Deck the Halls with Melancholy

I love Christmas — mostly. Yes, I wrote a book about Christmas magic and the little spark that makes things brighter — the trimmings and trappings that make us smile — but, for me, there is also no more melancholy time of year.

This year, the pendulum swings hard in both directions. I felt festive — caught the spirit — early, and embraced it. But I’ve also been a little low. Our trip to Disney was an upswing. The trees and decorations, the music, the food were all full of holiday cheer, but it was a little disappointing.. (Disney world is going through some changes, and it simply wasn’t what we’ve come to expect over the years.) The Mrs. and I took our annual trip to the tree farm and found a lovely tree, but we decorated it late and it’s the least fragrant tree we’ve ever had. I know that may seem like a small thing, but it’s one of my favorite elements of the season and lends a little towards the feeling that something is missing. I found some nice gifts to give, but we shopped late and almost exclusively online. That’s pretty typical, but it feels less special and was a little uninspired this year. The tree is lit. I wrapped all the presents this morning, but there is nothing going on in the kitchen. We didn’t plan a Christmas dinner and I haven’t baked cookies in years.

At work, I have a team I feel a part of — like we get along and are truly in it together, but I am struggling fiercely with the direction of my career. My family is near, and I have seen or will get to see them all over the next few days, but I miss my Florida family. My wife is home more often than she was in her previous nursing position, but she’s gone all day and the house feels empty and too quiet while I’m off on holiday break.

I know those last few items are not specifically holiday related, but emotions feel amplified this time of year. And these are the things my mind wanders to as I sit here on Christmas Eve wishing I had friends to gather with or little ones running around to entertain.

I champion the holiday spirit, but I also try to advocate and support those who struggle. It’s important to know you’re seen. I may not know how to make things any easier on myself — other than staying busy — (I have a Lego set I’m working on, have done the dishes, raked leaves, and am downloading a new video game…) but I hope I can make it a little easier on others by showing them (you) that they (you) are not alone.

It took me several years to come to grips with the fact that I would not feel the Peppermint Lightning I wrote about — in the few years before I wrote it, I’d almost lost it entirely — and that that’s okay. I punished myself emotionally for not feeling swept up in cheer the way I wanted to be — the way I felt like I should. Christmas was downright hard even when there weren’t specific things I could point to because I carried guilt over my lack of holly-jolly. I can’t say I’ve escaped that guilt or self recrimination entirely, but I’ve done better. Letting myself off the hook has made it much easier and has actually helped bring the cheer back.

There is so much pressure on the season. The last thing we need to do is add more because we don’t feel like we think we’re supposed to. I always struggle with Christmas day and often Christmas Eve because it all comes to an end. I wonder if I did enough, if I enjoyed it as much as I should have, and I worry I missed opportunities to enjoy it better and to spread that enjoyment to others. It’s all going to be gone in a couple of days, and then it’s just winter and the chance to make the most of it is gone for another year. I look around at our lights and decorations and instead of feeling their magic, I feel sadness. It’s been that way for many years. And it’s hard to tell people about it because I don’t want to darken their holidays. I don’t want them to take any time away from their merriment to worry about me. I suppose I fear a holiday-specific stigma too. And I have the Peppermint Lightning reputation to uphold.

We aren’t alone. That’s how I’m making it feel a little better right now. I am wrapping myself in the knowledge that I’m not alone in how I feel, that there are others out there who understand. There isn’t anything wrong with us. Part of me wants to bake some last-minute cookies, whip up a Christmas dinner, go buy more gifts, but I know that’s not the point. That will not make it better. What I need to do, what we all need to do sometimes, is just be okay. We’re okay. I see you and I know you see me too.

Merry Christmas.

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Teacher, Author, Publisher, Mental Health Advocate

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Phillip Davis

Phillip Davis

Teacher, Author, Publisher, Mental Health Advocate

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