Here we are again, back to the grind. Trees, stripped of their lights and ornaments, lie like corpses on curbsides, waiting to be sent through the chipper. The house seems oddly bare, and eerily quiet. Outside, traffic has resumed its nightmarish intensity.
From Thanksgiving through December, humanity wrings its hands over the so-called holiday blues: how our expectations of joy, family unity, parties, and presents are never quite fulfilled. We imagine everyone else gathering together to enjoy eggnog and the obligatory Christmas miracle, while we stare down our losses and disappointments. We blame our families for being, well, exactly who they are, and we blame ourselves for foolishly imagining that this time, things will be different. So we look forward to the end of festivities, knowing that relief is on its way, and throw in a resolution or two to please the gods.
But the beginning of January can feel less like a return to normality, and more like an insidious hangover. The credit card bills start to arrive. The scale punishes our indulgence in a month-long eatfest. And the pressure is on to come up with (and actually accomplish) a list of resolutions that manage to feel like a reprimand. It’s cold and rainy, the days are still short, and holidays will be few and far between for the next several months. On top of all that, we’re still dealing with the inevitable vestiges of holiday disappointments. No wonder so many of us feel depressed.
But an empty calendar is also a clean slate, and the web is full of advice on how to fill it, or at any rate, make it feel less like a dead zone and more like an opportunity: rearrange your furniture, take up a hobby, declutter your office, find time to meditate, meet up with friends, adopt a pet. For some, these pieces of advice may suffice. For others, however, they can intensify a vague feeling of inadequacy by highlighting all the things we’re not doing, have no time to do, and didn’t do last year when we optimistically read the same advice.
Wherever you find yourself this winter, remember that the world turns. Things have their seasons. This is a good one, after all, for introspection, taking stock, getting some perspective, and seeking help if needed. Wait a week and see how things look with a bit of distance. A persistent sense that something is off-track can be an invitation to explore whether there is more to sort out, and to resolve.
I wish you a meaningful 2013.
Marcie Scranton is a Marriage and Family Therapist Intern with a private practice in Encino. Email her at firstname.lastname@example.org