If We Make It Through December
Y’all, we’re almost there.
The midterm elections are decided. Halloween has gone back into its coffin and all that remains of Thanksgiving is some leftovers stuffed in the back of the ‘fridge. Now we just have Christmas and New Year’s Eve left in 2022.
Today, I mailed off holiday cards. All the gifts have been purchased and boxes are arriving at the house. The tree is up. Plans for Christmas Eve with the in-laws and Christmas Day at home have been finalized. All I need to do now is bake cookies for Santa. Just kidding. He gets a bag of pfeffernüsse from Aldi, because nobody’s got time for that.
I’m feeling pretty pleased with myself considering I entered the final holiday stretch with no feeling of cheer whatsoever. For some reason, Thanksgiving—or more likely the elections—wiped me out. The thought of pulling out the boxes of decorations was daunting, and I considered not doing any of it this year. But then I put on the Vince Guaraldi Trio’s soundtrack from A Charlie Brown Christmas and a tiny spark ignited. Once it grew a little brighter, I made myself drag out the ornaments and hang one, then another, until eventually Christmas came to life.
This is a hard time for a lot of us. Dark comes early. Pressures and expectations feel more weighty than usual. And we won’t even talk about the looming specter of resolutions. As Mame sings, a lot of us have “grown a little leaner, grown a little colder, grown a little sadder, grown a little older.”
So, yes, some of us do need a little Christmas, right this very minute. And my Christmas gift—to all of you who need it—is permission to let the next few weeks be what you need them to be, rather than what you feel they should be. Too tired to make cookies? The ones from the store taste just fine. (Trust me. I’ve eaten half a bag of spekulatius while writing this.)
Overwhelmed by trying to figure out the perfect gift? Make a donation to an organization the recipient in question supports. Or, if finances are an issue, give the gift of time. Make a date to hang out with that friend you haven’t seen in a while. Offer to help someone with a chore they’ve been putting off.
I also give you permission to say no. Don’t want to go to that holiday party? Don’t. Don’t feel like spending time with those toxic family members? Tell them you can’t make it. (COVID is a fantastic and convenient excuse if you need one.) And if you absolutely have to go to the party or see those people, you have my permission to hate every second of it and to reward yourself afterwards by doing something you enjoy. Go home and drink an entire carton of eggnog while watching the very best version of A Christmas Carol (that would be the Muppet one, by the way).
You also have permission to do none of it. Don’t give anyone anything. Don’t send a single card or utter even one “Happy holidays.” Avoid hearing “Last Christmas” and “All I Want for Christmas Is You” as if your life depended on it. Tell Hallmark where they can put their movies and tell Santa to pound sand. Well, maybe don’t do that. You want to stay on the Nice list, just in case you change your mind. But you can forget everything else.
This is the time of dark and cold. Some of us like that. Some of us don’t. If you do, take time to hibernate in a blanket fort with a mug of cocoa and a favorite book. And if you’re one of the folks already pining for summer, remember that the winter solstice on December 21 marks the longest night. After that, the sun returns bit by bit. So, be of good cheer. Even if you don’t feel all that cheery. The light is coming.
In the meantime, be good to yourself. Do the things. Don’t do the things. Make Christmas (or whatever you celebrate) what you need it to be. Yeah, sure, it’s a time of giving. And giving really can make you feel great. But this also includes giving to yourself, whatever that means for you. Oh, and about those resolutions I mentioned earlier. Don’t make them. They’re always going to let you down.
Instead, make a plan. A real one. Between now and the first day of 2023, ask yourself what you need for life to really feel good. If you don’t currently have those things, see if you can find ways to get them. Make a plan you’re pretty sure you can follow. Set small goals that lead to larger ones, so that you’re always reaching a destination and not constantly staring at something so far in the distance it never seems to get any closer.
All right. This bag of cookies isn’t going to eat itself. Until next year, to y’all a good night. ▼
Michael Thomas Ford is a much-published Lambda Literary award-winning author. Visit Michael at michaelthomasford.com.
Photo: Jonny Caspari on Unsplash.com