Saturday, December 24, 2011

The Nightest Time of the Year

I've never been a fan of Christmas, mostly due to the hideously tacky commercialism that comes with it, but also because of its manic and mandatory cheer. Like Valentine's Day, it's always struck me as a time to flatter the vanity of the well-to-do and to rub the noses of the less fortunate in their own bad circumstances. The lovey-dovey couple really doesn't need any more congratulation than, say, the isolated widow needs a reminding of her loneliness. This was always to me obviously true, but not based on any actual experience. Christmas has always been for me more annoying than depressing.

I theorized of unhappy people on Christmas without much being one myself, but that's a little different this year, as this holiday season has been a rough one. My mother put our dog of 15 years to sleep only a couple weeks ago. My maternal grandmother, who has had health issues the past couple years, is in the hospital due to a stroke. As I was talking about this with my mother on the phone last night I learned that the faculty adviser for my fraternity had died. He was by all accounts a wonderful person and helped establish my school's chapter and keep it going through dicey times. I initiated late in my schooling and never got to know him, which I am now dearly regretting.

Christmas' roots lay in pagan celebrations of the winter solstice, which is the shortest day of the year before the days begin getting longer again. For some it is all too fitting that this, the ironically most stressful and sorrowful of holidays, should coincide with the year's longest night. And though things could obviously be worse for me, this year's confluence of loss and missed opportunities will make mine a somewhat blighted Christmas, and it's affected me more than I thought it would.

In spite of all that, I am still glad for all that I have, and for the many, many people who have enriched my life in Idaho, in DC, and anywhere else. The fourth Thursday of November may be our designated day of thanks, but I would like to think of it as the inauguration of a month-long rumination on gratitude for what we have, and also what we have lost. Thanks can only be meaningful in light of heaviness and hardship, after all. Thus does a month of heightened awareness of our fickle fortunes culminate in that darkest night, which must come before the day, the month, the year, can be renewed.

So I'm going to be uncharacteristically gooey and say that all of you, whoever you are, you're all stars. You're glorious, bright, and beautiful and for somebodies in your orbit you are the day itself. And for those who can only see you shine from way afar, you make the sky that would otherwise be especially right now dark and empty, a little more magnificent.

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