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



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!!!

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.

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?

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.

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!

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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

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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