*Say it with me: I can’t believe it’s already the holidays. Two weeks ago it was February. My neighborhood Rite-Aid has had Christmas decorations on the shelves since the end of September. Just twelve days into November, the afternoon bustle at Whole Foods felt suspiciously like folks making a run on turkey dinner goods. I suppose many of them were; it’s almost Thanksgiving. Already.
By the way, if you feel as if the year has come and gone at the speed of light, it’s only because you’re a grown up. One of the differences between children and adults is that adults have infinitely more things to stuff into a life and seemingly less time in which to do it.
You won’t hear a kid rhetorically gasp, “Where did the time go?” Kids live in a different time zone. Remember how long it took the holidays to arrive when you were a kid? Haley’s Comet came back around sooner. I’d begin counting the days until Christmas right after the 4th of July. It felt like Biblical time. It took forever.
All that changes when you grow up. The older you get, the more the time appears to fly. And so here we are, nearing the end of a year that felt more like six months.
The holidays are supposed to be a time of unfettered merriment. After a rough and tumble year that included vicious political elections, hurricanes, war and threats of war, we’re more than ready for some good cheer. Let us use this season to get that Feeling. More than the shopping, the food, the decorations and the gifts, the holidays are about a feeling.
It’s like, say, Friday. Or Sunday. What differentiates those days from the rest of the week is how they FEEL to us. Historically, because of what happens on Friday–synonymous with payday, it is the portal to the almighty weekend–Friday has a subtle euphoria about it. Even when it isn’t Friday, we’ve been known to say that another day of the week “feels” like a Friday. We know what Friday feels like.
Sunday feels like peace and introspection. Some businesses still actually close for the day. Sunday represents rest. Replenishment. I’m betting Sunday feels like Sunday all over the world.
Correspondingly, the holidays have their own distinctive consciousness. The spirit of compassion and understanding permeates. There is the tactile sense of joy, absolute and uncut. There’s this quiet glee, glazed in gratitude. And hope. The holidays are supposed to embody love.
It’s time for us to find the Feeling.
You’re not going to find it on sale at Target. It isn’t being hawked by an online retailer offering savings of twenty percent. You won’t get it simply by listening to Yuletide songs or watching, for the umpteenth time, “It’s A Wonderful Life” or “A Charlie Brown Christmas,” though seasonal entertainment can compliment the feeling. There’s no guarantee you’ll find it in your place of worship.
This feeling comes from within. No one has to put it there; it is already in you. No batteries required. You simply have to summon it. One way you do this is by counting your blessings.
Play a little game with yourself: without considering what you DON’T have, think of all the positive aspects of your life. No matter how bad things might seem, we all have something to be thankful for.
You can jump-start the Feeling in other ways. I was sitting in my car in line at one of those drive-thru car washes, feeling lousy for reasons I can’t even recall now. When the attendant approached my window to take payment for the car wash, impulsively, before even looking behind me, I told him I was paying for the car following me as well.
The attendant went back there, and through my rear view mirror I watched a tiny, weather-beaten middle-aged woman climb out of the dinged up SUV’s passenger side.
“It very hard for us right now,” she sheepishly said at my window in broken English. “We don’t really have the money to pay someone to wash our car. Then I said to my husband, ‘We can’t NOT wash our car here. A clean car make us feel better.’”
In the mirror I glimpsed her husband behind the wheel of the SUV, a full head of gray in sunglasses, smiling his appreciation. “We argued about whether to stay here or go,” the woman continued. “He was ready to drive away, when you did this.”
Just like that, the three of us found the Feeling. Materially, I hadn’t done much. However, the Feeling is always bigger than the transaction.
This is the season to hold the door for a stranger; for giving that parking space, rightfully yours, to someone else. This is the season for not being so hard on yourself.
The car wash encounter? That happened back in August. Yeah, see, the idea is that you do what it takes to get the Feeling right now, and then you continue to do what it takes to KEEP the Feeling all year ’round. And oh, what a feeling.
Steven Ivory, journalist and author of the essay collection Fool In Love (Simon & Schuster), has covered popular culture for magazines, newspapers, radio and TV for more than 30 years. Respond to him via [email protected]