Don't get me wrong — I hope you're having a holiday filled with love, warmth, and connectedness.
But if you aren't, and you're feeling sad or lonely or frustrated, you're not alone. You're in good company, even if it doesn't seem like it sometimes. It's not just you, I promise.
I mean, the holidays are a weird time. Happiness, or at least the appearance of it, can feel compulsory. Few people are willing to run the risk of drawing unwanted pity or accusations of bringing everyone else down, so no one really wants to out themselves as someone who's having a rough time.
Instead, people force smiles and post photos on social media of their perfect families placing perfect gifts under their perfect trees, compelling others to do the same — maybe out of one-upmanship, or to convince others that everything's great, or to convince themselves.
And that might help some people. Happiness can be contagious, especially if you're feeling just a bit blue. Maybe when some people brag about their holidays enough, they really do grow to appreciate what — and who — makes their holidays worthwhile and special, and that, in turn, makes them more grateful, big-hearted people. Who knows?
But for others, the diametric opposite happens: being surrounded by everybody else's apparent happiness and pressured to display false happiness serves as a reminder of how little actual happiness they're feeling. And that's intensely isolating.
The holiday season, at its worst, is marked by spending money, which can be incredibly frustrating if you don't have much of it. At its best, it's marked by sharing love, which can be crushing if you've lost the one with whom you want to share it, or if you're not getting enough of it, or if no one is taking it when you're offering your own.
I don't have any easy answers, so I'm not sure how useful I can be here. But if it helps at all, please, please, please believe me when I say you're not the only one feeling this way, you don't have to pretend you're feeling something that you're not, and it's okay to talk about it.
I'm not saying go to your office party and say Yo, fuck all of your bullshit at some guy in a Santa suit, but feel free to say that the holidays are kind of hard when someone asks how you're doing. Worst case scenario, you'll get momentary awkwardness and a quick change of subject. Far more likely, though, you might make someone feeling desperately left out find kinship, even if for just a moment.
And if the holidays feel completely unbearable, please do whatever you need to do to hang in there. We probably don't need another fucking video of someone unwrapping a Maserati or whatever on Snapchat, but we do need more people who know what it's like to feel alone and heartbroken but get through it, because they tend to be the people who try the hardest to ensure those around them don't feel the same way.
Okay, that's a little cloying. But at least in my experience, compassion born out of good times tends to be facile and fleeting. On the other hand, the most resilient, persistent, sincere forms of empathy and kindness seem to be forged in a crucible of shit. While that's never actually made bad times any better for me, I've found it a pretty decent reason to keep trudging through.
That, plus Thai food. God, I love Thai food. (For real, my fridge has leftover panang curry for days. Six-star spiciness, and the scale only goes up to five. It always seems like the best idea ever at first, then the full magnitude of what is happening to my mouth sets in. Then the tears start. Then I order it again the next day for lunch. This is the sort of decision-making skills I possess.)
Let me know how you're holding up, okay?