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December 24, 2011

Christmas 2011

I was on the phone yesterday with Jennifer N., talking about the holidays.

"You are the only person I know who loves and hates Christmas so much," she said.

And it is true. The expensive therapist has told me this feeling of opposites is a state called cognitive dissonance, when the brain can hold two conflicting emotions at one time. She's nice (and expensive) so she says it's a sign of enlightenment. Ralph Waldo Emerson -- who I have not paid for therapy but to whom I owe much in the way of growthyness -- once said, "Consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds, adored by little statesmen and philosophers and divines." Meaning, I suppose, that this idea of being consistent and never changing and holding true to only one feeling is actually a big, dumb fake out. It's OK to not know, or to be in the middle, or to both love and hate Christmas. Emerson would have used better adverbs. But you get it.

When you expect a person to stay who they were, you imprison them forever and you restrict your own life. You become limited by what you expect from others. Like it or not, people change. Everything changes. It's like my dad says: The only thing you can count on is change. (I hate that saying, by the way. I'm way more into the hobgoblins.) So you go out to dinner with someone who always orders a pinot grigio and one night, out of the blue, he orders a stoli on the rocks with a twist. Why is it you're the one who feels left out? If your sister becomes a vegetarian this week, why are you feeling an overarching need to defend the cheeseburgers? And when Christmas rolls around and it's both lovely and loathsome, which side do you pick?

Old Ralph Waldo and the spendy therapist would both say it's healthy to hold a little of each. It isn't a sign of weakness of schizophrenia to feel simultaneous love and loathing for Christmas, it may indeed be the only sign you have that you're ready to write that novel you've been marinating on.

The ability to hold two very conflicting ideas is quite a feat. It's perfectly all right to love providing a holiday home base for your family and meanwhile want them all to leave, now. It's absolutely understandable to be alone and feel both relieved and ruined with sorrow.

It's Christmas. They make movies about it, you know.

So I wish only the happy parts for you, but I accept the inconsistencies, the disasters, the hide-alone-in-a-bathroom parts of the day, too. This is what makes us enlightened! Or so says the expensive therapist and our old pal Ralph Waldo.

Merry Christmas, y'all. Every piece of it.

Posted by laurie at December 24, 2011 5:25 PM