There is nothing like the holiday season to highlight what we don’t have. We get the clear and constant message that we should be buying perfect gifts for others, receiving precisely the gifts we want, and celebrating at festive parties and homespun gatherings. If we’re low on cash, not raking in a slew of presents, less than thrilled with our social options or without a Hallmark family, we feel lacking in some fundamental way.
Holiday propaganda is so de-stabilizing that we actually start to buy into what we know is false – that money, material items, the right social connections and other trappings of prestige and privilege add up to happiness. Worn down by images of perfectly decked out people rejoicing and reveling in perfectly decked out settings, we lose sight of the fact that we are entirely capable of experiencing fulfillment without such trappings.
The biggest American delusion – that what looks good on the outside feels good on the inside – is always present. But it’s easier to ignore after the holiday season, when pressure to splurge on gifts, score party invitations and clink champagne glasses winds down considerably.
Until January arrives, I recommend fighting fire with fire by taking in a powerful dose of what you most need when you’re feeling insecure about your station in life: reassurance that “having it all” isn’t nearly what it’s cracked up to be.
To snap out of feeling sorry for yourself, I say head to your nearest multiplex and see “Foxcatcher.” This Hollywood movie tells the tale of John Eleuthere du Pont, billionaire descendent of the supremely well-heeled du Pont family, and it’s just the kind of poor-little-rich-boy narrative we can’t resist when we’re feeling underprivileged.
You know the one: Seemingly lucky guy is born into absolute opulence, no doubt resplendent with outrageously enviable Christmas rituals, but never gets what money can’t buy (self-respect from earning a living, knowledge that your friends love you for you and not what you buy them, motivation to learn and grow and work hard because you have to support yourself).
Even though we know that based-on-a-true-story movies are about as “true” as the holiday images invented by marketers, it’s okay in my book to let yourself get swept into a myth if it will pull you nicely out of a slump. So instead of trying to outwit the confidence-sucking party line that everyone but you has the essential ingredients for a fabulous holiday season – a futile effort in the face of aggressive round-the-clock advertising — remember this:
December in America is all about make-believe, which gives you license to escape reality and create whatever buffering you want. So go ahead and bolster yourself with fantasy entertainment. Let whimsy carry you where you want to be. Seek refuge and validation wherever you can find it. And if you pleasantly distract yourself sufficiently, I assure you that you will stumble upon at least a little happiness – not in all those hackneyed, idealized holiday trappings, but in your own original, indisputable and most certainly enviable resourcefulness.