Oh, is this ever a hard time of year. Christmas, the holiday season, Chanukah — whatever name you want to use, this is the time when suicide watches increase, where shrinks keep longer office hours and people sink into dark morasses of depression. Stress levels go through the roof and tempers flare at the slightest provocation.
What's supposed to be a joyous occasion filled with laughter and delight can so easily become a season of misery. No amount of bright lights, heavenly choirs, eggnog, or dreidels can cure the heartache and upset felt by so many people. What was once a simple mid-year ritual welcoming the return of the sun (sun with a "u"; the "o" came later) has evolved into a mass orgy of consumer-driven madness and sentimental claptrap.
Worst of all is even knowing all of this; knowing there is little or nothing in common with reality about anything we see on television or the movies about this season, we can't help ourselves with feeling disappointment when it's not realized.
I'm not talking about the material side of things either, although that can cause problems too. Not the ones you'd think, either. Most of the people I know who suffer disappointment around material items at Christmas do so because they can't afford to do the things they think they are supposed to do for the people they love.
There's an image I carry around in my head, that I've never been able to shake, from when I was around twenty. It was an early evening in mid-December and I was walking down a main street in Toronto past the display window of a very upscale toy store. I don't even know if I have the words to describe this well so it may not scan the way it does in my head.
Anyway, as I walked by the window, a little boy ran past me. I got a brief glimpse of his face — eyes wide in excitement, glowing in eagerness. Coming up behind him was a tired man dressed in the uniform of the poor labourer the world over. Cheap dress shoes on his feet and clothes that couldn't be keeping him warm. He had no more chance of buying his kid anything in that store than I have of being elected Pope.