They say that people get depressed during the holiday season. I don't wonder why. I think that christmas/new year's eve must have been invented by someone with manic-depression.
There is so much pressure to "enjoy" the holidays or have the "perfect holiday" that it is no wonder that most of us crash after the holidays and sink into a sinkhole of the blues.
I love the holiday season - the music, the decorations, the gifts, the movies. But as someone with somewhat manic-depressive tendencies, I know that I can be sucked in too hard and too much.
So I've learned to restrain myself during this season, and not "expect too much." Expecting too much just sets one up for disappointment and despair.
It's a tough time of year for many reasons, but it doesn't help that writing and sending holiday cards makes us think about our own mortality and own limited time on this earth. Each and every year, as I go through my holiday mailing list, I cross off new names of dearly departed relatives. There are other acquaintances too that are no longer in the picture (whether by divorce, separation, or whatever), so there is a loss there too.
It makes me think of my favorite Christmas song, Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas, in which the key lines are that "through the years we all will be together, if the fates allow..." The holidays are bittersweet, because no matter how many people we love, there are always those who are gone, or who cannot be with us this year.
Of course, on the flipside of the loss, is the recognition of all the gains we've had in the past couple of years. I love (and I mean I really do love) getting photo holiday cards from friends, family, and acquaintances. I love seeing the new babies, the growing families, and the recognition that life does go on. That's the good stuff...the stuff that makes me giddy.
But the doom and gloom is never far behind this time of year. This is the time of year to parade the who's who of the dearly deceased. I can't even open my Entertainment Weekly for mindless escape without being reminded that 2003 was the year that the world lost: John Ritter, Nell Carter, Gregory Peck, Buddy Hackett (I had no idea Buddy Hackett died, how come nobody told me?), Mr. Rogers, Barry White, Maurice Gibb, Johnny Cash, Katharine Hepburn, Robert Palmer, David Brinkley, Gene Anthony Ray (Leroy from Fame is dead? Again, I had no idea he passed away), Art Carney, Donald O'Connor, and filmmakers like Elia Kazan, Conrad Hall, Leni Reifenstahl (who was 101 by the way), and John Schlesinger.
There and now I just did the same thing and probably reminded you of one or two losses that you had forgotten. Now you can be as depressed as I am feeling right now. But again, there is a bright side to this. These lists of dearly departed make us sad, yet are also a way of remembering and honoring the dead. And they remind us of the loved ones we have personally lost and that are remembered as well.
So, regardless of how many years we have to be together or not, I think we shouldn't get too caught up in the highs or lows of the holidays. We should remember that celebrations cannot last forever. . . but we can enjoy them while they do.