I’m a person who relies on ritual and routine to contain the worst excesses of my personality. And thus I am always rather undone by holidays without ritual. I always look forward to Labor Day weekend and Memorial Day weekend, and New Year’s Day, but when they get here, I have no idea what to do.
Well, I sleep in late, but then I’m stumped. Everything is closed, and the places that are open are stampeded with people. I feel like a real fool going out when a place is packed with a herd. I could actually enjoy myself and feel free and easy if I would shop or eat or see a movie any other day. Especially on New Year’s, I’ve just seen every family member and friend within a 50-mile radius. We have discussed everything and everyone, and I’m fresh out of conversational material.
I read. I stay in pajamas. I cook a real breakfast. But eventually difficult questions creep up on me, like, Shouldn’t you be doing something fun or amazing? This is a day off, and you are completely wasting it. Today, I think, vacation is almost over, and there is something super fun and something very productive you should have done with it! Once I give my mind this much leash, it is eager to hang itself.
You know, today would be a good day to write all day and finish a novel. Or perhaps you could do yoga all day and make incredibly gains in your flexibility and inner peace. Or maybe you ought to be exercising all day, going on a long hike. No: I believe if you came up with some quirky, creative, exploratory mission, you could flit around the city and produce some adorable drawing or essay or memory. Oh, if only you would! You could be somebody!
In honor of another voice, which I consider my wiser self, I have done several important things today: finish my Teddy Kennedy autobiography, tearing up twice in satisfying succession. Fry two eggs. Brew startlingly strong Hawaiian coffee. Provide a lap for my lap-sitting cat. Read some more. You see, it’s been quite a day. It sounds lovely. Except for the voice that insists that this is not enough.
Especially on New Year’s Day, the critical voice is strong. It’s a new year– shouldn’t you be Doing Something? To Prove Something to Somebody?
Thanksgiving and Christmas and Easter, I have places to be. There are rituals to be performed and traditions to be maintained. These other loosey-goosey holidays are the challenge.
It’s pathological, I know. Yesterday at church we heard a bit from the first letter of John, where the writer refers to the people who have left the church as antichrists. Being a nice modern liberal, I don’t feel too comfortable with the antichrist, and even less so with the Antichrist. Even less so, if that’s possible, with Satan.
In one of the “you’re-going-to-live” talks I attended upon breaking up with my boyfriend (much needed, much appreciated), I heard, “Don’t blame yourself for this not working out. That’s just Satan trying to pull you down.” And I had to admit, for all my discomfort with the personification of evil, a sniping voice in my head that leads me in brainless circles sort of does sound like Evil, like Satan. The sniping voice is much more destructive to me than a hotter, wilder moment of anger (repaired with “I’m sorry!”), or a fluttery blast of grief (it passes).
In fact, although I cannot be sure, I believe one purpose of a holiday is to “rest.” And I believe that reading a book is valuable and pleasurable, both. And I believe there’s nothing unethical about wearing your pajamas all day, if you’re in the mood. I’m going to focus very diligently on resting, then, and hope that this distracts my antichrist, at least for a little while.