I just sat down and clicked through the New York Times’ Year in Pictures. If you haven’t seen it, take the 10 minutes to do so, because for no less than 25 reasons, it will take your breath away and leave tears in your eyes.
This has been a tough year for the whole entire world.
I’ve been struggling with the idea of writing a post for Christmas because it felt forced. Do I write about family? About checking in with our mental health during the holidays? About the challenges of keeping our blood sugars happy when we get our annual flu? After looking at this slideshow, all of that felt…well, trivial. But what I’m the most torn about is: should it? Am I “negotiating with negativity” by not maintaining my course of action with the sole mission of simply feeling “normal”? The world feels like it’s crumbling around us from disease and violence. Am I wrong for still finding joy in something as simple as a Christmas pedicure?
The “news” has affected me deeply this year. More so than it ever has. Maybe it’s because I’m older, more attuned to it. Maybe it’s that I live in a bigger city where so much of the action stems from. Regardless, what we are hearing and seeing every single day is downright disturbing. The reality that fear exists in the souls of so many people just in our backyards, not necessarily across the globe has been a heavy weight on my heart. My doubt in the ability of politics and policies to do anything to uproot the cycles of desperation, racism, hunger, and poverty that plagues entire countries has left a swollen bubble of guilt in my conscience. It’s all just so very, very dark, these things.
It’s not what I want to feel this time of year. I simply want to be blissfully unaware that pain and suffering exists anywhere. I want to pretend that the entire world is at their company holiday party dancing on the couches with me and all of our friends. I selfishly want to imagine that every single kid will get a gift they asked Santa for. And that all families will be feasting on cheese, cookies, and champagne, while arguing over who has to do the dishes.
I don’t want to feel guilty. I don’t want to feel sad. And this is where I’m stuck. Should I feel guilty and sad? Should I be resentful of the gifts tucked artfully under my tree? How does one handle the absorption process of trying to grasp global warfare, local tragedies, and personal challenges all while listening to Michael Bublé and wrapping a pair of goofy Christmas socks for my brother that he’ll probably never even wear. How does one melt it all down to a bite sized portion of edible acceptance and understanding?
This is a pretty lofty post, I know. Sorry. If you wanted “LOLZ” maybe come back tomorrow and I’ll feel a little better about everything. I’m just seriously struggling here, guys! I complain about my little problems a lot. I get mad about dumb shit. I am a jealous person. I just contemplated a last minute shopping trip because I’m not stoked about my Christmas Eve outfit. But to be honest, I do all of that because that’s my reality. I’m not in Turkey, or Liberia, or even Ferguson, Missouri. I am not dying from a terminal anything (that I know of), I am not living in a shelter, or unable to afford a daily meal or two. I am not at risk of being deported, or told I can’t stay where I’m living because rebels are coming in from across the border and it’s no longer safe for me to be here. My reality is: I’m sitting in the same bedroom I grew up in. I’m surrounded by nostalgic things. My whole family is downstairs, cooking, cleaning, and preparing for tonight’s parties (some help I am, up here in my lair). But my point here is, among so much terror and bad news…we have to remember what we have. We have to maintain an attitude of compassion and hope and openness towards others. That my type 1 diabetes that is managed near perfectly by my doctors, and my supportive friends and family, is a small price to pay for the normalcy I strive for on a daily basis.
I have a good friend that believes whole-heartedly that people cannot compare their challenges to other people’s challenges because no matter what, they are yours and yours alone. If you feel pain over a break-up and you compare yourself to a friend who has been hospitalized for an illness, that gets us nowhere. We all must deal with our personal pain in our own way, or we’ll never heal enough to help others. Maybe the airlines do have it right….”put your oxygen mask on first before assisting others.” I can’t sit here and feel sick over events happening in the Middle East if I’m not even taking care of myself first. That isn’t productive care.
The Christmas season is fueled by the themes of “Hope, Joy, and Peace.” I need to remind myself that in this moment, I can’t find peace amongst various religious cultures…but I can find peace in a heated car ride with argumentative relatives. I can’t provide joy for a mother caring for a sick child in a third world country in any immediate way, but I can find joy in delivering my mom’s Christmas bread to the neighbor who plows our driveway after every snow storm. I can’t be a sweeping force, putting hope in the hearts of children afraid to go to school because of perpetual violence. But I can hope that through my own acts of compassion and love, I can impact at least one person who is afraid of something.
Perspective is a very complicated thing. Maybe that’s what I’m struggling with. Why should I be allowed to feel happy if there are are so many people out there that aren’t happy? Why should I eat until my pants are tight, if people are going hungry? But that’s not how it should work either. I have to remind myself that circumstance, timing, culture, and luck have everything and nothing to do with it all at the same time. The only thing we really can do is perpetuate our own controllable forces of hope, joy, and peace. To not trivialize our own mini-battles and struggles however bleak or intense. They are our own.
I am just going to vow that this Christmas I will pay particular attention to my gratitude for my safety. That I am ok. I am surrounded by a fortress of family, a home, cars to ride in, and bars to see friends in. There is nothing wrong with enjoying whatever silly, fun-filled holiday events we have planned. Nelson Mandela said it best, “May your choices reflect your hopes, not your fears.” At the end of a year so filled with acts fueled by fear, let us feel simply okay acting out of hope.
To whomever is (already) bored enough at their parent’s house to be reading this right now, I hope that you are allowing yourself to feel happy this Christmas. I hope that you are able to focus on your own triumphs and accomplishments this year as I’m sure you’ve had many. That you are thanking your family, or whoever you are spending the holidays with, for putting up with you, and supporting you. That instead of dragging your feet saying, “The world has gone to shit” like I’ve been doing the past few days, you’re taking some time in your brain for “me time.” We are not all-powerful individuals that can change the world by snapping our fingers this Christmas Eve, no matter how badly we’d like to be. Instead let’s turn the news off for a day or two, and allow ourselves to be grateful for the joy we find in our own lives, the hope we feel about our own futures, and the peace that we can surround ourselves with.
Merry Christmas to all, and to all a good night.