I arrived back at work from a long holiday vacation, which employees at our company had to take to save costs, though, fortunately for us, it was paid, unlike at other companies. Of the many e-mails that greeted me was this from my company’s president. He was urging his employees to start 2009 with “renewed energy” and a “positive attitude to overcome the ongoing economic hurdles and finish 2009 together as winners.”
I wish—I really wish—I could must some “renewed energy” and “positive attitude.” But, frankly, it’s a struggle. I can’t say I have any big excuse to be feeling blue this week: I have my job, I have my job, I have my family, I have my home. I did have a very pleasant break.
Part of what’s going on is my annual post-holiday blues. I’m like a kid when it comes to Christmas and the months-long run-up to it, which for me starts in September. I love the change of seasons from summer to fall, the leaves changing color and raining down into the streets and yards. I love the way the light of the sun takes on a different, softer slant, the new chill in the air, and even the fact that it starts to get dark at 5. Halloween comes, then Thanksgiving, and the start of the rains. The store shelves become stocked with Christmas kitsch and Frosty the Snowman plays on the loudspeakers.
The run-up to this holiday season, though, was much different than any I’d ever experienced. We had the contentious presidential election and the crash of our global economy. People started losing their homes and jobs and retirement and kids’ college savings. My workplace—like many others—was trying to regroup, cut costs, and figure out a new strategy for moving forward, even just to survive.
The world started to feel like it was spinning out of control, and I couldn’t get a fix on where I belonged in this tumultuous universe.
For the first time this year, I was feeling down in the weeks before Christmas.
But then, my forced vacation actually turned out to be a good thing. I went to see all those end-of-the-year, Oscar-bait movies. Even the serious ones, like The Reader with Kate Winslet starring as a startingly sympathetic former SS guard at a Nazi concentration, left me feeling moved and uplifted by its profound exploration of the complexities of the human condition.
Bad news, though, came this past Saturday. Our neighbor across the street died. He was in his early 60s and had been courageously battling kidney disease and other ailments for two decades. He has a lovely, devoted wife, two great kids who are in their early 20s, and a daughter-in-law who just received her US citizenship and is a whiz student in something like mathematics at UC Berkeley. Our neighbor hadn’t been working for some time, but you could always see him, gaunt and weak sometimes, still out in his front yard, proudly tending his garden.
Just a few weeks before his death, he walked most of the length of the 2.7-mile route around the Lafayette reservoir. He also walked into downtown Walnut Creek to pick up some groceries at Safeway. His health seemed to be on an upswing, his wife says, so, as chronically ill as he was, his death still came as a shock to his wife and kids. But, having dealt with the ups and downs of his kidney transplant and dialysis and times in and out of the hospital, his wife had learned to become philosophical about it all, and realized that he probably knew the end of his life was near. He died on New Year’s Day, after knowing his family was all gathered at home to celebrate the holidays.
My one project for grappling with my blues is to swear off alcohol for a while. I have long been one of those two-glasses-of-red-wine-a-night gals—my reward, I would tell myself, for a long, “stressful” day at the office, or to celebrate whatever I happened to feel like celebrating on a particular day. In November and December, I think, in part because of my increased anxiety about the economy (or that was my excuse), I noticed my consumption go up. I let myself continue to indulge through the holidays, but came to realize that this is not how I want to live the rest of my life. Maybe eliminating the alcohol, over time, will help lift my mood (Alcohol is supposed to be a depressant) and give me more energy—just like my boss would likeI arrived back at work from a long holiday vacation, which employees at our company had to take to save costs, though, fortunately for us, it was paid, unlike at other companies. Of the many e-mails that greeted me was this from my company’s president. He was urging his employees to start 2009 with “renewed energy” and a “positive attitude to overcome the ongoing economic hurdles and finish 2009 together as winners.”
Okay, enough griping. I need to take inspiration from certain people. There’s my neighbor who just lost her husband, and is able to talk so openly and even laugh and joke about the things her husband said and did in his final days. And then, I should also mention my friend, the Mayor of Claycord—blogging from his hospital bed, with some kind of problem with a disk in his back. It’s possible he’s in some nasty pain, but he continues to keep blogging, and with an upbeat, optimistic attitude. I could be cynical and say his attitude is due to the meds he's on, but, then, that's the tone he always maintains on his blog.