Yes, friends, it’s that joyous time of year again — or so they say. But it’s also the season when Americans suffer the highest incidence of depression and suicide. This article is dedicated to creating Holiday Seasons and New Years that are more joyous than ever!
Many people think that the way we celebrate Christmas in this country is a joke. But it’s no laughing matter that, during the holidays, the depression and suicide rates are highest.
Come to think of it, maybe that’s GOOD news in disguise. Why? REALISM! As you know, you can’t solve a problem you don’t HAVE! Apparently, at Christmas more than any other time of year, people actually FACE how lonely and empty their lives are.
‘Tis the season to hit bottom -and TURN AROUND!
For this holiday season I have a better suggestion than depression, Zoloft, spiked punch, or suicide: Turn around! Right! When millions hit bottom this Christmas, let’s hope they do what you’re SUPPOSED to do when you hit bottom: TURN AROUND! (As in, “I’m the kind of person who only turns around when I hit bottom.”)
Since this IS the hitting-bottom time of year, it MUST be the time to turn around, right? And that fits in nicely with New Years resolutions, doesn’t it? So, rather than saying, “Tis the season to be jolly,” let’s say, “Tis the season to hit bottom and turn around.”
What if we had our regular silly old Christmas all year long?
Christmas should be a time of love, no doubt. Some say it is. Some even suggest that life would be heaven if only we kept our Christmas spirit all year long.
The world would be a much better place if more of us had what would be a true Christmas spirit year round — if we actually put our love relationships first; if we actually nurtured generosity in all our thoughts and deeds; if we actually allowed our real spiritual values to warm our hearts and minds; if we actually treated everyone with sincere, unselfish good will.
But if we filled the entire year with the kind of “Christmas spirit” that dominates the holidays — heaven forbid! Everybody knows that the word “love” has lost almost all of its meaning, because it’s been associated with superficial relationships and trivial events. Nowhere is this misunderstanding more evident than at Christmas. When love is associated with frantic consumerism and superficial, consoling sentimentality — as it is at Christmas — that really brings the word down!
For example, “love” means kisses under mistletoe, and giving away sugar cookies and candy canes. “Love” means taking a trip, buying cute little stockings and stocking stuffers and piles of presents, singing Jingle Bells and Frosty the Snowman, giving huggy-wuggies, and finally, going home, relieved to not be doing all that anymore!
If we “celebrated” like that all year long, would this be a better world? NOT! Fact is, we express tacky love all year long — although, thankfully, in a slightly diluted form. Yet our country is still . . .
- the country with have the highest rates worldwide for divorce, depression, and drug use.
- a militaristic nation which is killing thousands of innocent children and destroying entire villages and cities.
- a materialistically insane society where consumerism grossly exceeds (personally or nationally) sustainable levels.
The same consumerism that creates, buys and discards stockings, stocking stuffers, and Christmas gifts, is busy year round — ruining the economies of poor, exploited nations, and taking advantage of tiny child laborers who work in basement sweatshops, chained to their chairs, for pennies a day. All to keep our prices low, you know.
Giving gifts can be wonderful, when done with real intention and loving consideration. But when the process becomes mandatory, ritualized, obsessive, and hurried, as it has in America at Christmas, it’s more harmful than good.
Come December, in a land where everyone already “loves” according to the standard holiday definitions, we rush to the mall. We buy costly, “love”-symbolizing gifts. We bring them home, wrap them all up, put them under the tree, stuff them in the stockings.
After the big day comes and goes, behind every home there’s a garbage can of plastic peanuts, and bows, and ribbons, and styrofoam. The trash man hauls our discarded gift-wrappings to a landfill, somewhere out of sight, where he dumps the debris, much of which is not biodegradable. These by-products of our Christmas “love exchange” will create massive pollution, and kill all kinds of wildlife in the streams in the area. And they will further pollute the ocean, creating a big dead zone that supports no marine life. But we don’t know, and we don’t care, about that.
And then, people will spend the rest of the year trying — often unsuccessfully — to pay off the credit card debt incurred by that wonderful giving.
That’s what our Christmas-time definition of “love” creates — the actual result, if you just look into it. I’m not trying to paint a negatively distorted picture; I’m just trying to show what’s actually happening with it.
Family values and holiday magic
Blood is thicker than water, and it coagulates around Christmas. After all, that’s the favorite time of year for “family reunions.”
Love does run deep in family bloodlines. The unconditional commitment of parents to children is among the most upleveling motivations on earth. It can and does bring out the best in people. But under the influence of ego, it can also bring out some of the worst as well.
Now, can we look at the family at a typical holiday reunion? Can we look into the individual people, and see their actual relationships with one another? For real: what’s going on? What is it all about? And what significance does it have to share all this annual “love” in these annual ways?
Presumably holiday reunions console people — at least, if things go well. The magic of Christmas (or at least strong social pressure) overcomes the estrangement, resentments, etc. built up during the year.
Okay, so let’s say we’re consoled by our group events. Now what? Let’s follow the people through. They’re consoled; therefore they’re less inclined to make any substantial changes in their lives, even if their lives really need some pretty substantial changes. Obviously, if a person is consoled, they’re less likely to make big changes; people make big changes only when they absolutely have to. So the family reunion, if it goes well, will keep them from feeling like they have to make any significant changes in their lives. That’s the way they’ll interpret it, at least, because they’ll think, “Things are okay with my life.” Too bad.
What if the opposite thing had happened? What if they decided to have Christmas and nobody came? Oh dear — that’s the most disastrous thing that could possibly happen on Christmas! Enough to put anyone into deep dark crisis.
Now, let’s talk about that blessed, life-changing crisis. First, the poor lonely soul in crisis spends Christmas Day alone, realizing that they have nothing, and crying in the middle of the living room rug while the dying Christmas tree in the corner silently watches. Then suddenly, somewhere in their brain a light goes off: “Why did this happen to me? Because I don’t love anybody.”
It came upon a midnight clear: the turnaround
So they get up. They decide to really love somebody. They decide to make themselves useful. Maybe they volunteer at their church. Maybe they do something for the poor. Or maybe they love an actual person — perhaps somebody they know. They do something that’s really different for them, and it really is constructive. It really is new. It isn’t just consoling. It’s actually significantly proactive in a brand new spirit — all out of the fact that they totally crashed and burned on the Christmas when nobody came, and it changed their mind. It hit them so hard, they had to figure out what the hell to do, now that their entire life, as they knew it, had blown up in their face.
So therefore, to me, that may be the first really good Christmas on record. It’s the first Christmas that actually improved their chances for a better life — all because, this time, they failed to avoid the crisis. They let the whole thing melt down.
One time, they didn’t turn on the TV. One time, they didn’t get their buddy to come over and go out bowling together, and avert the crisis. One time, they failed to do all that, so they hit the floor. And what happened to them is the thing that happens to people who say, “I turn around when I hit bottom.” They hit bottom. And that was a very useful place for them to be — because they are among the vast majority of people who don’t turn around until then.
Those other (bad) Christmases
Too bad about all those Christmases, those birthdays, those Valentine’s Days, those Mother’s Days, those Father’s Days, those National Secretary’s Days, those Fourth of Julys, those desserts, those dinners out — all those nice little occasions that kept them from hitting bottom in the past. Too bad for all those sit-coms, all those gift giving occasions, those shopping trips, those opiates, those life preservers that kept them above the waves. All the “good things in life” turned out to be their undoing. And all the bad things in life, which they so successfully and carefully avoided, could have saved them from their terrible life. Woulda shoulda coulda. That’s the truth.
What type of person will you be at Christmas this year?
At Christmas, most people fall into one of two categories:
- The perky reveler. This type is out to console themselves. They could be the Christmas Pollyanna, exchanging trinkets with their coworkers. Or the hard-celebrating drunk. But both types are going to pig out, and probably get tipsy insofar as possible. It dulls the pain you’re not supposed to feel at Christmas.
- The depressed reveler. Drunk or sober, this type of person is a tad closer to reality. They add to the statistics for suicide and depression that peak every year at Christmas.
These depressed folks have one huge advantage over nearly everyone else: at least they realize they’re in trouble. The problem with the rest of the pack, the inwardly troubled ones who have an outwardly nice Christmas, is they refuse to get real. So they’re treading water above the sharks, consoling themselves, when in fact their lives are no better than the other group.
But consolation is not the answer. All they’re doing is perpetuating their problems by nursing themselves along with consolations: A little fruit cake. Some little stocking stuffers. A little tinsel. Some little colored lights. Some spiked punch. (Wait! Before I get slammed with hate mail from those who appreciate the finer qualities of alcoholic beverages, let me say this for the record: “Booze is okay with me — as long as it doesn’t ruin lives.” Okay? — And by the way, the same goes for Christmas).
The kindest, most compassionate Christmas wish
Let’s face it: most people are part of that demographic that can honestly say, “I don’t turn around unless I hit bottom.” And you know as well as I do, there are plenty of people out there this Christmas who really need to turn around. That’s why the kindest, most compassionate Christmas wish is that people will hit bottom on Christmas — so that they have their chance to turn around. (If they’re right about themselves when they say they need to hit bottom to turn around — then they would be lucky to hit bottom this Christmas.)
Just hope their response to hitting bottom is more constructive than to simply get depressed, or commit suicide. Hope they will in fact turn around instead — just like they promised when they said, “I turn around when I hit bottom.”
So therefore, this is my Christmas wish to everybody who needs to turn around: that you should hit bottom this Christmas — rock bottom!
My Four Christmas Wishes
My Wish for Happy Relationships
This holiday season, as the snow covers the dark hard frozen dirt with a pure white, soft, and warm-looking blanket, and as blood relations across the land browbeat and guilt trip one another into coming home for a loving holiday, I wish that:
- relatives invited for Christmas don’t come if they don’t really want to.
- a dark, desperate despair settles in every truly lonely heart — so that they can face exactly how empty and loveless their lives really are. (If they are, that is.)
- people see that runaway selfishness and self-protection are to blame for slamming the door on true intimacies, making truly close relationships a virtually impossible dream.
- people do something about their emotional hollow leg — and really love, in the context of genuinely spiritually supportive relationships.
So this Christmas, instead of staying too busy to think, and too superficial to really care, let’s pray:
Dear Lord, may we stop worrying about sending cards, or giving gifts, to everyone we THINK we should. Instead, may we try to satisfy the real needs of the human heart in all our relationships.
My Wish for Prosperous New Year
This holiday season, after the Spirit of Giving awakens on black Friday and Christmas ornaments deck the malls, as the Salvation Army bells ring to remind us of those less fortunate than our-shop-till-we-drop-selves, may we all realize that:
- the standard greeting card wish for a “prosperous New Year” is an endangered national dream. And very close to home, prosperity may depend, in part, on how much Christmas debt we create for ourselves and our families.
- with the destructive pattern of over-consumption that reaches its highest pitch at Christmas, we are bankrupting not only ourselves, but also other nations, worldwide. Our voracious buying habits impoverish and enslave thousands of Third World workers — making United States a villain on the world stage. Due to our intractable greed we, as a nation and as individual consumers, spread doom and despair around the globe.
- the Spirit of Giving can give the wrong impression if the recipients of our packages get the impression that the crap we buy them is really important.
So this Christmas, before we go to the mall, sign away our future earnings to credit card companies, or spend ourselves clear into bankruptcy, let’s stop to pray:
Dear Lord, this prosperous New Year concept SUCKS. May we not impoverish ourselves, and enslave others, trying to feel richer than we are. May we wake up and decide NOT to spend money we don’t have on stupid materialistic crap. May we love people, truly, instead.
My Wish for World Peace
“I heard the bells on Christmas day
Their old familiar carols play,
And wild and sweet
The words repeat
Of peace on earth, good-will to men!”
–Henry W. Longfellow
This holiday season, as our President sits in the White House scheming about sending more soldiers over to kill and be killed in Iraq, and we stew about our latest argument with a friend, and wonder how to come out on top in the power struggles at work and at home, let’s get responsible in our prayers for peace:
Dear Lord, this holiday season, when it comes to peace on earth, may we realize it’s not very peaceful to go out and kill innocent people by the thousands in foreign countries. And it’s not very peaceful to fight with those who are close to us either.
My Wish for Joyful Holiday Celebration
Since it is a well-known fact that Christmas is the worst time of year for recovering alcoholics, and drug abusers, and DUIs, I wish, this Christmas, that . . .
- we realize that booze and drugs can’t solve much of anything. Uncle Louie, as usual, drunk as he can get on holiday punch, can’t ever get drunk enough to cover up his pain. To really fix what ails him, he’s going to have to get straight and learn how to love.
- we don’t just pity, or empathize with, or collude with our troubled friends, but we actively give them love and support in the forms they need.
Human beings have the capacity to create real joy, not just phony, superficial cheerfulness. Let’s do that. Join me in praying:
Dear Lord, may this year’s holiday season be the first in our nation’s history NOT to be the time of most depression, and highest suicide rate. Let’s create more joy than THAT.
What to do
Fortunately, there’s a cure for depression and despair. There’s a cure for dysfunctional, alienated living. There’s a cure for greedy and unethical politics. It’s all the same cure:
Give up ego and selfishness, and love. Love for real.
Two days ago, my friend’s father underwent cancer surgery.
Unfortunately, the operation was a failure: the cancer was inoperable. But . . .
Fortunately, when her Dad woke from the anesthetic and learned the bad news, he thought a moment and said, “Well then forget about me. I think I’ll just take care of Rose [his wife], you, and Marsha [his other daughter].”
What a beautiful response! So, this Christmas, my wish for humanity is this:
May we not wait till our final days to make that same glorious decision: to unselfishly LOVE.