Saturday, 1 December 2012

It's the most difficult time of the year

Imagine that you've had several traumatic events in June through your life. Imagine that you get reminded of these events every June and the whole month has become an obstacle for you to get through each year. Imagine that many people in your life love June and can't get enough of it. That even through May they're counting down the days and asking what you've got planned for June.

Imagine the build up to June in popular culture has reached a point where the media is full of impending June from around Easter time, and that by the end of May it's practically impossible to miss the mass hysteria

Imagine that, on telling people you find June difficult and would rather not think about it, you are met with incredulity; sometimes even outright disbelief. Imagine knowing that when you try to tell people this you'll get one of a few standard answers:

“Don't be silly, everyone loves June”
“But look at the June decorations everywhere, don't they raise your spirits?”
“I'm going to immerse you in everything about June. By the end of the month you'll love it as much as me”
“stop being a killjoy, why can’t you just enjoy June?”
“You're ruining June for everyone. You just don't want anybody to be happy”

It's not a nice image is it? It's hard to believe that people in a civilised society would be so insensitive. But if you replace the word “June” with “Christmas” you have a decent cross section of what I, and many people, go through every December. I don't celebrate Christmas: in a good year I can just about tolerate it. On a bad year I dread it, and my only desire is to get through to January with some vestige of my sanity intact. With support and understanding it is possible to survive these dark weeks, but in December you discover that even some quite close friends can be stuck in the opinion that not liking Christmas is some sort of character flaw and that the best thing they can do for you is either to show you the “magic” (bleugh) of the season, or to berate you for intentionally ruining their mood.

So I hold my tongue. I may make a few “Bah humbug” jokes but I make sure they come across in a good natured manner. I smile when people wish me a happy Christmas. All of this, difficult as it is, is easier than having people think I'm trying to ruin things for them, or even worse doing everything they can to drown me in “seasonal joy”. I sit around the Christmas table, pull crackers, tell the terrible jokes we've all heard before a million times and wear the silly clothes that were bought for me as a comedy present. But underneath this is the knowledge that it's all a fa├žade, and that if I'm not careful the mask could slip. That no matter how much of a relief it would be for me, I can't ruin Christmas. Christmas is special, we have to be happy because anything else s VERBOTEN!

So, if you want to give me a Christmas present this year, make it this: if somebody you care for confides in you that they don't like this season please listen. Don't try to bring them out of their shell, don't assume they're trying to suck the fun out of it and don't try to “fix” them. Just be there for them, make an effort to understand what they're going through and if their smile looks a bit strained let them know they can lose the mask around you when necessary. After all, isn't that what the “true spirit of Christmas” is?

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