If You Feel Sad at Christmas You Are Doing Just Fine
hristmas can be a strange time to a lot of Americans, and that is sad. People work all year and need to relax; people hope that when Christmas arrive there will be joy but things not always work out that way. It is a time of great expectations and people bet on happiness but when they lose, depression sets in. The paradox of Christmas is that it is difficult to relax and feel joyous when there is so much work to do in order to create the perfect Christmas joy. There is shopping to do, loads of work and chores, annoying high doses of idiotic Christmas music, and plenty of grumpy people. So what to do?
People are stuck in a catch 22 – the more irritated they feel, the more irritated they become because they are suppose to be jolly and happy, so people think they are failing the Christmas spirit. At the end of the day there is this heart of sadness and melancholy that sets in and it drives people crazy. If you feel that way you are totally normal in fact you are on the right track. The joy of Christmas is the understanding that sadness and melancholy should not be driven away but tasted in all its rawness. Our irritations at Christmas reflect our list of contradictions.
These contradictions are generated by the pagan vs. religious concepts that we observe at Christmas. We indulge in pagan pleasure seeking rituals; but at the same time we think we should somehow be in a spiritual mode filled with ideals of being frugal, compassionate, and tolerant. Christmas teachings tell us to be generous but we are usually seeking what’s in for us. The teachings suggest us to be spiritual and we indulge in the biggest materialistic extravaganza of the year – no wonder there’s conflict. People also feel frustrated because they want to accomplish in one day what they fail to do all year long.
There is a longing to be nice to others and that can be frustrating because if you haven’t been nice to anybody all year it is difficult to be nice in just one day. There is a sense of going back to community which is something we haven’t done ever and now we suffer the stress of having to catch up to everyone. There is also the realization we’ve been more alone than we wanted.
We spend too much time working and being up-tight and there is no way we can be ready and relaxed by December 25th, we need more time but Christmas also take our time as we prepare for Christmas. Everyone wants to be happy at Christmas and we hope to be joyous when it arrives. Media plays the mysteries of Christmas through the movies and songs. But the simple demand “we need to be joyous at a certain moment” make us miserable. It feels like one more chore we have to do – hence the grumpiness.
Its sad to see people getting depressed at Christmas. Some people are alone and somehow at Christmas it all becomes more visible as they realize the potential to be more fulfilled that haven’t been realized. This might be the most powerful message Christmas spirituality bring us. Unfortunately if we don’t realize our sadness and our losses we feel depressed but if we look at our lives with acceptance we’ll feel the gratitude for what we have and the sadness is just this feeling of being alive and being human. Everyone is thinking about that in some way.
This is perhaps why Americans watch It’s a Wonderful Life (the 1946 movie) over and over every Christmas and it always brings a tear of joy to everyone. In a certain way everyone is trying to taste the sadness but it all gets occluded by the usual Christmas irritations and false pretensions of a Disney movie joy. When the angel rescues George Bailey (Jimmy Stewart) from his death in the frozen river we are all reminded that our life is good just as it is and we make a difference by just being ourselves, and simply being there for others. There is a sad melancholy to our life and its OK if you just taste it and leave it at that. We are all in this same life feeling the same things and Christmas make us realize that because there is a pause when we make a balance of or our lives every year at the beginning of the winter. This could be good thing, we don’t need to waste it.
We make a balance of our life and are not happy with what we find because we think it should be more like happy ending Christmas story. We realize we are getting older. We feel sad because we see the children and we realize our childhood has passed. we see our own children growing older and realize we are no longer in their lives as we ounce were. We see our relatives just as they are with all their flaws. We also see that some of them are no longer with us. All of this brings us a heart of sadness but if we are not afraid to taste it will bring the so called joy we hear about. This joy is not a material joy but a very deep and humane one that let us know how life is fragile and impermanent and every moment counts. Merry Christmas.
Image credit: Ryan Hyde