Thursday, December 21, 2017

Choices and Christmas

Christmas time is here, and many people feel they "have to" do a list of things and have no choice in the matter.  This is not true.

Christmas for many people is a stressful time.  The local animated billboard (yet another sign of the apocalypse) cheerfully reminds us that "There are only six shopping days left until Christmas!"   Better get shopping!  Max out that credit card!   It's the holiday season!

But it needn't be that way.   We got off the Christmas bandwagon ages ago - more than a decade in fact.   I found it was making me unhappy - profoundly unhappy.   The idea that you had to travel on the busiest days of the years during the worst weather imaginable just seemed idiotic to me.   And then you have to buy junk for people who don't really need or want it - all at a very high cost, charged on a credit card.   And then you basically sit around with relatives for a whole freaking week with nothing to do but see the new Starwars movie with every other person in your town.   No wonder the box office is doing so well.

As I noted in an earlier posting (which for some reason is posted twice):

Another suggestion is to take a holiday at Christmas. Get out of town. Fly down to Florida or some warm Caribbean island and really enjoy yourself rather than stress out about decorations and family. I suggested this to a friend of mine once, and it worked out well emotionally and financially.
He was moaning about "having to go see his dysfunctional parents" for Christmas and how miserable he would be, staying at their house (in his old room) and how his Father would inevitably get drunk and abusive. Once back in the family home, he was the child again, and his abusive Father took advantage of it. Ten days stuck in a house with your family with nothing to do but eat, watch TV, and relive your childhood is a recipe for disaster. My friend's wife was none too happy about the whole deal. He felt trapped by convention (reinforced by the TeeVee) that one must "go home for Christmas" every year. 
If you are in college, going home for Christmas might be in order. But once you leave the family unit, your goal in life is to start your own family. At that point, Christmas is something that you can (and should) celebrate in your own home, with your own immediate family. Going back to Mom and Dad's house every year at Christmas, when you are over 30, is just embarrassing. Grow up! This is not to say that you can't go back ever. Just that you are not obligated to. 
So my friend flew down to a warm Caribbean island and enjoyed 10 days with his spouse. I can tell you that she enjoyed it much more than the fun abusive Christmases she had in the past at his folk's place. Once the chain of dependency was broken, there was no going back.
And that illustrates that you do have a choice in these things - how you live your life, how you celebrate the holidays.   There are a lot of things in life we don't have choices about.  We are born, we live, and we die - no options there.   But how to celebrate a freaking holiday?  That's entirely up to you.

And that's why I think it is so freaking sad when people tell me they have no choice about how to celebrate the holiday.  People tell me they have no choice as to who to marry, because family members in another country arranged a husband for them decades ago.   People tell me they have no choice in their career, as their Father dictated they "follow in his footsteps".   People tell me they have no choices when what they really mean to say is they have no courage.

Yes, courage.  It does take courage to go against the norms of our society, the expectations of others, the expectations of parents and family.   And this is not to say you should thwart other people's wishes just for the hell of it - you should have good cause.   And a good cause is if something isn't making you happy.

Christmas can be a wonderful time of year.  I enjoy going to Christmas parties and putting up (a few) decorations and all of that sort of nonsense.   I missed the Christmas "golf cart parade" this year, but maybe next.  We are being tapped, once again, to be judges for the Christmas decorating contest.  We drive around in golf carts and score people's house decorations.   It is even better than decorating your own house.   Of course, you can win the popular vote and still lose at the electoral college.

So it's not like I'm not involved with Christmas at all (indeed, that would be nearly impossible).  But I don't feel the need to compulsively shop for crap just because some marketing people told me I have to.   We don't buy gifts for others, and don't expect others to buy gifts for us.   Christmas gifts are for children - the train set, the shiny new bike, the video game console.   Adults?   Christmas is something else - or at least it can be, if you let it.

I lot of other people feel differently.   And I have no sympathy for them, as these are the same people who complain about the "commercialization" of Christmas, as they knock you over during the Wal-Mart "black Friday event".

You have choices in life - use them.   There is nothing more pathetic in my mind that people who have choices and refuse to make them.   It is akin to taking your hands of the steering wheel while driving on the Interstate and saying, "I have no choice as to where this car goes!" as it veers into a guardrail.

Take control of the wheel of life.   Make the choices you want to make whatever they are.   But realize you do have some choices in life and don't squander them through inaction.