Tuesday, December 21, 2004

Why not holly, jolly, etc?

It occurred to me, as I slumped into my office chair this afternoon after scribbling numerous orders and dealing with a half-dozen peculiar crises, that I can't wait for "the holidays" to be over. Then immediately I felt like a traitor to Good Cheer and looking around to see if anyone had caught me. Putting my head in my hand, I realized it's been many years since I was truly ablaze with Christmas Spirit. The sort that leads other, better people to build snowmen, and put on community theatre productions, and make eggnog, and write scores of Christmas cards, and actually pick out a present for their postal technicians who bring the mail every day.

I used to have such Spirit, which is particularly impressive given my nominally Jewish upbringing. But it has lapsed. And I think the lapse began when I became a psychiatrist. This is not an easy time of year for people in psychiatric hospitals. And by extension, it becomes not an easy time of year for their psychiatrists. So many people longing for a little family... a snowball... a good glass of whisky... a Christmas Miracle that will wipe out their memory of what happened to them on Christmas, and every other day, when they were kids... something. And, hardly able to access and express these wishes, some take to punching, or screaming, or stopping their medications. Others, who seemed to be doing well out in the world, suddenly show up at the door, threatening suicide if not hospitalized. Here we at least have a tree, some green-and-red cookies, some gifts from Wal-Mart, a carol sing-along, and-- surely the best-- someone to say "Merry Christmas" to you on the proper morning.

I think my Christmas energy gets diffused and dispersed, trying to hold up other people's sanity, shedding a speck of glitter here, a speck there, weighing risks, protecting people from themselves in the hopes that things will look brighter in January. By the time Christmas Eve arrives, I just want to see mom and dad for a bit, smooch the cat, and go to bed early.


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