ULTIMATE HOLIDAY GUIDE
I received an “Ultimate Holiday Guide” by email from a business I patronize from time to time. It made me physically sick. Every single suggestion involved a purchase from them. And they made what I consider to be false promises of peace, calm, relaxation, and bliss. The voice in the email reminded me of the abuser who is only out for themselves, laying things out as if they were for your benefit. Not once did I feel truly seen or cared for in the language.
Marketing is so ubiquitous that it can numb us to the relational reality of it. Of being carved out. Constantly. It’s spooky if you let yourself feel it.
And the more time I spend as a therapist, listening and speaking as honestly as I can, the more difficult it is to enter into the onslaught that is many commercial environments.
Today I walked into a bookstore (I love books, I have way too many, I thought it would be nice to browse). I walked in with anticipation, craning my neck for the cookbook section. Immediately the energy in my body changed. I was jostled - it was busy. And there was a feeling of striving, clenching, anxiety coursing through me. I turned around, walked out the door and was able to breathe.
Was that a panic attack? Should I see my doctor or make an extra appointment with my therapist? Am I too stressed out?
Possible, but that’s not how I saw it. I think this was my honest response to that environment on this particular day. And that is why the work of therapy doesn’t make us calmer or less upset. There is a lot to be upset about. And in a situation where we are being objectified and used and where our precious selves are literally jostled out of the way - well in those situations it is good when we have a reaction to them. And those of us who have been jostled for many years will notice it sooner than others. And those of us who have learned to create space where there was none before will notice when that space goes away.
And then we have choice. Which I exercised and I left.
There is the idea of browsing cookbooks with my love on a Sunday afternoon. And then there is what happens.
I would like Christmas to be about birth. I would like it to represent the end of a dark season and the beginning of a new one - one that contains the birth of new life. I would like to gather with those that I love and exchange food, time, and gifts. I would like our homes to smell like cedar and mulled wine and cookies and stuffing. I would like there to be things we do every year. That we have been doing for years. That are somewhat tiresome but with which we would not part.
And all of this longing has the potential to send me into a mad marathon of striving to make it so and wild rage when it isn’t.
Instead I am going to try to get to know my longing a little better. And enjoy the things that will happen this Christmas. And recognize the things that won’t - honouring them too.
The practice of therapy is helpful for this. Through talking we explore our lives and we come to terms with what they are. And we can decide what we want and what we want to work towards having. And we can settle into our lives.
To me this talk is sacred. An honouring of who we are and how life is.
The mistletoe and carols and joyous love all round is here. And it isn’t. It looks different every day and in every moment.
But if we can stay with ourselves through all the twists and turns of the month ahead, we’ll be here, transformed somewhat, in the New Year.
Will the pain kill me? Or will I make it through, stronger? And please God, let me not miss the precious moments because I am so busy wishing wondering raging and longing. Amen.