"It's like clenching teeth and closing your eyes, waiting for the blow to swing at you--only about a hundred times worse than that."--Hard to imagine that someone would describe Christmas this way, but that's the harsh reality for far too many among us.
But the reason for that doesn't really seem to be the shortness of the day, nor the cold and dark weather. The reason lays in the fact that that's the time we look at our lives beyond our everyday--we look at what we are actually living, rather than what we are doing. In December our lives are stripped of the things we focus on every day of the rest of the year. Sometimes willingly--to forget about difficulties in our personal relationships--and sometimes subconsciously thinking that what really matters in life is our everyday agenda.
In December, targets just don't seem to matter that much to everyone around us, so it's hard to pretend they matter as much to us. You're bound to stop and reflect on what kind of life you live and what your life is made of. Do you have people you care for around you--such that care for you too? Or do you have networks and networking drinks? Are you headed where you want to be headed or are you headed where you thought was cool and comfortable to go?
As humans we are social creatures--that is in our nature--and as social creatures we want people we care for around us; we want recognition; and we want genuine relations. Modern society and life in the fast lane tampered with that in the way that we are now identifying with what we do, our social status, our competitiveness, our jobs, our businesses, the private clubs we belong to, the networks we are part of, the schools we put our kids to.
But two things can happen when we live like that. One is we will start substituting our genuine human relational needs with forms of soothing behaviour that might prove destructive at the end. We will be drowning ourselves with work to make us feel productive. We will be succumbing to various other forms of addiction to get that stress relief. This can be in the form of everything from alcohol, drugs, shopping, gambling, sex, porn, obsessive dating app usage, social media, sports and various other behaviour that we know we don't really enjoy deep down.
The other thing likely to hit us is the harshness of realisation we actually have nothing but our everyday agendas, our after-work drinks, our jobs and social titles, our ambitions, careers, companies, investors, board meetings, social media followers, gym in the evening and that last glass of wine before bed.
All this seems to fade away in December. It's like ice melting and leaving no residue. We are bound to get a bit of taste how important relationships are--at the end of the day, everyone around us is paying attention to everything and everyone but us, so we are only left ruminating about how lonely we are.
Once the spotlight is off of our mediocre days; once we have no meetings to go to and all our friends are somewhere else; that's when it becomes clear to us what we masked out every day of the year. Not just one year, but many.
Loneliness is one of the main reasons that we see coming up again and again when we talk about December depression. It's hard to believe that living in London--one of cosmopolitan centres of Europe and one of Europe's most densely populated cities--could be regarded as lonely. But the people around us have nothing to do with loneliness. Loneliness is not the same as solitude. Loneliness is the absence of relations with others--the ones we love or just relations we strive for--because we are human.
We can get surrounded by friends and colleagues at a Christmas party where everyone seems to be enjoying themselves but, at the same time, we are crying out of loneliness. We withdraw into our inner world and weep, thinking how in the world we got ourselves into this situation and what the way out is. Other people can be close enough that their drinks are spilled all over us. But what we feel is like being miles away from everything that matters to us in this life--and usually that's exactly where we are at that point in time.
Cosmopolitan mainstream society we live in here in London is a cookie cutter that influences how we see ourselves as individuals. We are only satisfied and happy with ourselves if we are "making it" in our careers; if the boss is OK with our presentation; if we reach those sales figures, beat the other team--regardless of whether we leave the customer hanging at the end of the day.
This is the world of an individuated individual--where individual is a unit of such society. But, even though we are individuals, humans are not made to be individuated. We are social creatures. And it's a sad revelation when you strip your day to day of the things you focus on--what's left then is life. What does it look like?
Related article: December Depression and January Blues
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