Did you know that more people die in hospital ER's on Christmas Day and New Year's Day than any other days of the year? It's true. This facts also includes other holiday celebrations like Kwanzaa, Hannuka, and Pancha Ganapti...a Hindu holiday that also takes place in December. But of all these special days, Christmas is the most deadly. As Elvis once told us, "I'll have a blue, blue Christmas..." And for many of us this is all-too-often the case. Depression seems to run rampant during what is tooted as the happiest time of the year. So what does all this have to do with Dicken's The Christmas Carol? Plenty. Ebenezer Scrooge was a sad, lonely, and depressed man who, at the end, finds a way to repent for his formally wicked ways.
But the bigger, more important lesson o be learned, is that each of us can find a way to keep Christmas in our heart all year long. The Christmas Carol is really a story about living well all every single day. There's no doubt about it, Scrooge had a right to be a little depressed. The Ghost of Christmas Past shows us his terribly cold and upleasant upbringing. He probably suffered from what we might, today, call developmental trauma. But that can be overcome and a new, happier ways of living can be found. Holidays do, though, seem to have a way of making us depressed. We see the flaws in ourselves and our loved ones; we're not the perfect famy that we see portrayed on TV and in the movies.There always seems to be an abundance of stress and worry in December. For some of us, we find a way to "muster through" but, for others, they simply prefer to sit out on the sidelines until January 2nd. Scrooge's unhappy life isn't really the result of his early trauma, but is caused from his fearful response to it. Afraid of being hurt again, he chooses isolation instead of love...on the surface, that appears to be much safer, but as the story goes on, we learn that lonliness makes things worse. Loads of bad things can, and do, occur during the holidays and if we've ever had any of those things happen to us, we begin to associate Christmas with pain and sadness. Scrooge's hatred of the holiday season isn't about the pain he suffered when his girlfriend "dumped" him on Christmas day, but rather his fear of the world...and this ruled his life 365 days a year.
Like many of us, Scrooge doesn't think of himself as a bad, or evil, person. It's merely the way ones behaves in a world that is perceived as cruel and harsh. We find ourselves becoming harder and harder with every passing year. But the Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come shows him, and us, how his tough exterior can't protect him from winding up in a lonely grave. Acting, or reacting, from a place of fear won't protect any of us. We're afraid of getting hurt (again) so we clam up and shut others out. We think that no one likes us. And to prove them right, we become as unlikeable as we possibly can. We are a self-fulfilling prophecy. So when we prepare ourselves for an unpleasant holiday, that's exactly what we get. For you see wishes, both good and bad, really do come true. But fear and bitterness aren't our only options, you know.
The other option available to us takes a great deal of courage, that which many of us have in short supply. Even at our most vulnerable and scary times, we can choose to be open and loving. And those, too, as we see in The Christmas Carol, can become the very best kind of self-fulfilling prophecy.
We can't erase all the trauma and bad things that hve happened to us. They are what they are. But we can choose how we want to view our world going forward. We can literally "open" the Christmas present. It's only in the here and now that we can fully live our lives. The past is just that...the past. And worrying about the future is pointless; we can't possibly plan ahead for every possible scenerio. All we have to work with is the present. I know this is easier said than done, but do try not to worry so much about surviving the entire holiday season. Instead, take it one day at a time. Live for today and derive as much pleasure and happiness as you can. If you get stuck in a long line at the check-out today, try complimenting the person ahead of you on their funny Christmas sweater. Strike up a conersation with the family in line behind you. Conversation can go along way to make you feel included. And it's a delightful way to pass the time. Life is a collection of these seemingly random simple pleasure. But they can all serve a useful purpose.
The first thing that Scrooge feels when he's brought back to the present is gratitude. And isn't that what hapiness is really all about? Research has shown that gratitude brings us a both physical an emotional well-being. Being gateful for all the things that do go right in our life makes us more cheerful. Here's an activity that has been proven to be highly successful in fighting the blues. Write a letter of gratitude to someone and hand deliver it to the recipient, if possible. Or write the letter to yourself, gently reminding yourself of all the wonderful things you have to be grateful for. Studies have shown that doing this one, simple act can significantly boost our happiness level...and that boost can last as long as an entire month!
According to Martha Beck, a life coach and happiness expert, "when we give ourselves the present, we find it easier to give to those around us. And before you know it, we have discovered that peace and joy aren't as far away as we thought."
I invite each of you to go ahead and open your present. It's the one gift we can open every single day whether it's Christmas, or not. And who among us wouldn't want to receive a wonderful gift every single day? None, I would venture to say. And peace, love, and joy are what's waiting inside for us to discover!