Holidays and Happiness

christmas“If we’d stop trying to be happy we could have a pretty good time.” – Edith Wharton

The holidays tend to push someone else’s idea of happiness upon us. We are told this is the “most wonderful time of the year” and half the time we can’t figure out why that is.

What we are told and what we feel about it are often two different things. We feel stressed, hurried, broke and on edge. How is this the “most wonderful time of the year?” What makes it so?

And if we are not happy now, when everyone keeps telling us we should be, when will we be happy? Well HAPPY is not something we are just when the mighty “THEY” tell us to be. Happiness comes from “having a pretty good time” all of the time by knowing how to accept life on life’s terms.

The key to being happy is to accept life as it comes along and to finish our unfinished business.

That’s pretty much it.

In GPYB, we tackle things that happened in the past while doing positive things in the present and making goals for the future. It’s not about “this is the season to…” That’s nonsense. It’s the same way Valentine’s Day is crap. It says THIS IS THE DAY you show your love for each other. What? You show your love for each other every day with love, respect, caring and commitment, not one day a year with flowers, candies and a night out. If you need someone to tell you to have a night out, then you are in sorry shape.

It is the same with the “season.” No one should be forced to have a good time, go to holiday parties (I worked for a law firm where attendance at the black tie holiday party was MANDATORY. I worked about 80 hours a week and loved my co-workers but hated the partners and every holiday party included those aholes patting themselves on the back with a slideshow or some such crap about how wonderful the name partners and the firm was. The associates carried the firm on their very tired backs and we would sit at tables making gagging noises or the “bullshit” sneeze from Animal House.

The partners, for the most part, were so f’ng clueless. They were so busy falling in love with themselves that the fact that they were abusing their associates and demanding face time and giving us ridiculous assignments was totally lost on them. One time they made us to go on a mandatory retreat weekend and the name partner was telling a story about how he was dealing with a ridiculous client and he had to force laughter when the guy made a joke even though the guy was an asshole. The associates laughed out loud in a very exaggerated way and we all looked at each other and were just dying over this. The partner was also laughing without a clue what we were doing. Clueless does not begin to describe them.

So every holiday season we had some bullshit thing to attend and we hated it. Don’t force this crap on us. I went from there to another law firm where our holiday party was not mandatory but I went and it was nice (not black tie and pretentious.) But a senior associate gave me a bottle of whiskey as a thank you gift. I didn’t drink and gave it to a client and she hit the roof. For the next two years she never spoke to me. It was better than throwing it out because no one in my circle of friends and family drank it. I suppose I should have just thanked her and thrown it out but that didn’t seem right to me. I realize that some people are just assholes. She wound up in that column. Others told me she had the right to be angry at me. Okay, I get that but for TWO years?

She told me that I had ruined her holiday “cheer.” I said WTF is that? You give me a bottle of whiskey without knowing if I drink or not and I politely say this is wonderful, but I don’t drink so I’m going to it to client X who is coming for a meeting that week. I asked if that was okay and she was HORRIFIED and told me I RUINED her holiday CHEER. I was totally unprepared for that response.

Cheer this. Everyone turns into Angela from The Office at this time of year. Please check your inner Angela at the door. Thank you.  (sorry for the dated reference but when I saw The Office holiday episodes, I damn near sprang off my sofa…”I HATE THE ANGELAS OF THE WORLD!!!”

No idea WTF is wrong with people at this time of year but I try to avoid as many as I can and wait until January when they all come to their senses again.

Don’t push your psychotic, sheep-like idea of “holiday cheer” onto me.

Don’t insist I’m hap-hap-happy.

Don’t ask why I don’t have a Christmas tree.

Don’t ask why I’m not sending Christmas cards or whatever the hell else.

I hate Christmas.

I hate the whole nine and want to sleep until January 2nd so if you have a brain, go force holiday cheer on someone else.

If I see one more commercial for a clapper or Chia pet, I’m going to hurl my television into the yard.

I’ve screamed at it several times already. They’re worse than ASPCA commercials. I can’t listen to ANY Sarah McLaughlan songs anymore because I see abused dogs in my mind the minute I hear her voice. I love animals and I donate to many groups but I don’t want to be traumatized by the ASPCA, which I am. Their commercials don’t make me want to donate, they make me want to run under the bed or buy a gun and start randomly killing people who abuse animals. I’m sure they don’t intend to have people turning homicidal or suicidal over their commercials but seriously…WTF????

So back to holidays and ridiculous commercials insisting we be happy and/or buy a Lexus for a loved one. Sure I’ll take 5, just put them in the back of my SUV.

It’s about how ridiculous it is. Don’t tell me to be happy. There is no such thing as a winter wonderland, no sleigh rides, no chestnuts roasting on an open fire.

All these images and fantasies have zippo to do with real life.
Real life is people trampling each other at Walmart…peace on Earth and good will to each other.

Really? Is the trampling part of that? What craziness.

Cognitive dissonance. The holidays are one of the best examples of it. How does “walking in a winter wonderland” comport with “being trampled at Walmart?” Someone tell me. In the meantime I’ll be hyperventilating into this paper bag.

Many people love Christmas. I get that. But many people are also insane.

My mother epitomized Christmas. Also insanity.

We had so many lights on our house it looked like it was about to take off for outer space and I’m pretty sure it could be seen from another galaxy. But it didn’t stop there. We had candles in every window that was also surrounded by lights. We had 10 windows in the front and the back of the house and each one was individually decorated even though the back windows looked out onto our yard which no one could see. We had snow on each window and cardboard cutouts of Santa etc.

Inside we had garland strung everywhere and two Christmas trees..one in the living room and one on the enclosed porch so people outside could see it.

My mother sent Christmas cards to about 100 people, most of whom I’d never met nor heard a word about the rest of the years. She had an old fashioned telephone and address book. It was filled to the brim. I remember helping her address Christmas cards and the leather bound book was tattered and worn but there were so many names in there she couldn’t change it. She also had loose names and addressed and so there were several rubber bands around it to keep it together.

So we got Christmas cards from all these people and displayed them on one wall in the shape of a Christmas tree. The ones that were extra we strung up and down the sides of the doorways and across the middle wooden post in the living room (it was once two small rooms and we made it into one big room so there was a wooden post in the middle of the room.)

We had a HUGE manger. My favorite thing was sneaking Fisher Price people and extra cows and stuff into the manger. We had very serious cows in the manager. Very expensive plaster ones. I put in plastic ones that smiled. Drove my mother crazy. Lectures on being a good Catholic. I also liked to open the Advent calendar before the day. Who did that? Not me.

We had trains under the tree. We had snow globes everywhere. We had angels and all that stuff. You couldn’t swing a cat without hitting an angel.

Winter wonderland was the theme. She played Christmas music from the day after Thanksgiving until “Little Christmas” (January 6th.)

We had stockings with our names in glitter. Our presents were wrapped perfectly. Unless you had your presents wrapped at a store or by a professional wrapper, you never saw such perfectly wrapped packages and on Christmas Eve they were stacked under the tree is such a symmetrical fashion (according to size, wrapping etc.) that we routinely took photos of it. Setting it up took a ridiculous amount of time.

We had eggnog, hot chocolate and went ice-skating at Rockefeller Center and Wollman Rink. We sold Christmas cards and wrapping paper for our school. My favorite Christmas cards were the little angel ones. I liked filling them out for my classmates. We went caroling. We brought treats to the elderly and the sick.

We were one magical fandamily.

What no one saw was my mother freak out on an almost every day over nothing. What no one saw was coming home from Mass on Christmas morning and my mother getting so freaked out over a few slivers of wrapping or an errant bow we forget to pick up or didn’t see before we left and our gifts would be smashed. One Christmas morning I was about 5 and I had gotten a Huckleberry Hound target game. You had to hit Huckleberry with a rubber tipped dart.

I had opened it. I loved it. Huckelberry was bigger than I was. I don’t remember what I did. Maybe I left a piece of tape on Huckleberry but I did something VERY VERY BAD.

I came home and we lived in a place where all the houses opened onto a private court (there were about 8 houses). I came home from Mass with all the people who were going (there were about 10 kids in the neighborhood and we all went to Mass and then stopped at the deli to buy rolls and bagels and I was thrilled to be going to the Mass/store with the “big” kids.)

So I come home, really happy, and as I step onto the court I see Huckleberry sticking out of the garbage can. It was the most ludicrous and heartbreaking sight. WTF? It was as if the Ghost of Dysfunctional Christmas Present (Past and Future) was waving to me in the form of Huckleberry Hound sticking out of a metal garbage can.

I was mortified.

I was 5 and I was mortified.

I was also a foster child rooting for the orphanage. How f’d up is THAT?

Not to be outdone by herself my mother was raging around the kitchen making bacon and eggs for us. As usual, we sat down to eat terrified as she was slamming things around and we never knew when it would go from spatulas to children being flung about.

Yes, here in the land of Merry Fking Christmas, lights, camera and action.

What bullshit that all is. We were still a hap-hap-happy ignorant lot the very next year when it would happen yet again. YAY! Like Charlie Brown, we fell for the damn football every year.

It’s time to stop falling for the football. It’s time to stop thinking that a house full of lights and presents is “happy.” It’s time to stop thinking Norman Rockwell when the reality is Norman Bates.

Happiness truly is an inside job. And not dictated by commercial bullshit. There is no such thing as a war on Christmas because if there was, I would truly be signed up for it.

GPYB is designed to heal the losses, change our thinking and behavior of today, and plan for the future.

But it can be personalized to you and to We don’t talk about being extraordinarily happy but when we focus on our STUFF in the past, change our thinking in the present and make plans for the future, having a “pretty good time” is the result.

When we are whole and we are healed of all the pain and loss that we have experienced, we can wake up each day and not TRY to be happy…we will take what comes along. We will stop trying to control people places and things…we will have good boundaries and a positive outlook, we will do the right thing and our emotions will be appropriate.

If a day is wonderful we will recognize that, appreciate it and bask in it.

If a day is terrible, we will deal with it without going off the deep end, go to bed knowing that tomorrow is another day.

When we string a bunch of days together, just taking them as they come, for 24 hours, and accepting what they are and what they bring and not trying to will them to be what we want, we will eventually realize we are happy.

Because when we accept each day as it comes along and appreciate it for what it is or is not, we wind up having a pretty good time.


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5 Responses to Holidays and Happiness

  1. veronica11 says:

    What a great read, Susan! Thank you for sharing your experiences.

    -V11

  2. Coppergirl says:

    Thanks for posting this Susan. Sounds just like my Christmases from 11-17 with dad and wife #2. Except it was Coppergirl that had to put all that stuff up, be sure the tree was watered, wrap all presents perfectly including my own. Then there was the xmas baking, xmas dinner, the young me trying desperately to keep my own parents from reverting back to their alcoholic dysfunctional selves in front of relatives. My dad hated xmas and no amout of coaxing would force him to be even remotely polite.#2 wanted us to be the picture of the perfect suburban family yet she was a frustrated alcoholic, her kids druggie trash, my bro and I “rescued” traumatized ghetto rats who’d better show gratitude 24/7 or else. When I bailed from the family, taking my brother with me, I tried hard to give him some semblance of a normal holiday but my dads resentment to participating and the fact that I’d work long hours on holidays for the xtra pay, meant it lasted a whole 10 minutes. My very last xmas was when I drove 90 miles to spend the time with dad and wife #3. They’d been fighting and weren’t doing civility that day. I left saying, “you’re fighting, I am very uncomfortable with this and will not put up with it. Those days are over” They divorced a year later. Ironically because I’d left and took back roads, I wound up rescuing an inadequately dresssed couple whose car had slid into the ditch, so it was meant to be.
    My best xmas was more near Solstice at of all places, a lesbian commune. It was right when I was going to marry my husband. Although they didn’t know me for the most part, I am of a different sexual orientation, I was never treated with so much love, acceptance, generosity, in my life. Spent the evening with my husband to be in a small, humble cabin. Xmas dinner was herbal tea and popcorn. Felt some guilt about my dad being home alone (was supporting him at the time) but there was nothing we could do to allay his deep anger and resentment and active alcoholism. For one day, I absolved responsibility for someone who refused to seek help for some very deep issues, next day, we took him out to eat which he loved to do.
    Now, I celebrate only Solstice, something tangible, real. I give to charities of various kinds in the name of many. This year, mainly to the Dakota access pipeline protesters and the local humane society. Also a donation to Planned Parenthood in the name of Mike Pence; he’ll get a thank you letter from them . Most folks don’t need more stuff nor to stuff themselves. For folk in need, I am donating winter clothing and food. On Solstice tomorrow, I track where the sun comes up over one mountain range and sets within another. Happiness cannot be manufactured; it comes from within, from working on your issues, getting right with yourself, living in the way you were meant to.

    • Susan J. Elliott says:

      I always absolutely love your posts. Have you ever considered doing a guest blog here?

  3. topf says:

    Thanks, Susan!
    I feel very similarly about xmas.

    An aspect that is bothering me right now is how you have to pretend to be ok, and how you have to pretend you are able to be around people. I feel like it is expected of me to call my ex’s mom on xmas. She is a pretty nice person and I feel bad about how this is gonna make us not have contact eventually. I would love to talk to her in an honest way (not to talk bad about the ex. Just to tell her how much I like her, to wish her well, etc), but this is not the right moment, as my ex and I are still licking our wounds and I don’t even know if she knows about us. Either way, whatever I do, it will be wrong: If I don’t contact her on xmas, I will look thankless and heartless, if I do, it will look like I do it to spite my ex.

    I kinda know she will understand (as she always does) but still, I feel bad about all the good stuff you lose when you lose a relationship.

    • Susan J. Elliott says:

      We all do. It’s hard to not do anything when you want to. We all have issues with letting go the good. how did it go?

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