So says the old chestnut. I don’t know about all that. While not a conventionally spiritual man, I certainly appreciate the gathering of friends and family, and the fellowship and warmth it offers.
I enjoy the traditions as well. Each family has its own, mine is no different, and I wouldn’t change them for the world.
But one would have to live in a cave not to be aware of the darker side of the season, particularly to those prone to depression.
It’s not difficult to comprehend. I’m a sentimental, reflective soul, and as my small “blood” family has dwindled over the years, I find myself longing for “one old-fashioned Christmas back home.” I’m sure for many who no longer have that, or those who never did have warm memories of the season, that weight can be much to bear.
For others, perhaps it is the stress of living up to those memories with their own families. I can understand that, too. I didn’t pick a particularly lucrative profession, and in today’s income-centric environment, I often have to be reminded it isn’t the stuff I give that makes the season, but how I give it.
I wish I had the answer, the best I can do is talk about me.
In the end, I’m lucky. I’m on a pretty even keel, even at the worst of times. But it is natural to find yourself looking back at the past, near and distant, in the weeks leading up to the Christmas bird. For me, it has been a year of highs and lows. “Flying high in April, shot down in May...” Or in my case, November, when, like many of us in the news business, I found myself on the outside looking in. Not exactly the best of times.
Let me tell you, the first week or two are great. After a year without a vacation, feeling your body crash when it realizes you don’t need to get up and do another turn in the hamster wheel is an amazing thing. Then you start wondering where the next meal is going to come from. Trying to find something when everyone is trying to get through the holidays, when companies are trying to make the budget at the end of the year. Hoo, boy.
It’s also a time when you find out who your friends are. Those sunshine patriots, the ones who only hung around because of what they could get from you? They disappear. The ones that remain, those who offer a hand, or a drink, or a kind word, those are the ones you hold on to.
All that extra time leaves plenty of room to think back on those moments in your life when you have been... less than. To think on those you hurt with an offhand remark, without thought, or in a moment of anger. Words that can’t be taken back, and people lost to you through no fault other than your own.
Hey, I’ve never claimed to be “a good man.” I’m just a man, who tries to do good. No different than anyone else. Sometimes I succeed. Often, I fail spectacularly. But I’m trying. I’m really trying. Those who put up with me being a jerk when things were going off the rails, who stuck by me and supported me despite the dozens of slights along the way? Those are the people I have to do right by.
So, as difficult as things have been these last few weeks, it’s been beneficial. Like a system flush, getting rid of the negatives, those things that offer nothing, and discovering the positives in my life. Friends, family, professional networks — people I didn’t even know were out there — have my back. As dark and foreboding things may seem at the moment, I know I will always land on my feet, because I’m not alone.
That’s a heckuva gift, and one I wish I could give everyone this holiday season.