You could not step twice into the same river — Heraclitus
This time of year is a stressful time for many. There seems to be an effort at this time of year to recreate a feeling from a time gone by. This seems to be a source of great stress both in the frantic energy expended in trying to recreate past experiences, and the disappointment in the fact that it can never really happen. Like the saying goes, we can never cross the same stream twice. Maybe we find ourselves filled with regret that we did not appreciate what we had when we had it, or perhaps it is a feeling of emptiness that we find when we suffer loss.
It is also possible that we are trying to forget feelings from the past. This is the time of year that seems to drag past experiences and feelings to the forefront. For some it may be an intensity that is too much to handle. We can do a pretty good job of holding feelings from the past out of our conscious mind, but holidays like Christmas can be overwhelming.
There is a third reality which is that Christmas seems to attempt to create a kind of “one-size-fits-all” state for people. There is this kind of expectation that we are all supposed to have the same experience at this time of year. Whether we feel it or not, we are bombarded with a homogenized notion of the Christmas feeling.
We have had the wonderful joy of having a teenager from Iceland living with us this year. This time of year is a very big deal in Iceland. Our exchange student is having quite a different experience living with us this year. Christmas is not the same thing here as it has been for her in the past at home. After some initial dismay about our differing expectations, we are learning to create an experience that combines some of the traditions she has with some of the ones we have here. It has been interesting and joyful to find a “new way” to experience Christmas and I hope you all can find your own unique path this year as well. Whether it is in sorrow or joy that you find yourself this year, I hope you can find peace and calm in your lives.
–Stephen M. Taylor, M. D.