This one is about the care and handling of the feral holiday creature. You know: that person in your life who approaches the holiday season by hiding under the bed and screaming “resistance is futile!” as you try to drag them out by the leg (the one that’s kicking you). Me, for instance. And any of the rest of you who fit that description– or are bewildered by the person you know who does.
For some people, cold weather means a series of festive holidays: decorations, celebrations, and community.
For people like me, it means looking up state statutes, trying to figure what precise crimes to commit that would result result in your unfortunate incarceration throughout the holiday period.
It would make RSVPs and no-shows a lot more interesting: I’m sorry, but I didn’t qualify for good behavior (but I swear I didn’t start it!). Or: the warden and I have a prior engagement.
Yep. Every year. I have to.
50th anniversary this year! [recorded 1967–> 2 Thanksgivings ago –> 1965]
People like me will also tend to feel alone and isolated during this time. Paradoxically, we will also hole up in our hobbit-holes and refuse to engage with the outside world.
The problem here– and what people tend not to understand– is that we don’t want to be alone, and we are not actually avoiding people. What we’re avoiding is the mega-watt sensory overload that is October through December. Spend time with a friend? Sounds great. Does this involve going to a mall (in traffic), having an anxiety attack while trying to park, fighting hordes of people, shouting over piped-in music, and hunkering down for limited real estate at a Starbucks? Oh. Never mind. I suddenly have a cold, or perhaps bubonic plague.
I’ve lost count of how many times SAD has come up recently, as if I might not have noticed that this affects me. Vitamins, sunshine, and special lights are popular solutions. My favored solution is hibernating until I see daffodils. The medical community does not endorse this.
I’m fine with the idea that some people like to go all-out. What I don’t like is feeling like Debbie Downer because this is not something I enjoy, and I start to consider a smoking habit just to have an excuse to step outside. Somehow, I always end up being defensive or mocked.
All of that is somewhat painful, because it’s difficult to say, “I’d like to participate, BUT.” The “but” tends to be where the misunderstanding (“failure to communicate”) begins. It helps if you keep listening to what follows the “but,” because that part is going to be different for everybody. It’s the crucial information, though: the part where someone is going to be honest and skip over any canned explanations about why they’re not going out (consumerism, whatever) and tell you what’s really up.
So here’s a fairly modest proposal: this holiday season, find the person who has refused every invitation on grounds such as toenail fungus and brain fever. Ask them if they’d like to get coffee somewhere small and quiet. Talk and joke aimlessly. Don’t tell them how they “should” spend the holidays or try to solve things. No advice is necessary. Just sit and talk.
Greta Garbo was frustrated by the ongoing misattribution of “I want to be alone!” as her own words. She said (of herself): “I never said, ‘I want to be alone.’ I only said, ‘I want to be let alone!’ There is all the difference.”
Most of us can’t quite deliver a Garbo performance, and we end up seeming aloof and indifferent. But we don’t want to be alone; we just don’t want to be in the thick of things.
Probably we could explain better over a (quiet) cup of coffee. Wouldn’t that be nice?image: http://www.garboforever.com/Cooking_and_eating.htm