Wednesday, October 02, 2013

What to do with the extra happy?

Let's say I have a little coping mechanism game: on days when I'm feeling down, I cheer myself up by pretending it's my birthday. I tell myself "How bad can things be? It's my birthday!" and immediately the day brightens. Let's say that no matter what's going on, telling myself that this is my special day to be nice to myself makes me feel better. Would you criticize this? If I told you pretending it's my birthday helps me on bad days, would you say, "Stop it. It's not your birthday." I  think you wouldn't. I  think you'd understand that this is a harmless psychological game I play that makes the world seem like a happier place to me.

So I ask: why do people react so strongly when I feel like pretending it's Christmastime? Everything I just wrote is true, only Christmas is the fantasy and instead of pretending it on days when I feel bad, I like to think about Christmas all year round. Completely irrationally, thinking about Christmas lifts my mood, makes me feel special and gives me a party to look forward to. Unlike most grown ups apparently, Christmas makes me unreasonably happy, so I enjoy keeping "Joy to the World" as my ringtone, Christmas wallpaper on my screen and a fabric Santa Claus on my bookshelf.

I often get eyerolls and kidding about this, which is fine, but occasionally someone seems genuinely irritated. Can anyone tell me why? Until I hear from you, I'll make some guesses. I suspect others see the Christmas season as a time of endless exhaustion, impossible expectations and expense, expense, expense. Maybe these people see December as a series of hurdles to clear and goals to reach: the perfect gifts, the perfect dinner, the perfect Christmas cookies, etc. Maybe this is why they're baffled by my willingness to pretend as if it's all upon us right now, yay Christmas!

Or maybe some people don't understand why I like Christmas so much because they're disgusted by the commercialism of the tradition. Maybe they dislike that Christmas "has turned into" such a money-making racket (although in the U.S. merchandising has been at the heart of our holiday tradition for over a hundred years). Is it possible that some people just don't want to be reminded of the holiday selling and buying? Do you think some roll their eyes at my year-round Christmas enthusiasm because they don't want to be reminded of all that?

If these kinds of things are true, maybe it would be more sensitive of me to keep my Christmas joy to myself, at least until December 1st. As a child-free woman who resists standard societal expectations, my tradition is to make Christmas exactly what I want, so I don't have any negative associations with it. For me December is a fun, peaceful month full of the anticipation of my favorite day of the year, but clearly that's not how many grown ups see it. Should I try to keep my Christmas fixation more private?

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