Monday, December 21, 2009

The Xmas Depression

I'm sleeping twelve hours a night, if you call the hours between 8:00 and noon part of the night. I hate Xmas and more so this year than most. I lost my best friend November 18th. I have another friend who has MS and needs help with errands. My old dog Cyrus has had a series of abscesses on his muzzle that scare me and make me think he isn't long for this world. Now he's on a mega dose of antibiotics that might keep the next abscess at bay as it heals the last one. I'm typing with my fingers crossed.

I've lost a tenant and Ms M and I are having a hard time finding a replacement. This has cut my income in half for December, but nobody told my creditors my income isn't what it used to be. I'm living $500 dollars beneath the poverty level. I qualify for food stamps but I'm too depressed to make the effort to jump through the bureaucratic hoops to get them. Filling out forms seems to be one of the things my brain is no longer able to do without a helper. Waiting in line with other depressed and poor people is more than I can handle right now. I'm old in a way that shocks me. My body tells me so every early AM when I have to get out of bed and hobble to the bathroom. I walk like the very old, shuffling along with every joint aching.

I've always hated Xmas. It was the one holiday my atheist parents seemed to take special pleasure in fucking up for me. I always think of the Charlie Brown cartoons where Lucy holds the football for Charlie to kick and then pulls the football away at the last second when I think of the way my mother dealt with Xmas wishes. She would insist on my naming the thing I wanted. Early on it required dictating a letter to Santa, and I would wake to find that Santa felt the thing I wanted wasn't possible that year. No tricycle this year. No doll, no Teddy bear, no, no, no. There was always a reason Santa wouldn't make my wish come true, and it had nothing to do with my being bad. Santa had philosophical reasons for denying my wishes. By the time I was six I found out there was no Santa, Easter Bunny or Tooth Fairy, and it was my mother who wanted to make sure I got the point that my dreams would never come true as long as she was in charge of fulfilling wishes. But for god's sake do not neglect thanking her profusely and with convincing sincerity for the new underwear or the new winter coat, whatever it was I needed. This was where I got my acting chops. I learned to fake gratitude. I learned to fake a lot of things. And I began to dread all events that required gift giving and I never trusted hope.

This kind of conditioning lasts. It sets up a biochemical event in the brain. All relationships become substitutes for the one who made it a tradition to hurt, disappoint, and require fake gratitude. Now receiving gifts just makes me feel unworthy and guilty or sad. I have, over the years, begged friends to please, please, please not give me Xmas gifts. Perhaps I am depriving them of an opportunity to express their joy in the season, but I feel nothing but guilt that I haven't matched or surpassed their impulse to give. And frankly, Xmas the retail holiday, just makes me tired. I've worked in retail sales. Believe me, there is no other holiday that's harder on sales people who are trying to help you desperate hordes shopping at the last minute to find one perfect gift for Xmas. It's not their fault you waited until all the good stuff is gone.

We were a middle class family. Poverty wasn't ever the reason wishes weren't granted. It was my mother's own brand of tough love. It was her belief that granting wishes spoiled the child. In reality it was the perfect way to make every celebratory event something to dread. So here we are sixty years later and this well-learned dread still grips me. Merry Xmas. Just don't expect a gift.