The holiday spirit finally deigned itself of an appearance. Up until then, I could only focus on the annoyances: the fake cinnamon scent greeting me in every supermarket, the tacky reindeer on roofs all over town, the worsening traffic. I haven’t purchased a tree or a gift yet. Life was just bumbling along in all its normality, until Friday night when, after having whipped up the most perfect sabayon at a client’s house whose holiday party I was catering, right while all the guests were sitting down to enjoy their desserts, I dipped some fresh raspberries in the leftover custard and I tasted the holidays.
Maybe it was because of the bin full of silver ornaments placed right next to the stove which I couldn’t ignore while cooking, or the definite chill in the air after the heavy rains, or the smell of firewood I noticed in my neighbourhood as I drove home late at night, but it finally felt good to know that Christmas was approaching, if only I could get past all the work commitments that made the following week look insurmountable.
Life has been full of “if only’s” lately, a long list of litanies on how things could be better if. Really, I bore myself with my complaints. Cheap psychology, every other person on Facebook and common sense will have you believe that focussing on the positives, while shutting the negatives out the door, will make for happier living. Mostly, it’s probably true: being a miserable git 24/7 must be exhausting and not much fun. But what if there was a healthy side to whining?
Sofagirl and I begin our weekly Skype session with all that has gone wrong in the past seven days. Mostly it’s to hear the other nudge us in the direction of the positive, of being commiserated by someone other than ourselves when we feel we are the only stable center in a world gone awry. But, in part, it is also to get a different perspective on what we can’t see as we hurry through life and a way to clear the roadblock: if we transfer it from our head and shape it into words, we are then free to release it and move on.
I live in the States, the land of the overly optimistic, and California in particular, where common wisdom would have it that we can clear negative energy by substituting it with positive one. But I come from a long line of troubled souls, think Nero and Mussolini, with a heavy heritage of state instituted malfunction and corruption, where the only way to survive with some humour is to complain about it. In my early days in my new country, I was first surprised and then turned off by the constant cheerfulness: cheerful greeting upon entering a store; complete strangers wishing me a good day; the welcoming baked goods of new neighbors appearing at the door; waiters introducing themselves – why were these people so happy? Now I have joined the throngs, walking around with a smile on my face most of the time. And yes, it does change the outlook on things but I still believe that complaining for the sake of complaining merits a healthy place in our lives.
Besides, commiserating with fellow-man makes us feel closer. Think of all the times you have bitched about your boss with a co-worker; or complained about Aunt Gracie’s appalling behaviour with your sister – didn’t it feel good, didn’t it make you feel part of a special covenant?
Sustaining cheerfulness and optimism at all cost is a tall order, not to mention a disservice to the truth. So, in this season of holiday cheer, mixed with the excitement of the Christmas meal, the family gathering together and the festive decorations that (eventually) will embellish my house, allow me an end of the year grumble: gifts are overrated, my legs hurt from standing at the kitchen counter for so many hours and the traffic sucks. And please stop wishing me Happy Holidays at every step.
Let’s face it: there is a bit of a Grinch in all of us and it’s good to acknowledge it. He even serves his purpose. Now pass me that cocktail. Cheers!