Monday, January 17, 2011

Christmas Stress

Current Reading: The Complete Idiot's Guide to the Psychology of Happiness, by Arlene Matthews Uhl

Inspirational Quote: (to the tune of "Jingle Bells")
Christmas bills, Christmas bills, piled on the floor,
Everyday the mailman comes to bring a dozen more, oh!
Christmas bills, Christmas bills, I'll go broke and then,
When next Christmas rolls around I'll do it all again.

Dashing off the cheques, all in great amounts,
Mailing them today, knowing they will bounce!
Bill collectors come, notify my boss,
Now they've got my salary, my life's a total loss!

[Repeat chorus]

-- From a Mad Magazine I read as a kid.

Studies have shown that Christmas is one of the most consistently stressful times of year. I can understand why. Although my present-buying chores are quite restricted (I only need to ensure Penelope has something to open Christmas morning. She handles gift selection for everyone else), I'm lousy at coming up with good ideas for things to give. This is compounded by her birthday, which falls only a few days before Christmas, and forces me to double-up on my gift-seeking angst. Every year, I tell myself I'm going to get her the perfect present, one that tells her “I love you,” and “You're amazing,” and all those other things that sound so true when they're inside my head, but always sound so trite when they finally make their way out. Every year, I scour the stores and the ads and the internet for the apex of perfection.

Every year she gets a book and some clothes.

She accepts them with grace and enthusiasm such as only can be displayed by someone who genuinely feels that way, or by a woman who's had years to perfect her acting skills. So we have a situation where reality collides with unrequited desire and results in tension: stress. Although she never seems to be let down by my choices, I always am, and vow to do better next year.

Of course, after 21 years, if she doesn't know how I feel about her, I doubt very much that wrapping up the entire contents of the jewelry store would make the point.
Thus I perpetuate the equation of happiness to material possession, and feed the cycle of consumerism.

Yay me.

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