“I think there must be something wrong with me, Linus. Christmas is coming, but I’m not happy. I don’t feel the way I’m supposed to feel.”
there is nothing that resonates at christmas quite as much as charlie brown when you’re an adult. even though he’s in the body of a child, his thoughts and attitude toward christmas are very much an adult ones. everything about a charlie brown christmas digs deep into your chest and sits there for a while. meanwhile, the music is fleeting; by the time you realize what vince guaraldi’s piano means, it’s too late to know that it’s meant for you. and no matter how much you try, no matter what you do, nothing – nothing – can make christmas quite what it was when you were a child.
most of the time, in my case anyway, i feel like i’m going through the motions: put up a tree, make cookies, watch the movies. and while i enjoy all those things, it’s still missing. the anticipation, the excitement, the hope, the “first time” ness of the christmas experience.
some of it may be that the season starts in october and stops abruptly the day after christmas. the calendar location of christmas is such that the celebration should start almost directly after our axial tilt starts to glean a little more light at the ends of our days, but instead, we are celebrating encroaching darkness. (i understand that this is hardly noticeable to the average person. but solstice-time celebrations are all about bringing the light back.) by the time christmas actually gets here, we are so christmassed out that we don’t feel like christmas is actually happening.
and i would bet most people suffer from the “i don’t feel the way i’m supposed to feel” that charlie brown feels.
there’s a great webcomic by the oatmeal about how to be perfectly unhappy. it posits that it’s ok to not be happy all the time. that happiness is a constant state that means you’ve gotten to the point of accomplishment. thinking about it, the majority of my time is not spent in a perpetual state of happiness. it’s more likely that most people exist in a state of okay-ness. maybe being an adult is realizing that a lot of the time we don’t feel the way we’re supposed to feel.
“christmastime is here. happiness and cheer. fun for all that children call their favorite time of year.” that this line in the song is set to one of the most melancholy tunes does not surprise me.
so perhaps it’s best to think in terms not of how we’re supposed to feel. maybe we should think in terms of how we do feel and go with it. for a moment or two in october i remember that christmas is coming and i get excited. when i see rows of christmas decor for sale in october, i get irritated. i know the day i put up my christmas tree is going to be a lot of work but i like looking at the tree, so i’ve resigned myself to the work. if you think of christmas as a constant happy time, most of the time i don’t feel how i’m supposed to feel.
but then i see christmas lights on a lone tree in the distance. step outside on a cold night when snow is falling and hear a total, encompassing silence with the whiteness of the snow reflecting to light up the darkness. unwrap my favorite ornaments to hang on the tree. open the door to a pile of packages that just came in the mail. pull out the time-life records to play on christmas eve. watch “it’s a wonderful life”. take silly pics with the fam just to irritate my dad. listen to “o holy night” and its crystal clear high note.
it’s then i feel a little bit of christmas excitement that i feel was ever-present when younger. and it’s ok that it’s not ever-present now. it’s ok to be just ok. i think charlie brown represents what’s best about being an adult at christmastime: you might not feel how you’re supposed to feel, but, even though you may not meet expectations of those around you, you still chase moments of christmas. and if you’re lucky? you catch them.