At the risk of sounding Scrooge-like, I contend the holiday lights and deep-discount sales and piped-in Bing Crosby carols that commence with an onslaught the day after Halloween serve as distractions for what is, without doubt, the least wonderful time of the year.
Everywhere, it seems, there is forced cheer, a rush to celebrate–what exactly?
Beyond the crass commercialism of the season, I think the glittery expectations mask something deeper. It wasn’t until half-way through Three Billboards outside Ebbing, Missouri that it came to me—grief. This movie, phenomenally acted and filmed, is a study in grief and futility, of the ends people take to alleviate despair. It’s a brave film because it lays naked the sadness and anger and fear we, as a society, fear to show and name.
My grief becomes manifest when the days shorten and the temperatures dip. In the past, I’ve written how I welcome winter as a time to turn inward. But this year, things feel darker. Perhaps it is the accumulated memories of relatives, including my grandparents and father, who died this time of year. (My father’s death anniversary is a full moon that throws me in a deep, irritable funk). Perhaps it is the realization this is likely my mother’s last Christmas. Perhaps it is the haunting of a friend’s teenage daughter who took her own life last month. Perhaps it is the rapid dismantling of our country’s values on a nearly daily basis. Perhaps it is all of the above, and then some.
There are inklings others feel the same—it seems there are more face book posts with suicide hotline numbers, more food and clothing drives for those less fortunate. A grief akin to tenderness. All I know is I feel alone, which makes me feel small and vulnerable and lost. But rather than deny this discomfort, perhaps it is best to embrace these uncomfortable feelings and howl my grief for all I have lost and all I will never have.
And then, when I’m done blubbering, I will be able, again, to pound out dough and unreel wrapping paper and smile like I mean it. Because I will.
Tell me, how are you handling these days?