I tend to navigate the holidays with a…. melancholy. Really, I am pretty sullen and morose from early November through the New Year, but melancholy sounds more pleasant. Things and people lost have occupied my thoughts in this season for years past. There are many I still long for in their absence, but this year I focused on the presence (see what I did there?)
The BSW can judge, but I think I was filled with the frickin’ spirit this year. I even coordinated caroling for the voices in my head (we do a mean cover of 12 Days of Christmas.) I was surrounded by friends and family, and I focused on them instead of dwelling on the absences. Most probably don’t know it, but people I choose to interact with are my support mechanism. It is lead by a small, vocal, female force of nature. I am fortunate and blessed.
I now make a fraction…a fraction of a fraction, of what I earned on the corporate hamster wheel. One of my favorite traditions back when I was paid a lot of money was to go to a store like Savers in the pre Christmas rush. I would wander the aisles until I found someone shopping for Christmas presents. My rationale was someone shopping for presents at Savers is struggling but really trying to do something kind for another. I would then cut in front of them at the checkout counter, give the clerk a $100 bill, and ask to pay for everything for the people behind me until it ran out. Then, I would quickly leave. Although it hopefully brought some joy to someone, it was entirely selfish. It made me really happy to do it.
I tell this story because there is a point, and I imitated it this year. I no longer have $100 bills to drop, but we all have something we can share in some way. This year, perhaps due to my time selling tents, I would pick up chocolate bars or impulse buy trinkets while waiting to pay for my purchases. When my transaction was complete, I would give the chocolate to the clerk and thank them for what they do. It usually brought a smile, a sincere thank you, and a brief pause from the chaos that is their job this time of year. And it made me happy.
My first point is this was a substantial improvement for me compared to the last several years. I once again was able to consider others and not be completely awash in my own grief. That is significant.
The greater point is it takes very little of our time or our resources to make a positive difference to some fellow traveler on this journey of life. As I mentioned before, I am extremely fortunate for the people who care for and look out for me. Not all are so lucky. We are all usually a little more kind and thoughtful during the holiday season. I’ve written before about this. Try to carry that kindness forward.
The holidays are not the riskiest time for those with mental illness. It is post holidays, in the dark, cold days of winter, that we are most at risk. Pay attention. Watch for signs. Discover that being kind is even better for you than those to whom you exhibit it.
I’m Darren, I’m mentally ill, and I had a great Christmas.