Christmas comes but once a year, and for some it’s a time too many. I’m not one of them.
I watch Hallmark movies unironically. I sing along with the seasonal songs, both in stores and at home when my husband Neil tunes into the Christmas Countdown. I love the lost art of sending cards, as well as buying presents and decorating. We get our tree December 1, and as a Christmas ball-aholic, I can tell you I’ve never met an ornament I didn’t like. To top it all off, Neil and our daughter Meg share a December 25th birthday. ’Tis MY season to be jolly.
However, I remember times when sleigh-bells ringing and sugarplums dancing in my head pulsated in my temples. There was the year friends and colleagues got engagement rings while I got a sweater, and the holiday I was so overwhelmed by family pressures it was a Herculean effort to one-click on Amazon.
Because the words, “snap out of it,” never worked their therapeutic magic, I found it easier to channel my pain onto all that glittered red-and-green.
It’s hard feeling down in general, but harder when others are celebrating.
There are, though, some non-medical professional, everyday suggestions that might help.
Accept what you cannot change.
Christmas is a worldwide religious/commercial event. Wishing it away will not make it so, nor will complaining incessantly. Before you leave your apartment, brace yourself to see decorated trees in office building lobbies; Santas and Salvation Army reps on street corners; and your Starbucks served in the newly designed holiday cup. Treat it as you would street art installations, the characters in Times Square and regular Starbucks cups.
Embrace living in the digital age.
If you own earbuds and have Spotify, you never have to hear Mariah Carey’s ”All I Want for Christmas Is You” blaring while you shop. If you subscribe to Netflix, Hulu or Amazon Prime, you never have to see even a commercial for a Hallmark movie. And thanks to evites, all you have to do is click “no” to RSVP for holiday parties.
Think Aloha when you hear Merry Christmas.
The Hawaiian greeting means hello and goodbye; as does Merry Christmas/Happy Holidays/Happy New Year. No one using these salutations is trying to be presumptuous, hurtful or offensive; they’re going with the vernacular flow of the season. Respond as you would to, “What’s up?” and “See ya later.”
Rehearse for the family portion of the program.
When faced with a heckler, do you believe stand-up comedians think of those snappy come-backs on the spot? They have an arsenal of retorts at the ready.
You’ve known your relatives all your life. There are no surprises here. Your aunt will ask why you’re still not married and your cousin will want to know if you’re still at “that” job. Prepare your answers.
Take a walk.
If the only reason you’re watching the Yule log on Channel 11 while sipping hot cocoa is to pass the time and it’s compounding your loneliness, leave the house.
Perhaps you don’t have the wherewithal to volunteer at a hospital or a soup kitchen; a stroll will get you out into the world. Walking is exercise; exercise releases endorphins. Also, fresh air does the body good. You’ll see other people walking around too, confirming you’re not the only one who’s not sitting around a crowded table passing the potatoes.
Count your blessings—on paper.
There, I said it, the cliché of all clichés. During low moments we tend to compare and despair. Making a list — adding even the smallest bit of good will that’s come your way — gives you a visual reference that you do have positive things in your life.
Lorraine Duffy Merkl is a freelance writer and novelist on the Upper East Side.