Dear Miss Kitty,
I noticed that Christmas doesn’t feel like Christmas. I expect New Years won’t feel like New Years and 2012 will just be another year. My wife thinks I am negative but I am not. It just isn’t what it used to be, but then again what is? Since most of the time you are pretty good at seeing what others miss, I wondered if you think there is anything really worth anything anymore. I know this isn’t a relationship question (my wife says you won’t answer unless it is) but if you wouldn’t mind I would appreciate it. I like Fridays with my coffee and your column, even though I don’t always agree with you.
Mike F, SANTA BARBARA
This is rather personal but since you and I apparently share so much over coffee (even though we don’t actually know each other) I will get cozy and spill all. Sometimes it takes being away from something to be able to appreciate it. That goes for relationships, holidays and Christmas trees (I’ll explain in a minute). It isn’t so much that the grass is greener elsewhere but that we are so close to our own grass we forget just how nice it feels under our feet until it isn’t there.
Taking something away – actually or mentally – can give a unique perspective, and personal perspective is all that matters when it comes down to whether something has value for you or does not. When one can’t find value in something, be it a holiday, a relationship or a New Years toast, then that something does indeed feel like nothing. Science has proven that there is no such thing as nothing, so if what you think you are feeling is nothing, it isn’t. So give yourself a break and know that you aren’t being negative; it is most likely disappointment masquerading as apathy.
Let’s take a holiday object (that I bet felt like nothing to you) and put the theory into practice. What could be better at disguising its benefit than the modern-day Christmas tree? It certainly was never intended to be a hundred dollar trek to the fake forest in order to bring home a potential fire hazard. For the ancient Europeans, Druids and Vikings, bringing in winter greenery was a testament to the wonder of something green in the midst of a cold and barren landscape. Evergreen had the power to ward off evil as well as be a symbol for everlasting life. By the way, there are a lot of interesting facts regarding the origins of the holiday tree and as deeply as I researched, I found nothing about tinsel or flocking. Like that’s a surprise.
What does that mean? Well besides the fact that I detest tinsel and wasn’t surprised it didn’t rate in the history books, it means that something has meaning for us only when we allow ourselves to connect with what is important to us. After years of the same old-same old, it can be all too easy to lose touch with what in meaningful.
Seriously Mike, I started out thinking I would skip the whole tree thing this year, just like the guy that wrote to me a few weeks ago. The whole notion, from the twine and duck tape to the curbside funeral I felt like there was nothing I would miss and nothing I needed. The whole sappy process seemed like an empty ritual that had lost all meaning for me over the years and now felt like a big waste of time and money. Last week I happily surrendered to the need to resurrect my 43 year–old- dog-chewed angel (missing one wing) and sans gold glitter. From deep in the black hole known as the holiday decorations box I retrieved her and with great delight and hundreds of excellent memories-place her on top of a tiny Mini-Me of a tree. It was glorious!
The value that we find in rituals, people and everyday occurrences is something that changes. The approach that we take to finding meaning is what we need to update! The lessons of the tree were twofold: First, what had lost meaning for me was found again through dismissing the tree this year – and then, I found myself truly wanting it. Even more interesting was when I met the need in a different way I found the part of the ritual that had value to me. Strangely enough, size no longer mattered and neither did the hunt for the “perfect” specimen. (Now that sounds like a dating column!)
Darling Mike, Boys and Girls, it is not surprising that we stagnate under repetitive and empty rituals, cursory “I love yous” and generic forms of faux happiness. If there’s one fathomlessly inane ritual I detest as much as tinsel it would be the New Year’s resolution. Talk about an empty promise made under duress and usually under the influence! This year I intend to let that meaningless ritual go and any other empty moments that have no real value for me. Join me?
Mike, one last thing: the big trick is to do what makes you truly happy. If you’re game, try this. While putting lights on the tree you didn’t want, reflect on what that tree really is. Not a mannequin for cheap and tawdry tinsel, but a living reminder – that no matter how dark or empty winter or life can be, joy is only a season or a thought away and is always a private matter-between you and you. I hope you feel better. Really.