because I know the intent of Christmas is noble and with good intentions.

Christmas has had many incarnations over the centuries starting with perhaps Yule, a Pagan holiday on the first day of winter. When the Christians wiped out the Pagans they inserted their savior and called it Christmas. I personally would like to rename it once again to Festivus. There is even a Wiki link about it: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Festivus

Abraham Maslow said that you can tell how well a person is doing in his life by what he complains about. I consider it good fortune to voice the complaints that I have:

I dislike all the commercial aspects of Christmas. From the music in the stores that start on Thanksgiving, to the endless commercials on gifts to buy. I would just like my loved ones to think of me in some fond way and express that to me is some simple way. That is gift enough. Any more than that is gifts for corporations.

If Christmas is a Christian holiday then only Christians should celebrate it. I don’t celebrate Ramadan because I am not Islamic. It cheapens the real meaning of the holiday and tends to erode the separation of church and state laws.

I am unhappy in the level of corruption in the US government. Perhaps this was always the case, but I have become very aware of it as I get older. So much money goes to a war we created and nothing goes to health care. I could write a book on all the other issues, but I’ll stop here.

I wish that people would question government and be faithful to spirit. Not the other way around.

I feel smiled upon by the aether that at this moment, these are my complaints. I will continue to enjoy my life, continue to question everything, and continue believe in spirits.

Happy Festivus!

Drew

So because I am complaining about

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Rachel Curran December 8, 2010 at 10:47 am

Hi Dave–this was a timely post that hits everything on the head as usual.

My birthday is a week before Christmas, so while that does mean about 3-4 weekends of being busy, it also amplifies the self-reflection. This year I turn 40.

Being single while turning 40 on Dec.17th and worried about not having experienced a maternal urge yet is foremost on my mind. I met none of my goals to get “back on track” with a weight training and fitness program I had gotten into last year and now look to 2011 as the year to do that. Instead I spent the year looking towards 40 and freaking out inside. People always tell you that you’ll meet someone when you’re not looking, but am very worried about being alone.

On the bright side, I did take up swing dancing and have culled some old “friendships” from my life that were no longer real friends. I made new and wonderful friends that I feel more aligned with in values, humor and personality and I strengthened the bonds of a 30-year friendship that has seen many ups and downs.

Thanks for asking!

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Partha December 8, 2010 at 10:57 am

That’s what I love about what you write, D. They aren’t always new (and they can’t we, not unless you’re into extreme sci-fi!), but you are uncannily able to connect with people at whatever level of thought they’re at.

You’re right, it’s great to share this kind of thing here, in this forum. It has all the pluses of sharing, and none (or little) of the embarrassment that sharing very personal thoughts entails.

I myself am, rather to my surprise, faring much worse than I had expected to! I’ve given up one way of life, expecting great things in my new way of living, and yet I find that in many ways I’m even worse off than earlier, or so it appears at times. Was I wrong to put into effect the drastic change in my life? Or is it that I’m looking for results too early? Perhaps all I need to do is just apply myself more, and look for results only later? That’s what it is, I guess: or at least, that’s certainly the most ‘productive’ thought one can have on this at this stage.

If that sounds garbled, sorry, but as far as I am concerned, that quick two-minute think-through did me good! Thanks!

Happy approaching-Christmas to you!

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Steve Mays December 8, 2010 at 10:59 am

I can say, without hesitation, I’ve never felt better. In every respect. After 60+ years I think I understand some of life’s important… lessons? Truths? Whatever.

And at every turn, I happen upon wonderful resources like this blog. Clearly placed here for me to fine. Thanks for asking.

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Sandra December 8, 2010 at 11:09 am

It seems to me that this year, much more than any other, has gone by really really fast, which is slightly depressing. It feels like only half of the year has passed… I guess cuz I’ve been really busy. Still, it does make me think of how time feels like it goes by so much faster now in my 20s than it did as a teenager or as a child, in fact time seemed to go really slow during those phases of my life. I want to be doing a lot of things but at the moment I feel a bit unorganized and confused and the relative speed of time is kinda freaking me out… that’s pretty much it.. thanks for asking.

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Gerrit December 9, 2010 at 7:14 am

You’re in your twenties and complaining that time goes by fast? Wait until you’re in your forties! (Steve Mays, any comments?)

Learn your lesson now, and make use of the limited time given to you!

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Sandra December 13, 2010 at 6:24 pm

I think the point of this post was to say it’s ok to feel however we may feel, whatever we may be going through, no matter how insignificant it may seem on a grand scale. So the only reason I commented was because it inspired me to just say this is how I feel at the moment, not because I enjoy complaining. Also, I can’t possibly know what somebody else’s experience at any other age is like, other than what they say. And I’m definitely glad that they feel good, and also I think that it sucks when they don’t, again, what my personal opinion is on each point isn’t what matters, but just being honest about one’s experience at any given moment in time, which is what I gathered from the post, and I think overall it’s a pretty good message.

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Margie December 14, 2010 at 10:13 am

At 67, the days almost overlap! I used to feel annoyed when my parents would comment on how time seemed to be going faster. It is an illusion of course based on our own age/perceptions. The more “awake” I am (that comes and goes), the more I can feel that there is no time. Just now. Somehow that realization hasn’t slowed down the physical aging process. Hmmmmm………

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Martine December 8, 2010 at 11:37 am

Just before the crisis we decided to sell everything we had to start a very simple life in the middle of French nowhere with 4 right hands and some creativity of thinking. We couldn’t move permanantly, had to wait till our house in the Netherlands would be sold. It is still not sold and we’re more then just broke, now.
Everyday we thank life itself we’ve a solid roof above this old stone cottage, we’ve warm clothes to wear, we’ve a piece of forest for chopping wood for our heating system, we’re relatively healty, we’ve eachother, basic food, we’ve a huge distance to the hollyday-season-shopping-facilities, a debt at the bank (loan for the empty-house-for-sale) for a small milion euro’s and we don’t miss a thing. Even the debt is helping us getting close to our hearts and focus on the essential things in life. The only thing spoiling our happiness is the system we have to adapt to to pay for that empty house and so we’re waisting time on jobs-for-money instead of gathering bushes for our breadoven, working in the vegetablegarden and do everything ourselves like the production of beams to improve this tiny home in the forest.
How do we do?? better then ever before in between the crowded dutch society, being overwhelmed by luxery and the idea to have more and more and more. We’re fine! Thank you for asking.

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sk December 8, 2010 at 11:51 am

I’m doing very bad, it’s been a very difficult year. My parents both lost their jobs. I have no money to go to college, and the worst is that there is no money to pay bills. Every day we go to bed not knowing if tomorrow we will have money to pay for food … Certainly sounds very dramatic, but it is the reality in which I lived for all this year, and every month it gets worse.

So I hope at least we can enjoy Christmas. With food and peace. And hoping that 2011 will be a much better year.

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Gerrit December 8, 2010 at 10:40 pm

Very sorry to hear that. I have never been in such a situation.

However – although this may not help you much – it is an illusion to think that we are in control of anything. We may think we know what the next day will bring, but in fact we are not. A friend of mine once woke up realizing he had a stroke. A colleague went for a routine examination to the doctor and was diagnosed with cancer.
Everyday people get sick, die, lose their jobs… We cannot control the circumstances. In best case we can control how we react to it.

Carpe diem!

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Ajay December 8, 2010 at 11:57 am

I’m happier than I’ve ever been. So many good things have happened for me this year-I found a good job after lengthy unemployment. As I was getting back on my feet, I used some of the money to start a business making candles out of my tiny studio apartment-and it took off. Friends came to my aid, and even invested in it. My product got picked up by a couple local shops within a few weeks. At this point, I could afford to hire a web designer to create a nice e-store, so yesterday, I did. Finally, my boyfriend of six years proposed while we were on a trip with friends and we got married on the spot in September of this year, and we’re honeymooning in Europe in a few months. I am truly grateful for all these things and more, and absolutely elated!

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G December 8, 2010 at 12:37 pm

I used to get the occasional wave of panic about not achieving the career milestones I had set up for myself. I still get that a bit but what I feel more these days is that the world is a mess and that I will not be able to improve it even one little bit unless I can straighten out my own self.

One reason I think this is that though it is commonly believed that history is the disaster-movie that it is due to ‘bad-guys’, in fact it is at least as much a tale of unforseen consequences arising from good intentions. I delved into this realisation over the last few years and now see history as driven by tragic folly. I think that only true wisdom makes work worthwhile, whether on a grand or personal scale.

I always wanted to be a novelist but I cannot escape the conclusion that even brilliant unenlightened novelists sow confusion. I was a big James Joyce fan in my student days but on reflection, considering all of his life and work it is hard to conclude confidently that he has really made the world a better place. I think he laboured for his own glory above all else. A caged tiger is as unfree as a caged mouse – his literary power was moot.

So now I live more frugally than ever and really don’t have much to celebrate. Every Christmas I share a toast in which some elder superstitiously declares that next year will be a year of greater prosperity – well, the opposite has happened year after year for most of us. Every one of my friends and near relatives is either out of work or anticipating redundancy. Some can’t sell their house; some can’t afford heating this winter. Even if I believed in blaming people, it would seem insane to blame all or any of these individuals – they are all different characters from different backgrounds and I had expected glorious success for some of them. Some of them really looked like they were nearly there at one point; myself included.

I see collective folly pulling the rug out from under everyone – people are on a treadmill. The hard work doesn’t pay off; the charity-money disappears down a plughole; the therapy makes someone crazier; the war of justice makes the world less just.

So I see all this trouble in my life and in the world, and I look back on previous Christmas reflection; I think about how self-absorbed my anxiety was before – I was worried about things like getting too old to meet and marry a sexy young woman, or dying without becoming rich and famous – and what I see is that sense of ambition and mission gradually narrowing down to a point – you know what that is.

But still, the mind will duck and dive. That, more than anything, is what aggrieves me now, when I reflect on the passage of time. Even when vain ambition shrivels somewhat, the pettiest distraction will do to relieve the restless angst of the moment.

The function of festivals like Christmas is to unite the community, rest and savour the fruits of hard work. It feels inappropriate at a time like this. We have not sown good seeds and we have not taken in a good harvest. It is not a time to self-congratulate. It is a time to question everything. If next year we have a fair and ecologically sustainable economy and my friends and relatives are not teetering on the edge of disaster, and if I am doing work I can feel good about, then I will be able to savour my turkey and roast potatoes with a clear conscience.

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Samuli December 8, 2010 at 2:14 pm

Funny thing is that I´m a coach (swimming) so my life is full of helping other people getting better in their passion and in their life…. But my own life is in gutter…. I know the whole nine yards what I should do…. but….. but…..

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Gerrit December 8, 2010 at 10:44 pm

I am a Life Coach & Executive Coach, and – just among the two of us – I also find it easier to help other people than to help myself. That’s why coaches usually have a coach for themselves.

So, ever thought about a coach for the swimming coach?

;-)

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Destiny December 8, 2010 at 10:49 pm

I’m a coach for high school sports, too. Definitely not taking care of myself these days. I’d love a coach for me. Things like buying groceries, taking a walk, taking a shower…=) It’s sad that I need a coach for that stuff.

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Gerrit December 8, 2010 at 11:02 pm

It’s not sad. It’s human nature.

hawleigh December 8, 2010 at 5:23 pm

I’m young and feeling exhausted from a prolonged spate of stagnation. It’s been an intense year. The beginning of the year featured unprecedented personal failure, from which I have yet to recover. I played hard all summer in the company of people I love dearly. In the fall I married one of them. In the winter I learned how difficult it is to be uprooted from the life I had made for myself and did nothing – stark nothing – for two months straight and counting. You wouldn’t believe how much it wears a body out.

Today . . . today I found a beginning that just might boost me over the top so that I can take advantage of the staggering possibilities my new life affords me. Life is good. It’s time I began actually living it.

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Char (PSI Tutor:Mentor) December 8, 2010 at 6:00 pm

Well~ I am doing great! ~:-)

My urban farm is coming along, the online biz is becoming more sustainable, able to spend more time with family, have romanced my shadow and been given great treasures, have maintained boundaries and accepted that some friends wanted a one-way street and others are keen to maintain and work through the challenges, will spend a week in Christchurch in Jan~ just for the experience, got a reuse recycle biz off the ground with a friend, helping others get their online biz’s up and running, my four legged companions are healthy and happy, ditched housemates upstairs and have whole floor for just me, made an art studio out of the spare room, my workouts are regular and strength increasing…am blessed.

What’s hard~
Romance ~:-)) I like in a country/century where many men are intimidated by an independent woman who is not looking looking to complete herself in another~ the princess is predictable, safe and strokes their ego~ this Queen challenges others to step up to who they say they are, maintains her boundaries and will not enable another to believe they are less than who they are, just because they have made contact with their vulnerable side. Capitalism encourages a winner/loser mindset, so many men who say they do not think men are better than women, do actually hold that value, which is exhibited in how they want a woman to be “feminine”; or by women who insist on narrow behaviours for a man to see him as “masculine”.

Urban farming~ so much work! But I’m worth the effort ~:-)

Patience with social vampires~ some want only to know you to fill their agendas of avoiding themselves and not doing their own shadow work~ projection is easy, and annoying.

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Gerrit December 8, 2010 at 8:43 pm

TO GINGER:

Apparently we have used up all space and I could not reply to your comments above.

;-)

Well, First of all it’s great that your (difficult) situation makes you see “many many” (!) positive things.

You say that advice is welcome. I am a coach, so I think that advice giving is not as powerful as helping people to find out for themselves what they need in their unique situations.

However, since we are not coaching here, some thoughts:

- I am no medical doctor, so honestly I have no idea about your physical condition. However, I think first of all it is fantastic that you can do any Yoga at all! (I was not sure about that when you first described your situation.) There are many different ways of doing Yoga, and one idea could be to find out if there is an Iyengar studio in your area. They use a lot of props, and their teachers undergo profound training. They pay a lot of attention to health concerns (Mr. Iyengar will turn 92 years soon, and his driving force to start Yoga was a poor health condition), and they don’t follow the Yoga “fashions” that I can observe in many of the popular gyms.

- Stick to your better judgement. If you feel there is something wrong with other people’s advice (and that includes mine), your intuition is probably the best thing to trust.

- I have no idea “how you chose this” and even IF you chose it. But what you can always do is try to learn.
I do not know about the physiology of your “disease”. Can it be cured? Will it constantly get worse? For a worst case scenario, let’s say it cannot be cured and it will get worse, what are the things that you still want to do in your life as long as you can? Maybe the pain is supposed to be your wake-up call, and you can learn to make the most of your life?

- It is ok for us to want to remain anonymous at times. But what is wrong about being yourself?

- What I do note is that you are apologetic

You feel embarrassed, but you think it is not alright to be embarrassed.

You feel weak, but you think you have to be strong.

You feel you don’t have the right to use David’s space (Man, I wish I had that many comments on my blog!)

“I’m not great and he asked”. You don’t have to justify yourself for not feeling great, do you?

You seem even not to deserve my comments which I gave to you voluntarily and for free. Why does something have to come back to me? Is it not ok once in a while to receive a free gift without any obligation to return anything?

And you feel guilty for eating doughnuts.

You may want to give these some thoughts.

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Michael December 8, 2010 at 9:08 pm

Right now… I will be one of those that say things aren’t good. Life is the worst it has ever been for me, after only a quarter of a decade. I’ve thought, for over half this year now, about exactly what is important to me. What’s going wrong and what can I do to fix it?

Let’s start simple. There is the debt. Almost $10k of “everyday” debt and bills. I have applied to job after job with no luck anywhere. I haven’t given up. It’s stress, but I have a chair in a shared room. Free food. I can manage while having “nothing.”

There’s college. I should have graduated in the Spring. Situations arose, moving it to this semester. Next weekend, even! Yet… administrative issues now. I haven’t even been able to take the last classes I need and this next Spring isn’t even looking possible. Yes, let’s also add the debt from this. I’ll keep that number to myself.

Finally there is love. There is romance. Or there was. Over the last six months I have been lost in my mind. I have spent months deeply apathetic, half-starved, doing nothing but staring at the walls in the dark. What was and is most important to me has continued to be a woman who used to be my wife and my life. Even if it was a short time, shorter than many, I had found a reason to move the blocks (as “This is Your Life’s Work” mentions). Before her, I had nothing better to do than continue pushing. Mostly as I couldn’t get myself to just give up. To end life. Now I am lost again. She has found other things and people to be important to her. She has moved on.

I am continuing the same things I used to. I regret my failures as always. I am tormented by what has been lost, even more than ever. About the lost possibilities, the empty hopes, the broken dreams… It’s the holidays, shouldn’t I put lights up on the house? Won’t we be decorating inside? What about a Christmas tree? Hell, what about Christmas? I will be spending this Christmas alone. I don’t even want to do anything, regardless.

This has become me or it has always been me, actually. Medication does not fully help. Talking to people does not help. I have tried and tried and there’s only so much that can be done. I am a particular person who has these… particular views that just don’t work in the current scheme of “normal” life.

So… right now? This is the worst I’ve ever been. And this is the best that it’ll get. But I’m just going about it all anyway…

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David December 8, 2010 at 10:09 pm

Wow, so many heartfelt comments here. So many stories out there. I’ve been away from my computer all day. Looking forward to responding tomorrow.

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silly goose December 9, 2010 at 6:54 am

I’m a member of several wonderful communities, online and offline, I have a great circle of friends, I’m blessed with great teachers and an amazing family full of role models who I love dearly

After several semester of doing average in different majors I’ve finally figured out what I want to learn and what I want to do with my life (art)
My roommate said he’s doing great in school and only has any problems from home – I thought to myself that I have the opposite situation. :P
Now I’m failing most of my classes because I’m a complete mess with bad habits and I let them snowball. I overwhelmed myself with distractions, blew everything off and wrecked my sleep schedule too. It is too late to save this semester, I was too embarrassed to ask for help

Also I have learned to cook!

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Tracie December 9, 2010 at 10:00 am

This keeps happening to me… I try to comment on your posts and end up with giant rambling things that actually need to be blogs or journals all on their own, and feel compelled to re-do!

While writing the first one of these yesterday, I found myself conflicted. I’m doing Really Well! In the last year I’ve left a very unhappy situation which was contributing to a years long battle with suicidal depression, reconnected with my family, and learned to take care of myself. I’m more healthy and fit than I’ve ever been as an adult. I’ve become more comfortable making friends than I have been in years, and rediscovered a love of doing theater which I know will enrich my days for a long time to come.

I’ve always loved this season. Christmas music can come on the radio in late September and I’ll sing along. I look for lights in all the windows that I pass by. I spent yesterday afternoon sitting by my family’s already decorated tree watching holiday movies while working on a present for my grandmother. For a long time I lived with someone who disliked the holidays at least as much as I liked them, and I tempered my seasonal activity and feelings in the hope of sparing his. This year I’m with people who enjoy the time as much as I do…

But while I was writing all of that, I felt a very strong compulsion to temper it all with negatives. My depression is still there, even though there’s a lot more balance. I’m alone after a 10 year relationship. I’m anxious about the uncertainty of the next year. The thing is though, that those voices, right now, are really small, but I’m afraid of letting go of them. Anxiety, depression, and pain have been my companions for a long time now, and it feels wrong to spend even a day without them. They’re so familiar in fact, that I don’t even notice holding on to them until it’s time to try and let go.

So I guess the short answer to your question is… I’m still learning how to accept being happy.

Thanks for asking! Hopefully you have time and chance to share your own answer too. :)

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Robert December 9, 2010 at 10:15 am

Well, i’m not doing as great as I would want to be doing but i’ll you what: the me of last year would be damn proud of the current one, and that’s really something.

I’ve really always hated XMas, all the way since highschool, but this year, i’m actually excited about it. Can’t wait to see how it will all unfold.

I just hope next-year-me will look back with a smile at me.

Happy holidays folks!

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Sarah December 9, 2010 at 2:07 pm

Doing as good as can be expected, this will be my first Christmas without my Dad. He committed suicide on the 22nd of November. I accept that this time of year is supposed to be about celebration, love and quality time with family and friends. So, in all of my courage and determination I am painting a smile on my face to the world and mustering up the courage to persist though deep down I feel cheated by this Christmas.

I feel inadequate because I can’t afford to give as many gifts as I would like because finances have been strapped due to his death. I am anxious about Christmas morning and what would normally be a trip to my dad’s house and a trip to my grandparents for the day and a trip back. I am scared of walking into my Grandma’s house alone this year. But, I must and will constantly try to push those thoughts out of my head and replace them good thoughts. I will try to enjoy the family and friends that are on this earth and try to celebrate good memories to cherish in future years.

I feel like Christmas has become a time for the have’s and those who have not are driven to a deeper state of depression and self-loathing. There are so many people who can’t afford to give to their families this year. We need to stop being so focused on material possessions and stress to people that it’s not about gifts but about being with the friends and family we still have.

I hope next year will be better.

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Cojack December 9, 2010 at 2:35 pm

I am anxious about starting production on my project at work soon; I hope it will be manageable. I am also researching options for my next career step.

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the other mike December 9, 2010 at 2:37 pm

…how am i doing?…pretty well i think considering all the pretentiousness,greed,dysfunction and out and out lying that the holiday season engenders..its truely an amazing opportunity to actually see depraved human nature exposed for what it is…”Vanity vanity..all is vanity”..Am i sad during the holidays?..Yes!..im mad too!..that im forced to “go along to get along” in what amounts to mass gross hypocrisy..all in order to maintain the pipe dream of a loving and caring “family” *as seen on T.V.* how sweet…….:(..dont get me wrong..we alcoholics look forward to the warmth and coziness of seasonal family bonding..especially because uncle jim always brings the good stuff!..(ever played the family feud Without alcohol?..Zanax?)….i guess im bitter at Capitalism for taking something so simple and innocent as a birthday celebration and re-inventing it into an opportunistic orgy of human consumption all the while exploiting the weakness’s of human nature…who was it that said:..it’s just another day..for you and me..in Paradise…….#@!!$#&#%#$!!!

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the other mike December 9, 2010 at 2:53 pm

..btw…..Thanks for asking…….

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Viv December 9, 2010 at 2:55 pm

Hey – what an interesting thread. It threw up 2 issues: I have been feeling overwhelmed by the magnitude of the plethora of Christmas advertising and commercialism and corporate manipulation. It feels even more transparent in its aim to get people to part with their money at any cost (sic!).

The other thing is that I considered the question “HOW AM I”. And it looked like ‘How is it that I am?” And I can’t answer that question. How is it that I am or anything is… and what is it? Other than saying and seeing that it is just this. There’s so many saying that I/we/you don’t exist, but it bloody well feels like I/we/you DOES exist. Hmmm. Happy Christmas in a non-commercial-hope-you-all-have-a-warm-relaxed-happy-experience. V xx

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Bryce December 9, 2010 at 6:22 pm

I am doing pretty good, in the last tweleve months I have actively worked hard at reaching my goals as a musician, started another band while still working with my primary one, as well as write a ton of solo stuff. I applied to college and am figuring out what I am tenitivley going to do with my life. I have significantly reduced the stress and anxiety in my life and discovered a lot about why I do what I do and how it effects different areas of my life. This year has been the biggest time of self improvement I have ever had and I am still lovin trying to be the best me that I can be.

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Tim December 9, 2010 at 8:39 pm

I’ve been involved. In school. In blogging. In chasing relationships. In learning what I want to teach.

I’ve been involved, and the things I succeeded at that I thought would make me happy haven’t. All of this success isn’t filling me up, and I have a hunch that it never will.

But there’s an underlying contentment behind it all. My perspective is large and encompassing, so it’s all seen through a lighted lens that’s easy to look through.

Yeah…

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Angela December 9, 2010 at 11:20 pm

Good and bad this holiday – loving life, feeling like I’m headed somewhere good, proud of myself for being more disciplined and for thinking about my future. I am also slightly more annoyed and angry at other people than before, though I am proud of myself for finding new and better tools to deal with those situations, without blowing up or hiding. I am feeling financially pressured and oddly abandoned by those I love, while on the other hand warmly welcomed and accepted by those I don’t know as well, and I’m learning to trust humanity and be open. This is the best year I’ve ever had in my entire life, though! I am finally doing what I love – dancing, running, writing and travelling – I am no longer as fear-based as I once was, and I am able to say no to myself when I need to. For the first time in years i cried in front of a whole lot of people and got over it… that was amazing. I am finally accepting myself for who I am, and i no longer try to avoid feeling how I feel – instead, I am learning to work with it, and to have compassion for my own and others’ feelings. It has been a long time before I could accept that being sad for absolutely no discernable reason is just as valid an emotion as feeling upset over a dead loved one. This has been a year of growth and happiness, as well as tremendous anger and sadness. But for the most part, I feel I am moving forward, and the future seems bright. Merry Christmas! Your blog always uplifts me, Dave. Thank you.

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Zack December 10, 2010 at 9:34 am

Hey David! I ‘m doing great! Life is exactly how it should be. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, I love your website and your blogs! They are so meaningful to me. Raptitude.com is actually my homepage! :D Keep up the great work! Merry Christmas and Happy New Year! But before I end this, I have one question: how are YOU?

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Nea | Self Improvement Saga December 10, 2010 at 10:06 am

Now that I’m passed the stage of my life where Christmas was all about gifts, I’m great! Until about 5 years ago, I dreaded Christmas like a freaking plague. Everyone expected nice gifts from me and there was enormous pressure to charge up the credit cards. I showered my daughter with expensive gifts to rival other parents, I bought something for every friend & relative. I worried that someone may not like their gift. I returned things and upgraded to something more appealing. I even spent hundreds (sometimes thousands) on Christmas decorations and holiday sales. Well, not anymore.

I came to my senses. I opted out of Christmas the commercial holiday; and opted into Christmas as a year-end time to give real gifts of value. I spend this time of year giving and appreciating love, hugs, quality time, cards, hand written notes, games, vacations, free time, holiday food, heartfelt talks, etc. With this focus, I can’t be anything but happy.

I’ve turned Christmas from a depressing time of year to the most wonderful time of my life. And it saved me a lot of time, money, & anxiety.

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the other mike December 10, 2010 at 2:11 pm

Nea…thats a great story!!..it gives me hope that positive change is still possible…thanks so much for sharing…

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michi December 10, 2010 at 9:50 pm

Thank you for asking! I appreciate how you are replying to people as time permits.

I dread going home a bit as my mother’s Alzeihmer’s is only getting worse, and my father is starting to struggle to cope with it. We saw the decline begin about 10 years ago. Now I see friends decline in a similar way though on vastly different paths, getting incredibly frustrated at things like traffic or failed romance or simply not being #1 at things. I’m nothing like perfect myself, but it’s hard to know how to help without feeling like I’m shoving my strange (Buddhist) philosophy down their throats! At least they keep calling for advice. I have virtually no job prospects right now, 4 days away from being finished with my law degree, no idea in which city I will be living two months from now. Finally, I am in the process of getting diagnosed with epilepsy.

Some heavy shit!

Hahaha, fortunately I have learned to catch myself, notice it, be aware when I am in a funk. I have the recipe for joy and all the ingredients right here in my head and heart!

Thank you again for your good articles. <3 I feel like we're at similar stages exploring similar paths.

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Danielle December 11, 2010 at 1:44 pm

I’ve been away from your blog for a while and wow, what a post to return to!

Right now, I am afraid and standing in my own way towards building a life/career doing what I love, which is photography. I’ve been blogging and taking pictures of food for the past year and a half, but only recently decided to take it one step further to professionalize this activity. I have a portfolio, business cards, been going to networking events, etc….and yet, I’m holding back. I’m not really putting myself out there because I’m afraid I’m not good enough. I’m afraid of criticism, of ‘failing’ (a nebulous concept I haven’t defined), of what other people will think. My self-perception and relationships with others is based on fear (of rejection, humiliation, etc etc) and I am working through that. It’s not easy, but that is where I am right now.

Apart from those issues, I have nothing to complain about. Like most people on this thread, I detest the commercial trappings of Christmas, so I make my own gifts. Last year I gave out boxes of macarons (French almond cookies) and this year will be jars of homemade Nutella. It’s a tradition I intend to continue for as long as possible because it doesn’t feed ‘the machine’, and I’d like to think that these homemade treats help to relief the stresses my friends face in their lives, even for a brief moment.

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Gerrit December 11, 2010 at 5:30 pm

Danielle, Unfortunately there is no link to your website; I would have loved to see your photos in order to check if you are good enough.

;-)

Being afraid is human nature, but unfortunately there is not really a way of overcoming fear. As Susan Jeffers says: “feel the fear – and do it anyway.” She explains that all people have fear, even these successful people who we look at in awe; they have just learned to deal with it. And probably the best way to do so is in small steps.

The other thing is that if you want to be perfect, you will probably never start. Do you have any role models in photography? If so, look at some at their early works. I am sure you will see that they were not that great when they started off, but they improved over the years.

Thirdly, do YOU like what you are doing, do YOU like your photos? You should not be depending on the judgement of other people for a simple reason: it is impossible to please everybody! There will always be people who don’t like your work or they don’t like you, and perhaps they will try to put you down. There will always be other people who will LOVE your work. That’s just how it is. I think the most important aspect though is whether YOU love what you are doing.

Now, can I finally see your photos?

And most importantly, can I have a jar of your homemade Nutella…?

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Kris December 12, 2010 at 1:46 am

It’s nice to have someone ask me how I’m doing. It’s nice to have a forum to tell complete strangers how I’m feeling. To be honest, after reading about how great some people are doing, it only managed to make me feel worse about how great I’m NOT doing. Not your fault, I know. I’m certainly happy for you all. I’m just loathing in self-pity these days and need to get it off my chest and release it all out to the cyber-world, I suppose. So, here goes…

I am currently unfulfilled. That’s the best word I can think of to describe it. Something is missing and I’m not even exactly sure what it is. I am unfulfilled in almost every important aspect of my life. My job. My marriage. My friends. I read your posts about overcoming bad moods and losing perspective at the moment, and while I want to integrate your advice so badly into my life, I wonder if I actually will. I feel like I’m starting to hit a point where I’m not sure if I can trust myself to not engage in things I know I shouldn’t… or with people that I know that I shouldn’t. I’m sure it comes from stifling myself and trying to be a perfect and in control all the time. I don’t always want to be. But most of the time, in my thought process at least, it boils down to “I have to be”. But, honestly… I’m kind of tired of playing that role. I would love to have, even if just for a fleeting moment, a sense of disregard or carelessness. In a weird way, I kind of envy people that live selfishly and do what THEY want to do. It seems so much easier that way.

Hopefully this is just a case of the wintertime blues. But, thank you to those that cared enough to read what I had to say. I kinda feel better now.

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Astrid December 24, 2010 at 3:52 am

That’s not living selfishly, that’s just being honest with yourself. Try it, it’s the best and most beautiful way to live.

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Katherine MacDonald December 12, 2010 at 7:05 pm

Lately, I haven’t been doing well.
It’s not that everything is terrible. It’s just that nothing is going great for me.
In the summer, I moved, for the first time since second grade. I knew it wouldn’t be easy, but I wouldn’t have expected it to be as hard as it’s been. I guess when you’re in second grade, friends are much more disposable.
I miss my friends, a lot. Of my two best friends in the world, one has stayed in touch, and is visiting me over the holidays. But the other isn’t doing such a good job with that. She was supposed to visit me, but changed her mind. And refuses to stay in touch. I know she doesn’t intend for it to feel so harsh, but it’s pretty hurtful.
Meanwhile, I have become painfully shy. Even after months of spending time with my new “friends,” I have to force myself to speak, and there aren’t even any beginnings of cracks in my new shell. I haven’t been shy for years, but I’m finding the whole thing very difficult.
I’ve also been allowing my school work go to the wayside. Nothing terrible, with an average of eighty-four, but… I should definitely be doing better than than I am in math.
Nonetheless, I am looking forward to the holidays. They will give me a well-needed break, and a chance to do some reading, build some snow forts, and take a couple of baths. Plus see one of my friends, who I miss dearly.
Thank you, thank you, thank you for giving me a chance to do this.
Have a wonderful holiday.

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David December 12, 2010 at 10:43 pm

I’m overwhelmed with the response here. There are so many stories. I’m not always sure what to say. When I wrote this post I wasn’t feeling too Christmasy, and I had a feeling I wasn’t the only one. The common themes seem to be that everyone has their hard times, and everyone has things to be grateful for. I appreciate all of your stories and it sounds like everyone else does too. Thanks so much.

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Brigid December 13, 2010 at 5:43 am

Christmas for me is a time to do things fun. I have a large family of 6 sons and over the years there have been some fun and some funny and some moments of losing the plot. Water fights, present wrecking and getting sick from eating ALL the xmas chocolate in one hit (before lunch) have been some common events in the past.
The main thing is to love each other, forgive and just have some fun. No rules, no family judgements and lotsa fun are on the agenda. There will be 4 sons and 3 of their partners and 1 grand daughter this year ( and skype with the other 2 sons in Canada). A Hoola Hoop competition is in the air this year for sure! Wahoo!
Have a good day to all…..

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Liz December 14, 2010 at 9:30 am

Hey David,

I’m doing well. This year, I got married and bought a house and now have a Christmas tree for the first time. All these are wonderful things but lurking at the back of my mind is wondering how long it will all last. My extended family and my husband’s family exhibited a selfishness about our wedding that’s really disturbing. Basically, I found out what I mean to people and it doesn’t sit with me too well. One half of me says to try harder to win good graces and the other half asks why on earth would I need to? I suppose this is par for the course for most weddings but it’s given me a bit of self-conciousness and a need to please which I find unnatural within myself. On the plus-side I’m making some inroads into self-awareness and I have to say, your blog has helped me limp along. So thanks, David, and have a merry Christmas!

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Dusty December 14, 2010 at 10:35 pm

I’ve come to believe that no one over the age of eighteen actually enjoys Christmas. The only people I’ve seen enjoy it with no stress are children, and all the adults I know are the complete opposite. Every year, my parents do things they don’t want to do for the sake of “Christmas”, things they force themselves to do and take no enjoyment out of whatsoever. I’ve seen other people stress out the same way.

As for how I’m doing – not so well. This year’s chewed me up and spat me back out. My anxiety and depression got worse. My grandfather died – and it wasn’t a quick death. He was paralysed and off life support for weeks before he finally passed. My dog got cancer, and while she’s thankfully okay, we know it’s only a matter of time before it comes back, and in a way that kills her. My brother got sick, as well – anxiety, possibly depression, the same things I’ve lived with for years. I saw it coming, years ago, but my mother had flat out told me, “I don’t want to deal with all that again.” Now he’s paying the price for it.

I’ve become more reclusive and cynical than ever, and even a little hateful as well – something that’s starting to set off alarm bells and worry me. I have to go back to schooling, and I’m not sure I can do it.

But there are little bits of light. A couple of weeks ago I realised I’m never getting better – something I found immensely comforting, because it means I can stop waiting to get better before I start my life. I can start it now. Ever since my dog got sick she naps and rolls around in my room a lot, and I feel blessed to spend so much time with her. I made a friend who is so patient, so sweet with me, that she inspires me to be a better friend to the people around me rather than cut and run as I always used to, as soon as I got overwhelmed.

I expected this year to be fantastic. It was the opposite. It was also the last year I expected to be good, because I expect that every year and it never comes true. But at least how awful this year was means that next year can’t be any worse, and I’ve finally learned each year has its good and bad times, some more than others.

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mike December 17, 2010 at 11:27 am

Wow….your personal experience sounds amazingly close to my own dusty..i struggled with anxiety neurosis/PTSD (from an abusive alcoholic father)in my 20s and then the depression hit..for years i turned to alcohol and drugs for relief but it only made for more problems..I understand the reclusive tendancies and the hateful demeanor..on a bad day im still that way…after years of therapy and self introspection i am not the same person that i use to be..The 12 step program has helped me immensly but asking God for help was the turning point in my experience……best wishes.

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Dave December 15, 2010 at 3:12 am

That’s always a good question to ask :) In my small universe I’m feeling eternally grateful for my lovely family. I’m planning to spend the 2 weeks off work having fun with my family, going running and meditating. Right now I need to leave to get to my middle son’s nativity play (he’s a very excited 5 year old).

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Tanja December 15, 2010 at 4:02 pm

Thanks for asking, David! And yes, how are YOU? I have mixed feelings about this past year…I’m happy because I’ve finally overcome an eating disorder that had been poisoning my life for the last 15 years, and I quit my job that I hated and only did for money. I now feel finally free, and ready to really start my life. But I’m 30 years old so I feel a little bit scared, starting my “real” life this late…And at the moment I’m single and unemployed, so I’m stressed about these things too…As for christmas, now that I have absolutely no money I actually feel very little pressure about buying gifts etc. I’m just going to try to enjoy the holidays with my sister and some friends, no gifts or decorations, just having nice meals and conversations together. I wish happy holidays for all of you, and especially to those of you who have had a rough year, let’s hope things will get better next year :)

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Henway December 16, 2010 at 9:23 pm

I’m actually doing pretty darn good, but if you asked me the same question 3 weeks ago, my answer would be “I feel shitty”. I’m beginning to meet a girl, and hope this will be the beginning of a relationship. Been traveling the past week or so, and will continue to do so for the rest of this month. I also am set to begin a new job next year. All in all, lots of new beginnings so I am excited!!!

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Michelle December 18, 2010 at 12:58 am

I’m not really doing so well. I’m new to this site and I haven’t read much yet so I hope you don’t mind that I spew a bunch of negative all over ya’ll. I look back on this year and realize that I’ve made no progress at all and on Monday I was told that I am a very angry and frustrated person and that I’m not as good at hiding as I think I am. I have failed to meet expectations at my new job and I’m not sure what to do to fix the problem other than to try harder. I’m struggling with taking responsibility for something I’m not sure is my fault and I am having trouble trusting and connecting with the people I work with. I was also confronted by a family member on Thanksgiving about something that I said last year that offended him, so I’m basically feeling like I can’t do much right at the moment.

I want to be a happy person but I’m not even sure if I know anymore what that means or how to go about working towards it. Have I ever been happy? I have moments of happiness, I guess. Is that more than some people have?

On the good side, I went to yoga on Wednesday and my teacher offered (without even really being asked for advice) a book that I could read that might help. It should arrive in a few days so I have hope that there’s at least a tool that has worked for someone else that might help. I so want to change and I’m going to keep trying.

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Gerrit December 18, 2010 at 8:13 am

“I look back on this year and realize that I’ve made no progress at all”

Well, what progress would you like to have made?

“I have failed to meet expectations at my new job and I’m not sure what to do to fix the problem other than to try harder.”

Are you sure you know what the actual problem is?
I don’t want to jump to conclusions, but are you sure you are in the right job?
My personal experience is, that trying harder only helps in certain cases, and one of my mottos is “don’t work hard, work smart”.

Ever thought of trying things differently or trying different things?

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Michelle December 18, 2010 at 1:26 pm

Hi Gerrit,
Thanks for responding. I know I’m definitely in the wrong job, I just don’t know what the right job should be so that I could work towards that. I’ll try to figure that out but in the meantime, I have to figure out how to do well in this job. And I have to admit, I wasn’t trying very hard to do well. Mainly because I was finding it hard to care and I let the obstacles I was facing be my excuse to give up. I would love to be like Tanja above and just quit but I really don’t have the guts to do that and I agree with my boss when he says that I’ll just be taking my problems with me. So yes, I’ll definitely be trying different things (and to think about things differently) I’m just struggling right now with what those different things should be. And the big question being, is it worth it to do the work for this job? If I decide it isn’t and I go somewhere else, am I just running away?

As far as progress this last year, I feel like I keep spinning in circles. I am dissatisfied with my job, I start looking for something else, I find it, I get really excited, then get disappointed that it’s not working, don’t know what to do, get distracted, get frustrated and start looking for something else, and then have to start all over again from square one. I can’t seem to be able to build on what I have. So maybe progress is that I’ve finally realized it (or found someone who has helped me realize it), I will give myself that much credit.

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Gerrit December 19, 2010 at 9:42 pm

It’s not just about guts. I think it is absolutely wise to stay in a job that generates an income for you, as long as you do not have a plan yet about what else you will do. Although I like the idea of “the universe will get it right”, there are just too many people who fell flat on their face when they did not prepare themselves properly.

So, if you are able to “survive” like this for a while, why not invest some time and thought into finding out what your passion truly is? For some people it’s easy; they may know in their childhood already. For others it can take years if not decades.

But even then, this time is not wasted. People who have gone through suffering usually learn a lot from it, so it can be useful. At one point in time you will know and you will have the strengths to act.

All the best and happy holidays!

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Lori December 20, 2010 at 10:35 am

I’m not sure how I’m doing. This was the most difficult year for me. My mother died, my biological father shot himself in the head but not without threatening and blaming me first, my relationship with my boyfriend has been like a runaway roller coaster ride and I’ve been unemployed for most of the year. I have been trying to stay positive but it’s difficult when you get bombarded with negative events that really shape your life. The holidays aren’t helping at all :(
I know that in the end I’ll be okay because it always seems to work out somehow. But for the time being, I’m doing the best I can to hold it together. I feel like I’m in a perpetual fog and can’t see clearly. I’m trying to get back to the person that I used to be (happy, outgoing, etc) but I just feel lost – like I don’t know who I am anymore. I wish I knew what I needed to do to speed things up a little.

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james December 21, 2010 at 5:06 pm

you need to look within yourself to find the answers to your questions. Raptitude can tell you nothing you cant tell yourself. you have so many experiences you can call upon. you know the answer, even if its had to see right now.

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Stephanie December 23, 2010 at 4:14 am

Not fantastic. Overall my life is going well. I’m settling into my life as a new college student, and up until a month ago I was more or less the happiest I’ve ever been. But because I’m young and stupid, I more or less set myself up for my first heartbreak. Despite my intentions, I was starting to really fall for this guy… and so was he, so he freaked and broke it off with me. Neither of us are giving each other a chance to get over it, because we both want to still be around each other… which in my opinion means we should be together, since we had something good going. It’s frustrating as hell because he knows it, but he’s so confused about what he wants from his life right now and there’s nothing more for me to do than what I did: tell him how I fell about him and that I think he’s making a mistake walking away from this. And the best he can do is tell me he’s sorry but he just doesn’t know what to do.
I put on a happy face everyday around him because I’m trying really hard for us to stay friends. He’s one of my closest friends, and even if I wanted to, cutting him out of my life is not possible (people were NOT JOKING when they told me dormcest was a bad idea… how do you get over someone you live with and hang out with constantly??). I can literally count on one hand how many days in the last 6 weeks I didn’t cry, and that scares the hell out of me because it means I’m in deeper than I thought. I don’t know how to get over him, and I don’t think I’d want to if I could because I STILL feel like we aren’t done yet because he can’t tell me that he doesn’t still have feelings for me. The thought of us really, really never being anything more than friends sends me in an emotional tailspin. Also I want to punch him in the dick for being so so so stupid for walking away from what could be just because he decided before he met me that he was done with relationships for a while. We were good together, and we care about each other and I KNOW we should give it a shot. And for god’s sake, I’m not trying to marry the guy, so I don’t know what he’s so scared of :/
Also, I’m mildly freaking out because I know he’s hanging out with his ex girlfriend now that we’re home for winter break, and even though I know he’s not the type to hook up with a recent ex, I still feel sick thinking of them together while I have to go 3 weeks without seeing him. And I’m terrified that when we go back to school, he’ll have used the time apart to get over me and then any chance there was will bo gone and it’ll be just me still trying to pretend that I’m cool with us just being bestest buddies and that I’m not half out of my mind from wanting him back.
Wow, that was theraputic. Maybe now I can finally sleep.

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G December 23, 2010 at 8:20 am

First off, I know that every cell in your body is telling you that this is a life-or-death matter, but please trust that it doesn’t really matter. I wish you satisfaction and all that, but it seems that lasting satisfaction is quite uncommon so we have to find a way to live without necesarily getting what we want.

Romantic love scares people off sometimes not just because of fear of commitment or future break-ups. There’s an antipathy right at the heart of what romantic love is. When somone loves you they want to possess you. It can feel cloying. When someone ‘needs’ you; when they depend on you for their happiness, it can cause feelings of aversion and sort of trigger the flight-instinct. Feeling this emotional dependency arise in himself, he may want to turn away and regain a sense of independence.

If there’s an ex around that he’s still close to then I’m guessing he may have a wearied, cautious perspective. He may distrust big feelings and prefer ‘the devil he knows’. But it is just a guess seeing as I’ve never met the guy – this is the trouble with asking/offering advice to strangers on the Internet. ;-)

If your best idea is to punch him in the dick then I suppose a suggestion from me can do no harm: I think that he will want to know that his feelings are really based on something and that you are not just some pretty girl who will bore him and become burdensome in a few months’ time or once the shagging loses its intensity or whatever. If you can do anything to get your desired result – and I don’t know whether you can – I suggest ensuring that he sees how much you have in common; how your values and interests are complementary and how you would make a good team etc. Assuming that you really are compatible – people have been known to fall for haircuts, you know. :-)

Good luck.

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G December 23, 2010 at 8:22 am

This time without the HTML italics cock-up:

First off, I know that every cell in your body is telling you that this is a life-or-death matter, but please trust that it doesn’t really matter. I wish you satisfaction and all that, but it seems that lasting satisfaction is quite uncommon so we have to find a way to live without necesarily getting what we want.

Romantic love scares people off sometimes not just because of fear of commitment or future break-ups. There’s an antipathy right at the heart of what romantic love is. When somone loves you they want to possess you. It can feel cloying. When someone ‘needs’ you; when they depend on you for their happiness, it can cause feelings of aversion and sort of trigger the flight-instinct. Feeling this emotional dependency arise in himself, he may want to turn away and regain a sense of independence.

If there’s an ex around that he’s still close to then I’m guessing he may have a wearied, cautious perspective. He may distrust big feelings and prefer ‘the devil he knows’. But it is just a guess seeing as I’ve never met the guy – this is the trouble with asking/offering advice to strangers on the Internet. ;-)

If your best idea is to punch him in the dick then I suppose a suggestion from me can do no harm: I think that he will want to know that his feelings are really based on something and that you are not just some pretty girl who will bore him and become burdensome in a few months’ time or once the shagging loses its intensity or whatever. If you can do anything to get your desired result – and I don’t know whether you can – I suggest ensuring that he sees how much you have in common; how your values and interests are complementary and how you would make a good team etc. Assuming that you really are compatible – people have been known to fall for haircuts, you know. :-)

Good luck.

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Anon December 24, 2010 at 9:59 pm

My mom is actually out of town. She went to NC for Christmas to spend with my aunt and uncle this year. I could’ve gone with her, but me and my uncle get along exponentially less every time I visit and I’m not pushing my luck. Plus I have a lot of work to do on music and I need some quality time to myself before I start the new semester of school.
I’m having an increasingly hard time getting motivated, even though I planned for this week to be productive. A girl I was dating – who initially was going to come over while I had the place to myself for a while – dumped me yesterday. We’d even bought each other gifts… Luckily I’d guessed it was coming and pushed myself to get over her before it even happened, before she was honest with herself and ran away.
So no s/o, only distant family, and my friends are pretty busy with their own stuff too. The single most likely scenario is that I will spend Christmas completely by myself. But… I guess I’ll try anything once..Pardon my rudeness, but I certainly hope I don’t have to stay sober through it.

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Kim Lianne December 27, 2010 at 6:30 pm

Hello, I hope your holiday was a warm and happy one, David.

During the festivities, my thoughts wandered to winter holidays past as they always do this time of year. I did have some difficult moments I tried to gracefully wade through during this holiday but generally felt hopeful about the changes and new adventures to come.
I’m glad that I managed to feel wonder, peace and a spiritual connection to my family and life and the season when I let myself remember to breathe. I felt supreme connection and gratitude often and still. The gifts I loved the most this year were definitely not things bought in the mall. They were the big squeeze hugs my cousin (also David) gave me when I saw him for the first time in 12 years. Other gifts came in the form of special songs and the smile in my mom’s eyes. Another gift-like experience happened when I chanced upon lit candles surrounded by ice sculptures in the snow lining the deserted cemetery as I walked my parent’s dog.
There was also an incident involving some mistletoe…
I could have gone without that zebra print hot water bottle because I Love and am Loved. :)

So to answer your question:
How am I? My heart sometimes hurts but I’m doing well because I get it. I am so lucky. I have everything I need.
My mantra these last few days:
Peace. Light. Love. Forgiveness.
The hard feelings surface as they sometimes do–and then I try to shine the light on them and let them fade.
Less suffering, more Loving.
I wish the same for you and the rest.
Hugs,
KimLianne

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Samantha Dermot January 15, 2011 at 1:23 am

I can’t totally explain how I felt when the holidays were fast approaching. I started thinking all the happenings in my past. I’m done with another year of my life again. Though there are some regrets, but overall, I’m satisfied with all the events, experiences and those things I had during 2010. Despite of all of these thoughts, I still felt excited because I can’t no longer wait to start a new chapter of my life in this 2011. Considering the Chinese astrology, 2011 (year of rabbit) can help everybody have a wonderful break in all aspects of their lives.

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Ginger December 8, 2010 at 12:21 pm

Oh yes Gerrit, many many positive things. My husband has a good job and we have a nice home. He is very understanding and supportive. I think because he tries so hard, I try not to complain too much.
Yes, I have tried all those things, I’m currently trying yoga, but I can’t do much and I’m easily discouraged.
I’ve even tried things that go against my better judgment like steroids. “They” want to do surgery and I really don’t want to do that if I can help it. I think part of what discourages me is the dismissive attitude I get from doctors. I really do think it’s up to me to figure this out.
I think there is something in the mind body connection as well, I’ve had this condition for some time but it did not always hurt so bad. I was able to carry on with if for a long time, then about a year ago it became debilitating. I keep trying to figure out what changed, was it circumstances? or was it something I brought on without realizing it. How did it manifest and how can I manifest a better outcome? I believe we choose our joys and sorrows long before we experience them. How did I choose this ? I do appreciate your consideration. Sounds like you might have some helpful ideas. I’d welcome any advice.
Ginger (anonymous of course, don’t know why this embarrasses me but it does)

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Ginger December 8, 2010 at 12:25 pm

Yes I do, I know why it embarrasses me. Because I like to think of myself as strong and this makes me feel weak on so many levels. I’d like to think that I can be a strong person even WITH pain and limited ability.
I’d like to find a way to not let this make me feel diminished. Didn’t mean to hog David’s whole comment space, but all those “I’m greats” . . ugh !!
I’m not great and he asked. Thanks for your time Gerrit.
I hope something good comes to you because of your concern for me.

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Avi December 8, 2010 at 8:42 pm

It is not selfish to care about your health!

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samuli December 9, 2010 at 1:09 am

I sometimes think how can man with least self belief in himself teach those who look up to him believe in themselves….

And its not sad :), its life… And that is why I LIKE LIFE!!!!

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Gerrit December 9, 2010 at 6:48 am

Man, don’t tell me you don’t believe in yourself…

Some of my favorite readings:

Don Miguel Ruiz: “The Four Agreements”

Susan Jeffers: “Feel the Fear – and do it anyway”

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samuli December 9, 2010 at 2:31 pm

=D so i will say….. Maybe someday I will….

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Ginger December 9, 2010 at 7:31 pm

You are right Avi !! Thanks !!!

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Mike December 12, 2010 at 3:08 pm

I would recommend you check our a woman named Ester Gokhale. She has an excellent book called 8 steps to a pain free back, a website with some info, and some sort of training sessions to help. She used anthropological research on posture to help people move, sit, and sleep properly to combat pain and address issues. I found it very helpful.

Full catastrophe living is also a great book on using MBSR to combat pain.

Sorry if this is “spammy”…just a couple recommendations

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