Joe Rutland on holiday blues and how to beat them.
This is truly the most wonderful time of the year, isn’t it? Yeah, the holidays are here in full force. Thanksgiving has come and gone, Christmas is bearing down like a freight train and, well, New Year’s Day cannot come soon enough. Holidays … ah, the time of festive fun, peace, love, soul, and that all-important goodwill toward all men (and women, too).
Now before I get ahead of myself, the “holiday season” has not always been the best of times in my life. I bet it hasn’t been for a lot of other men, too.
I do know what it feels like to feel so damned down, depressed, and disappointed that just the mere thought of Santa Claus, reindeer and eggnog didn’t suit me. Spending Christmas Day in 1993 dealing with a parent going through a nervous breakdown and attempted suicide, traveling early that morning from Houston, Texas, across two cities in Central Texas, and back to Houston just in time for work at night at my “dream job.” That’s not a lot of holiday cheer happening right there.
In fact, those types of situations drove me into a deeper funk—not making me a real happy camper. I probably put on a good outer show, letting everyone know that I am OK. (Isn’t that the ultimate man card to play when life’s pile of crap is, well, piling up?)
About this time in 2012, I was homeless and unemployed. I was not living in a homeless shelter as a friend let me stay with him for a couple of months until I could get myself back on my feet. Now move forward 12 months into 2013 and, as I write this piece, I live in a lovely place and am employed with multiple income streams. It’s been quite a year of growth and, at times, definitely touching all three shades of what I call “The Holiday Man.”
It probably would be cool to come up with 50 shades of “The Holiday Man.” Oh wait, someone else already cornered that market. Well, let’s move ahead. Three shades of the Holiday Man, and believe me, I’ve lived them all.
This is an obvious reference to Dr. Seuss and “How the Grinch Stole Christmas” and that green-colored character with his tight, small, cold heart which ultimately grew big, warm and full for the residents of Whoville. It’s the cold-hearted nature that I’m talking about, though. The Grinch doesn’t want to get involved in anything that has to do with the holidays. He ‘d rather spoil everyone else’s glad tidings of great joy. He’s miserly, only cares about himself and never even thinks about what he can possibly contribute to others’ lives. Maybe this man has given so damned much of his soul that all of his internal energy is totally sapped. He cannot figure out where he ends and his “true self” begins. The Grinch has no love in his heart. He refuses to smile, share a kind word with someone else, and does not want anyone to touch him, get near him, let alone tell him “Everything is going to be OK.” Get a picture in your mind’s eye of Lionel Barrymore as Old Man Potter in “It’s A Wonderful Life.” Got it?
Oh brother, this man is one angry dude. He just wants to bitch and moan about his problems, sorry-ass life, lack of love and sex, lack of money, lack of friends, lack of true purpose in life … are you getting the picture? It’s all about him. Probably lacking a sense of self-awareness, The Grouch has turned all of his unhealthy energy outward, blasting anyone that crosses his path with venom in words and thoughts. Plus, The Grouch might be liable to express the following: “I lost my girlfriend/wife/partner in the last few months. I was left high and dry. Nobody loves me.” “Nobody wants me.” “Nobody cares about me.” “I’m a miserable wretch.” “I am getting everything that I deserve.” “Fuck off!”
Whew! This man only wants to be left alone in his cave, maybe with a 12-pack of Budweiser and an Internet full of porn sites to keep him “busy” this holiday season. Bud and babes … yeah, that’ll make everything a whole lot better. Talk about bitter beer face! The Grouch has no time to truly feel happy in his heart. He’s too busy being grouchy and, by the way, no one really wants to be around a full-time grouchy dude. Sure, there are times and periods of grouchiness in any man’s life. Yet when it becomes a chronic dialogue within a man and to his family, friends and co-workers, then it’s a liability. The Grouch raises his voice so that he can be heard. It’s not necessary. People get the message. Grouchy is as grouchy does.
This man has been through the Grinch and Grouch shades. He’s ultimately able to look up and see beautiful blue skies, sunshine, and feel a greater sense of self-love than ever before. This man has gone from the bottom of life’s food chain and is sitting on top of the world! Work life is incredible. Love life, while maybe not great, is better than it’s been in years. He’s contributing to his family in meaningful ways. This man has a heart filled with honest gratitude because he knows, deep down within himself, where he’s been and where he is now. His soul has been redeemed (maybe not in the dogmatic religious sense, yet more from a holistic viewpoint). There is a vibrant step in his walk, a hope in his heart, a dream that gives him gratitude for most – I’m saying most here, not all – of what has happened in his journey of life.
Being stuck in the first two shades really does suck. How can a man who has passed through The Grinch and The Grouch into The Grateful shade NOT be grateful? I’m sure it is possible, yet that man isn’t totally connected to his feelings, emotions and inner self. That’s an opinion, and I could be totally wrong and off-base, too. Being grateful for what a man has in his life starts with baby steps. There is gratitude for being able to see, hear, taste, smell and feel all of life’s incredible, pulsating creation. Gratitude for those friends that stuck by you, helped you in your time of need, loved you no matter what. Gratitude for people that believed in you … and gratitude that, as a man, you can feel your heart beat.
Admittedly, some of you reading this might be asking about now “OK, Mr. Grateful. How did you do it? How did you get back up on your feet in a year’s time?” Fair questions indeed. Well, I had to ask for help. Asking for help is contrarian behavior for me. After all, I am a self-made man. Ha! What bullshit. My ego was whittled down to a mere piece of sand on a beach. I did ask for help and received it.
Some of it came through friends’ kind words and directions; some offered other means of help. Yet the biggest part, for me, came from really going inside and doing some spiritual reorganization of how I looked at myself and looked at the world. It has not always been peaches and cream on this yearlong ride. Looking back now, I can sense when things began to take a shift. I was doing some deep soul searching in March, staying busy writing in my journal about what I was feeling inside myself. I’ll even admit prayer and meditation played a big role, too.
Then I realized that where I was in my life, at that time, was OK. I was doing everything in my own mental power to find work and gain income streams. I was connecting with nature. I was also taking care of my physical body, going on long runs in the weekends. Plus I began connecting with other like-minded people, seekers who also didn’t have all the answers and were simply open to an ego-less life. My thoughts began shifting toward positive possibilities, leaving space for what can and will happen instead of self-defeating thoughts of lack, debt, fear and shame. Am I all 100 percent fixed? No. Yet I am more humble, more grateful and more thankful for what I do have in my life today than I’ve been in a long, long time.
If you are in a “Grinch” or “Grouch” phase of life, then let me offer some words of love just for you. It’s OK to be right where you are in the moment, my brother. Sitting in it or going through it sucks. Yes, it does. Yet if you will leave yourself open to what possibilities lie beyond the “other side” of those phases, then you just might see life in a whole different way. There is hope for you … and no, this is not me saying “Everything is going to be OK,” give you a pat on the back and walk away. Nope. I’ve been around those type of people. I’d prefer real, raw, authentic, and caring any day. Get around people that make you feel good. Get around environments that stir emotion and passion, in a positive way, within you. Seek out professional help if you need to do so. There is zero shame … zero … in therapeutic support.
Wherever you find yourself among these three shades, or even if you’re off the charts during the holidays, know that you are not alone.
Other men all over the world are in these areas … Grinch, Grouch and Gratitude or somewhere in the mix.
Dude, you’re not alone.