One of my daily stops on this wild web is my recent activity page on flickr where I can see which photos I’ve posted that people have commented on. Recently I was talking with a few friends about the different uses of flickr, some people use it as a showcase for their best photography and others use it as a bit of a window into their lives. I fit in the latter category, and so it’s interesting for me to see what people think about what I saw or noticed enough to put online. Yesterday there was a new holiday wish posted on this photo:
It was an innocent enough comment, but I really wasn’t something I was expecting. Not so much the comment, but seeing that photo. You see, that photo isn’t recent. It’s from last year, Christmas eve on 2006. I’m not really sure where I’m headed with this post so if it seems scattered please forgive me. For whatever reason I’ve never been a huge fan of Christmas. I mean, I appreciate the concept of what it all stands for but it always struck me as the kind of thing people should just be doing all year around, not just on one day at the end of the year. Plus for the majority of my life the entire holiday season was filled with some kind of family related stress. This wasn’t anyone’s fault, and I don’t mean to sound like I’m complaining because I know everyone always had the best intention but there’s something about being worried if you bought someone the right gift so as not to hurt their feelings, how to react if someone didn’t buy you the right gift so as not to hurt their feelings, how to react if someone bought you a gift which tells you very clearly they don’t know who you are at all so as not to hurt their feelings, who to spend what time with so as not to hurt their feelings? See the theme here? Rather than just relaxing and enjoying friends and family this time of year has traditionally been, for me at least, a lot of juggling so as not to hurt other peoples feelings. The cliche about needed a vacation after a vacation was never more true than when I’d return from Christmas holidays. Plus all the drama about the consumerism of it – are you buying gifts for everyone you should be, are those gifts in the right price range, what about people you bought gifts for last year but haven’t seen since, is it rude to not spend money on them this year. It goes on and on. I couldn’t wait for it to be over, really.
This continued for a bit after I got married as well because even though we were always trying to make the season less stressful there was always the struggle about which family to spend what time with. The last few years seemed much better than the earlier ones, but I still had that lingering feeling I wasn’t living up to someone else’s expectations. In 2006 Caryn and I decided that it was time for something new. Rather than trying to fit into everyone else’s holiday traditions we were going to start our own. We didn’t go to Florida to see family but instead had our first Christmas in Los Angeles, the plan was for it to be the first of many more to come. Of course, it turned out to be the last we’d ever spend together, but we didn’t know it at the time. At least not consciously. I didn’t anyway, and I guess it’s pretty useless to try and figure out what anyone else is or isn’t thinking/feeling at any given time. All you really know is what you feel and when I took that photo I was pretty damn happy and hopeful. I don’t know what I thought it signified, but it made me smile.
This year doesn’t feel like Christmas at all. I’ve got none of the associations I’ve had my entire life. I’m in Europe for one thing, there is no family closer than a transatlantic flight, and I’m surrounded mostly by people I’ve known less than a month. The friends I have here that I’ve known for much longer I’ve never spent holidays with so I don’t associate them with this time of year. Even the decorations all over the city haven’t swayed me. I find myself turning to the internet to try and connect with the family I’ve created for myself, my friends. Only they aren’t feeling it either. One post after another tells me this. I’m not trying to be emo or all “woe is me” or anything, it’s just a really weird thing I’m feeling this year compared to the really weird thing I usually feel every other year. I’m not particularly unhappy even, maybe even just realizing with one more thing it’s important to enjoy and appreciate what you have and where you are right now, because you never know what will change by tomorrow. And maybe, do it all year long not just wait for some fucking Hallmark card to give you permission once or twice a year.