My friend called me today: she was feeling depressed. She had sent both her kids back to college, and she was cleaning up the last of the Christmas decorations. Another Christmas season and another year come to an end.
I get depressed and anxious about plenty of things, but I never thought to be depressed about the holidays coming to an end. Yes, I was sad to ship my kid back to school and I’ll miss her, but she has so many adventures ahead of her this semester that I can’t help but be a little jealous that I’m not 20 with my whole life ahead of me and everything new and fresh and exciting. And a debit card with my daddy at the other end. Skype and Facebook make it so easy for us to stay in touch that I almost feel like I’m with her during her adventures, but without the stress of having to remind her to do her homework or the worry of waiting up when she’s out late.
As for the Christmas season coming to an end, that doesn’t make me feel depressed one bit. I love it when the holiday season is finally over. Yes, it’s fun while it’s here, with the parties and the cookies and the presents. I love the lights and the decorations and the joy and excitement of the little kids waiting to sit on Santa’s lap. Well, mostly they’re crying, but there’s joy and excitement too. But the holidays are also loaded with stress and there’s never enough time to do everything that needs to get done. The shopping and the crowds and the cooking and the baking and the Christmas cards. And the endless monotony of the artificial Christmas Cheer assaulting your eyes and ears. And do NOT get me started on the War on Christmas. Jeezus. No, I’m not sorry to put all that behind me.
But the thing that I really like is putting away the holiday decorations. I don’t just not hate it. I really like it. It is a ritual which to me signals the start of the new year and all the potential and optimism that the phrase New Year embodies. I usually do it as close to January first as I can so I start the new year right away. (This year it was actually on the second due to holiday travel, but ok). Everything goes away neatly, all organized and labeled so that when next year comes along, I’m not stressed and frustrated trying to find things. It’s always a bit of a puzzle trying to fit everything back into the boxes that they came out of. I’m pretty sure I say at least 20 times “There is no freaking way all of this came out of these boxes. It will never fit.” It always fits.
And then when everything is put away and my house is a clean slate, I look at all of it with fresh eyes and renewed optimism. Some items will go back where they were last year: this vase goes here; this knick knack goes there. But there’s no expectation that anything needs to go anywhere, and I feel free to start completely from scratch. I feel the same way about my life. What do I want to carry over from last year, and what do I want to get rid of? What can I improve on? What can I try that I’ve never done before? What will this year hold? My mistakes and my shortcomings are behind me. Everything ahead of me is still unwritten. It’s all brand new and unknown. And I look forward to meeting it all head on.