Karma Comes Home for the Holidays

Bad shit always happens this time of year. And I don’t care who reads this, now or in the future, or what they think of me, or what the consequences are; it needs to be said. No, scratch that, I need to say it. Self censorship be damned; this is a holiday gift to myself. Bad [tag]karma[/tag] comes back around at the end of the Gregorian calendar year.

Which is why I haven’t been blogging too much. Personally, there is way too much bad juju to occupy my mind at this year, and as a matter of self mental preservation, I keep my brain numbed in order to avoid dwelling on past, current and impending bad shit that happens at [tag]Christmas[/tag] time. Not to mention various wars and social ills that plague the world. In years past, this would usually involve considerable amounts of alcohol, but my thirst in middle age seems to have been slaked; I now seem to prefer quality over quantity these days. Besides, I’m supposedly in training for a marathon, and have committed to being dry.

No, I find immersing myself in books and video games satisfies the need for self medication this time of year. And they don’t give you a hangover.

Nevertheless, as Xmas approaches, I find it difficult not to dwell on thoughts of bad things, not the least of which is the death of my mother. She died (she most certainly did not “pass away” – my loathing and contempt for that phrase knows no limits that can be expressed in English or any other human language) early in the morning of Jan. 19th, 2001, having been hospitalized since mid December the month before. We discovered later that she had been ill for some time, a fact that she had managed to hide from everyone but my father, and even he didn’t realized just how far she had slipped. It was a long and excruciating month between the time she was hospitalized and her death, both for her and for her family. For me, it pretty much obliterated whatever remaining positive feelings for the holiday season lingered from my youth, which seems so long ago.

I remember thinking at the time of her [tag]death[/tag], and for several years afterward, that I would never be able to overcome the feelings that overwhelm me this time of year. Anger, [tag]despair[/tag] and disgust, aimed at everyone and everything. People that could possibly take joy in this time of year, surrounded by crass [tag]commercialism[/tag] and forced, fake joviality. I became an expert on holiday-related [tag]depression[/tag], voraciously consuming data on the subject. But like all wounds that don’t kill you, either eventually or outright, it scarred over. In fact, I think the last couple of years, I looked forward to this time of year, even though it was associated with death and despair – I could use the time off from work and everything else to spend time with family, and on my own contemplate the past and put it in perspective. I made peace with this time of year, I guess, finally. I still wasn’t thrilled with the prospective of the impending holiday season, but I could endure it without a psychological effort of epic proportions.

But it was a fragile peace, at best. Last Monday, my housemate’s cat died. It was 15 years old, but it was in good health, and it was unexpected; Sunday night Grey — she was named after a Japanese manga character, not the color, hence the spelling; my housemate and friend is a nerd too – Grey was fine, but by Monday afternoon she was dead. While I can’t really compare the death of a pet, no matter how loved and appreciated, with the death of my mother, Grey’s death nevertheless shattered the holiday peace. Anger and despair came home for Xmas. I can’t help but come home, and being so used to seeing that fat old cat sitting on the couch, that I instantly note her absence, and that little frisson of sadness this brings inevitably invokes memories of how my parents’ house felt the first few years when I went back to visit my father after my mother’s death. How it will feel in a few days time when I go there for Christmas.

Don’t misunderstand; I won’t be wallowing in despair and self-pity. But until things return to what passes for normal daily life in January, I’ll occupy my brain with my chosen numbing agents: video games, books, exercise – anything to occupy my mind and provide distraction. The other night, I played World of Warcraft for eight or nine hours straight, finally forced to go to bed because I had to get up in four hours and work. And I lay there on the mattress, my mind drifting off to sleep, thoughts coming at random, when invariably those thoughts turned to my mother’s death. And I was instantly awake, sleep a dim possibility at best. The brain is cruel to the body, and itself. And it was time to turn on the light and grab a book and start reading.

Postscript: To all of those people that get bent out of shape about “Happy Holidays” vs. “Merry Christmas,” turning a simple, tolerant and warm holiday greeting into an ideological weapon, let me wish you the warmest of Happy Holidays. May you and yours enjoy the world you are creating and reap all of its rewards. Just remember, karma comes home for Christmas.