Christmas is a tough time for me because underneath the bullshitting and somewhat crusty exterior I'm an idealist and a person with small but fairly solid Christian faith and frankly I grow tired of the filth and materialism that we throw at ourselves each year at Christmas. Easter is easy for me; Christmas is not. The holiday is celebrating a historical man (and God if you believe that way) whose primary message was "I sacrificed for you, you sacrifice for me, and for each other." Even if you don't buy the whole message of faith, the philosophical suggestion of subordinating ourselves to the service of others is a compelling one. It's a hard task, frankly, if you think about it. It challenges us to improve ourselves, to do a lot better by other folks.
That message isn't about stinking Lexus 305s. So the annual "Make this a December to Remember" ad campaign that Lexus rolled out again this year makes my nose turn upwards. The ads are pretty clear - if you don't live in a gazillion square foot house with a white marble livingroom that you can literally roll an SUV into, and if you don't give $57,000 sedans (base price... bet your bippy the one in the ad is more like $70,000) as gifts for Christmas, then you just don't love your wife/husband/self very much and you're probably a loser.
Lexus - aka Toyota if you're keeping score at home - can kiss my butt. Toyota is the same company that brags up their reputation for reliability, yet sells a range of cars with an inherently defective lubrication system that has portals too small to transport oil. If you do a lot of stop & go driving, they clog up with the moisture from condensation (hot engine / cold engine / repeat) and the mainshaft bearing blows, and you need a new engine that they are happy to sell you for only $4500 or so. If you ask how this happened, the standard dealer response is to accuse you of never having changed the oil. They do this knowing full well the company lost a class action suit relating to the motors they sold from '96 to '2002, and that the engine remained substantially unchanged thereafter, just the cutoff date for the suit was a large range of motors sold prior to 2002. I know several people who have had this exact same experience with Toyota; I happen to be one of them. By virtue of owning a 2003 Camry (rather than a 2002, covered by the lawsuit) I got the short end of the stick and got the runaround from the dealer, who said (falsely) that I must have not changed the oil, and have run the car around without oil for quite some time... this is the same accusations some of my friends have received.
At any rate, this is the company that's lecturing you on what Christmas means. According to their marketing whizzes - people who make $5 million per year to sell you shit you don't need - you aren't much of a husband/wife/person if you're not rolling a >$60k car into your garage / livingroom / semicircular driveway of your $2.2 million house. They are selling you a great big fat lie, and based on the people I see driving Lexuses - many of them anyhow - they are selling it to people who can't afford to buy the lie, who would be better off stopping at CarMax on the way home and seeing if they could finance $15,000 worth of truth.
I raise this not to single out Toyota in particular, but to single out our stupid urge to try to heal our inner aches with a balm made out of money. Ultimately, money is only a topical cream and it does not heal what ails us. The healing has to come from faith, or at least from discovering a higher virtue than the indulgence of our own whims. It comes from giving to others. It comes from putting ourselves in perspective, and reminding ourselves that we are part of a team, our part in life is to work hard, to give generously of ourselves to others, and when we do spoil ourselves, to do it by treating ourselves nicely, not by trying to make ourselves feel good through cheap and materialistic shortcuts.
You know what makes me feel good? Accomplishment. Making others smile and sharing in their happiness. Doing a little kindness for somebody who needs one. Making the right choices when faced with tough questions.
That's about it. Everything else just gives me a passing chuckle.
Now it may sound like I'm down on Christmas. I am not. I'm down on the bullshit that we tend to drown ourselves in, the way we choose the wrong, materialistic path, and then get all depressed when Christmas just doesn't measure up.
The only way it fails to measure up, is if we're applying the wrong measuring stick.
I get down every year at Christmas. Always happens that this stuff sneaks up on me and makes me a little depressed. So I treat it a couple ways.
First, I make sure to clear the decks and have plenty of quiet time just hanging out with the people I love. I do a lot of the cooking and some of the caretaking if needed, and just try to be there and supportive and engaged. I draw strength from others sometimes, but only when I slow down to do so. The great things about family and friends is that they can carry you through rough times, if you let them.
Second, I try to give other people nice gifts, and to not worry about what I get. I remind myself of how much I have - not just material things - to be thankful for. I truly don't need anything more - just being remembered and thought of really is enough to get on Christmas Day.
Third, I make a point of going to church to be reminded of the reason we celebrate the day. Faith is a weird thing for me because I can't square all the details logically with each other sometimes, so I try to take away the bigger messages, the ones that seem aimed at helping me square away my life, and I don't sweat the smaller stuff. I think the challenge of faith isn't to find proof of God or to believe everything that you're told, but to follow the rules in the main part (which usually have an intrinsic purpose to them that is helpful) and to not let the little things turn into obstacles to absorbing the larger lesson. See, that's the challenge to it: believe because it's hard to do so and it challenges you to do some hard things, not because it's easy.
Anyhow, that's what works for me through the holidays. When I stick to the recipe I come through happier and stronger than I was before the holidays.
Oh yeah, and this year I'm trying to ride the mountain bike a lot, even in bitter cold and snow. That helps beyond measure.
So do any of you sometimes have trouble dealing with the holidays? If so, how do you cope?