I have spent the better part of the last month or so in a bit of a funk. A number of factors could have contributed to this: the overwhelming nature of finishing my first semester of grad school, the inherent homesickness that comes with living 3,500 miles from my family and friends, the fact that my neck of the woods gets just under seven hours of daylight this time of year, the list goes on.
Quick side note: I can’t make it clear enough here how aware I am that I’m being a big baby about the light thing. In Barrow, which is Alaska’s northernmost city, the sun doesn’t even come up at all between November 18 and January 24. The temperature there is below freezing 324 days of the year, on average. Holy shit, right? These statistics, along with making Barrow an excellent setting for vampire movies, speaks to the profound NFA-ness of the Arctic Slope, which far outweighs all the NFingA happening here in the Mat-Su Valley.
Back to my sour constitution, which, as I’m positive Kevin will assure you, is a recent development. This funk has manifested itself in two key ways:
- A complete lack of motivation to exercise. See above discussion of darkness. Also, I live in an area famous for its miserable wind. As much as I remind myself that life’s pleasures are earned by suffering and that Mark Twight would think I’m a weenie, I’ve been struggling to stay active this December. (It helps to know I’m not alone in this sentiment.)
- Some fairly heavy-duty anxiety. I regularly find things to worry about—What kinds of additives are in my shampoo? What if my high school English teacher finds out I didn’t actually read Madame Bovary?—but I’ve really stepped up my game, and the holidays have provided an excellent backdrop for my spike in anxiety.
I’ve always looked forward to the Christmas season, with the exception of an incident at age four when I threw up on Santa Claus and pitifully spent the rest of the afternoon at preschool sleeping on a cot in the nurse’s office with barf on my Christmas sweater. I was kind of a pukey kid to begin with, but it was definitely Santa-induced vomit. How can you spend a week fingerprinting preschoolers and teaching them about “stranger danger,” only to send a four-year-old to sit on a bearded stranger’s lap and be offered candy? I’m still convinced I was the smartest kid at Happy Valley.
Aside from the Santa thing, though, I liked the holidays as a kid. I’m an only child, which meant a serious haul in the presents department every year. Most of my extended family lives within an hour or so of one another, which means lots of festive parties (and presents—we’re speaking kid here). The stress of hosting holiday gatherings, which is acute if you happen to be a worrier, is virtually nonexistent during childhood, save for the annoyance of being asked to pick up one’s room. My parents did their best to hide their holiday tensions from me. Christmas was totally awesome.
As I’ve gotten older, though, I’ve started to feel a little less like it’s the hap-happiest season of all. I feel totally overwhelmed by the material excess of this time of year. I have a hard time reconciling our day of giving thanks with its neighbor, Black Friday, when we trample one another to get the last Tickle-Me-Elmo for our children, who already have enough toys to outfit a third-world country. The Christmas story does not hold meaning for me. This kind of thinking is enough to make even the Whos down in Whoville feel a little jaded.
Despite my Scrooginess, I was delighted to be granted a week off from the job I don’t like (another factor in my month-long mood swing?) to come home for Christmas. While I was a little worried about splitting time between Kev’s family and my own, it has been a remarkably stress-free holiday, albeit one well-lubricated by eggnog.
Don’t worry. I’ve still managed to find things to obsess over: I don’t have nearly enough time to see all the friends I’d like to, I hate how I look in this Christmas sweater, we didn’t bring anything for those wildcard family members who present you with gifts when you haven’t gotten them anything, I think I might have made this eggnog a bit strong, etc. See? Plenty to worry about. I am, after all, a professional.
I don’t really have a solution for my anti-cheer. I could totally stop celebrating Christmas, but it’s meaningful to me to spend time with my family, regardless of my spiritual inclinations. And anyway, that wouldn’t save me from hearing people refer to the number of days until Christmas as “shopping days.” I encourage family members to donate to a cause that’s important to me when they ask what I want for Christmas, because although it’s always sort of a scramble to make rent and we eat a lot of dry cereal and Top Ramen, we really don’t need anything.
It’s been cold in Colorado this week, but I’m soaking up as much vitamin D as possible before it’s time to head back to the Last Frontier. While I wish I had more time to spend at home, I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t looking forward to being back in one of the most beautiful places on earth, where there are infinite opportunities for adventure, with my best friend and our (admittedly ridiculous) dog.
Because that’s really all I need.