I know at this time of year you can't speak badly of xmas without being heard as a Grinch, or mention new year without expressing gratitude for the lessons learned or the joys come. But I'm done. Time to go public.
I dislike xmas with a ferocity. I despise the onslaught of commercialism, distracting us with baubles and toys that shatter or are discarded to landfill moments after the present opening excitement fades. I baulk at the demands from a herd mentality that says we must be happy (or at least pretend to be) for fear of ruining anyone else's celebrations. I squirm at the expectation that we will all share this time of year "with loved ones" (the social web's phrase of choice for 2015)... or the pressure that we should. But mostly I despair that roughly three months of my year, any year, every year, are spent in this desperate scramble to protect myself from the deep sense of dread that, for me, is xmas.
Three months. A quarter of the year. Every year. I want a fucking refund.
New Year used to be OK, better than xmas at least, but as the years have gone on I increasingly find myself asking, what the actual fuck is it that we are celebrating? Another year where we let innocent people suffer in incarceration while the real criminals walk freely, spending the planet's money and resources in some debauched old boy's club bacchanalian binge. Another year where we allow generations of oppression to continue to thrive while we, the comparatively safe, revel in rhetorics of freedom and privilege. Another year where these privileges crumble into the dusty broken promises which make up their foundations. Another year where lies and spin dominate every visual and oral orifice, where free speech is held up as a mantle while peaceful protest is made a crime and legal services are defunded. Another year where independent voices are slashed and silenced to pave way for yet more homogenised Hollywood hullabaloo. Another year where, despite its supposed season of goodwill, otherness is deemed food for hatred, fear, intolerance. Another year where those who hate so deeply are some of those most deeply in need, victims of their own commitment to a system designed to destroy them.
Call me a grinch, call me a misery, I honestly don't care. I am not an unhappy person and neither do I berate anyone else their happiness, that's not what this is about. This is for all the other people out there who equally dread this time of year. You don't need my (or anyone's) permission, but know that it's OK to not feel right about all these celebrations and all that spending. It's OK to quietly while away this time of year in a cocoon of solitude. It's OK to focus on putting one foot in front of the other from sunrise to sunset for 90days, smiling politely through gritted teeth to well-meaning bystanders. It's OK to repeat the phrase "this too shall pass" from the moment the first xmas decorations tumble from supermarket shelves to the last champagne cork popped perfectly to the chimes of Big Ben.
It's OK to feel shitty, there's a great deal to feel shitty about.
I used to not mention my dislike of this season because it upset people. "Oh but you MUST love xmas, it's such a lovely time of year when everyone comes together and..." or "No I simply won't hear that you want to spend xmas alone, you MUST come and spend it with my family...". I knew they meant well so rather than risk the same mutually sad-making conversational feedback loops, I simply stopped mentioning it. I stopped telling the truth about how I felt, just to make other people feel better.
In recent years I've taken a different stand. When asked what I'll be doing I answer 'xmas alone is the best, all the streets are quiet because everyone else is distracted' or somesuch positively-imbued missive. It seems to work, people seem to understand that instead of lacking their ideal, you're living your own. I'm proud of the fact I've dropped out of this symbolic charade. I don't feel ashamed that I don't 'fit in', so why should I hide it?
Interestingly this year I wasn't alone for the first time in my almost 8years of living in Australia... and because of that I write this knowing that these words will probably cause unintended offence to the people I spent it with. I didn't have a bad time, they are lovely, generous, funny and warm hearted people. I tried to treat it as 'just another day hanging with friends and their friends', but I still felt a pressure that would not have existed had I spent the day alone. In fact if anything the day reminded me how important it is to spend quality time with friends and their friends... just not at xmas.
So for those who adore this time of year and want to share that delight with everyone on the planet: that's very lovely for you, please continue to live your own lives. But don't let your adoration make those of us who don't feel we should hide behind 'I'm having a great time, really. Look, I'm smiling, see?' grimaces. If your invitations are gratefully, smilingly, rejected, don't feel that this is a sleight on your offer or a criticism of your lifestyle choices, simply accept that not everyone feels the same way. Understand that this is just another arena of otherness, not something you need to fix or feel bad for us about. We're OK, we choose this.
And for those of you hiding behind those grimaces: stop. Stop faking it for other people. Stop making yourself feel worse about the fact that you feel shitty. Embrace the shitty because that's what gives us the energy and focus to fight these ohsomany insurmountable wrongs. Eventually there will come a time when we can genuinely celebrate something amazing: true freedom, for everyone. Until then: bring out your inner grinch, revel in your isolation, be true to your own beliefs and never ever let anyone make you feel that your lack of desire to buy into their idea of happiness makes you a bad human.
Because happiness is for life, not just for xmas.
Photo: as the last sun of 2015 went down over semaphore... mounted police began their patrol of the beach. sigh.