It’s that time of year again. Those who are enamored of tinsel and twinkling lights are going to notice that I can’t do a plausible job of faking enthusiasm. I tend to think of this season as the cold, wet gap between Halloween and New Year’s, with a brief pit stop for the annual three-day cooking frenzy that I call Harvest Feast. My family of origin always offset major holiday celebrations by a day, because my dad worked, and I’ve found that throwing a party on T-Day Saturday works out well. I’m writing about a holiday season that doesn’t do much for me because there are certain things about it that I find very mysterious. I wonder if my observations might help people during the non-major-holiday parts of the year.
Where do you find the time? I’ve noticed an overlap between those who rave about how much fun they are having putting up decorations every winter, and those who complain about housework throughout the year. It’s the same house, but a completely different paradigm depending on what month it is. It goes a little like this:
Love this, having so much fun, took so many pictures, put on special music, rearranged everything, put up decorations, made special food, Most Wonderful Time of the Year
Hate this, this sucks, laundry, dishes, clean the bathroom, kids are driving me crazy
If I had to choose, I’d rather spend a couple of days a year miserable and be happy the rest of the time, but it seems like many people have that turned around. They’ll spend umpteen hours working around the house if it’s related to decorating, but they feel a sense of resentment and dread spending the same amount of time making it look nice in a more neutral manner. I have some hypotheses about this.
I’d like to see that famous holiday cheer distributed more evenly across the year, particularly the forgiveness and altruism. I would hope that we could all feel pride and delight in our homes every day and night of the year. I would hope that we could all feel a sense of the sacred, or at least the excitement of a special occasion, at every meal. I would hope that we could all pause for a moment to appreciate our loved ones at least once a day. I’m even cool with more group singing. The same resentment that many people wish I wouldn’t feel toward their favorite holidays, I wish other people would not feel toward their daily routine. We have the power to choose how we respond to social obligation and peer pressure; we may feel the same sense of grim duty and defensiveness, but mine is limited to two months of the year. I choose to elevate my daily tasks to a sense of aesthetic calling and to search for the extraordinary in the everyday. That is possible for anyone who chooses to be open to it.
I've been working with chronic disorganization, squalor, and hoarding for over 20 years. I'm also a marathon runner who was diagnosed with fibromyalgia and thyroid disease 17 years ago.