People are telling me about how stressed they are, and not just over Christmas. They are indeed truly busy people, but according to them, much busier than they ever imagined possible, and the holiday season is bringing it all to a head.
WHY are we feeling so much stress? Why do we have that persistent pesky feeling of being overwhelmed? Has survival in North America taken on new parameters?
The owner of a local restaurant chatters on about how she misses the quality of life at her family home in Greece, especially around Christmas and the like. A sense of home-sickness filters through her conversation as she describes how people in Greece frequently spend hours sharing some wine, enjoying conversation, friendship, singing, dancing, and a meal together. I suggest that perhaps our idea of survival is fundamental to how we approach social events. Not missing a beat, this beautiful Greek restaurateur states emphatically that North Americans don’t think about shelter, food, and clothing at their basic level. We’re consumed with bigger shelters, exotic and varied types of food, and trendy clothing, and that this goal of the grand and elaborate surpasses the rewards of simple delights. She claims that consumerism is the endless pursuit that keeps us spinning, and therefore why we end up stressed to the max.
It’s hard not to accept this as truth. The bigger the TV, the larger the house, the newer the automobile leaves us as an overspent, overfed, overstimulated society. We’re working harder, longer, and quite often, in jobs we detest.
More, Bigger, Better
And it’s not just the adults who are bombarded with pressures to keep up. Kids feel it, and they demand it as well.
My son came home from school one day exclaiming that the Hanes underwear he wore was the point of ridicule from his Grade Six classmates. They sported Calvin Klein.
Could a simple change in underwear help my son feel accepted in his new school? Sure, why not! So, I checked out the price of Calvin Klein briefs—$38/pair. Needless to say, I didn’t buy them, and my son did survive Grade Six most successfully without trendy underwear.
What happens when we don’t buy into the scheme of elaborate survival? Can we survive in a consumer driven culture by ignoring the social stimulants of more, bigger, better? Does survival really depend on being one of the group, conforming to the masses?
Safety is crucial to survival, and one feels safer when part of a group, family, gang, troop, clan, tribe, fraternity, network, community… Group identity can provide us with a sense of self midst a global throng. Group participation requires a level of conformity. Enter—blue jeans.
Worn by students and teachers alike, and now acceptable attire for both the aging preacher and the concert-goer, we wear jeans in any season, for any occasion, on dress-down Fridays in the workplace, to weddings, funerals, and for shopping. Communities are blue from the waist down (and also from the neck up?).
To aid in recovering or maintaining our individuality within conformism, designers create jeans that help us stand out from the generic blue mass… jeans with tears, up-scale labels, low-cuts, decals, diamonds, sequins, tummy-flattening panels, Lycra, spandex, black jeans, skinny jeans, wide-leg, narrow-leg, flared, purple, green, washed-out… jeans… all still just jeans.
Peace in a Bottle
Current decorating trends, especially that of Christmas trees, demand a monochromatic theme. Tree lights, bulbs, bows, and so on, are to be all of one colour. This seasonal décor on the backdrop of grey walls and stainless steel fixtures points to the desire to hold membership in some sort of universal unicolour pack.
Is it possible that striving for the elaborate while fitting into homochromous social norms drives us to find peace in the use of beta blockers, beer, liquor, other pharmaceutical remedies and recreational drugs?
Depression appears to be increasing among Americans overall, and especially among youth…depression [has] increased significantly among persons in the U.S.…from 6.6 percent to 7.3 percent. Notably, the rise [is] most rapid among those ages 12 to 17, increasing from 8.7 percent in 2005 to 12.7 percent in 2015. Source
Creating Joy and Peace
How can Christmas in our home this year result in joyous memories of peace and joy? Simplicity is key for us.
I’ve been scrambling with projects over the last few months, and simply don’t want to continue at that pace. For this holiday, Christmas cards are replaced by phone calls. Leftovers, great conversations, some snowshoeing, skating, and sleeping-in are on the agenda. My Christmas tree is filled with a colourful assortment of homemade ornaments gifted by family members and friends over the years, this alone having left me joyous while hanging each ornament on a bough. The sound system blasts out favourite Christmas tunes. And, fuzzy PJs are replacing blue jeans.
Two days before the 25th, I had yet to make those Christmas greeting phone calls, prepare food for feasting, and to wrap presents. It all did get done, a little at a time. I also provided music for Christmas Eve Mass, so somewhere in it all, I managed to fit in music rehearsal time. Admittedly, a little Bailey’s in hot chocolate at the end of the day can occasionally assist with celebrating the harmony of the holiday.
So, in the joyous spirit of the season, here’s wishing you all a wonderfully peaceful Christmas holiday filled with love, peace, and all goodness!