On Monday I got the chance to go to an early screening of the new holiday film Love the Coopers. It’s not a good movie. In fact, in many ways it is a very terrible film but I had an ok time watching it. Here’s my review:
One of the things I liked in the film is this idea of scheduling happiness that happens during the holidays. I’ve felt that a little bit the last few years. When I was a kid I loved the holidays because they were happening to me and the magic of the season was easy to latch onto. As an adult that magic usually takes a lot of effort and has to be planned out. It’s like I am saying “this Thursday I will be happy. Let’s schedule it in”. I don’t think during other times of the year I have such a weighted expectation of achieving happiness in all my plans.
It’s not that I expect to be miserable during the rest of the year’s goings-on but usually it’s more a more neutral every day form of happiness that is anticipated. I go to a movie, meet a friend for lunch, attend a birthday party. All pleasant experiences but not a highlight of the year. During the holidays pleasant somehow feels like a letdown. Does this make sense to any of you?
Last year I was basically alone on Christmas which was a little bit sad. I am sure there is someone out there that likes to be alone on the holidays but the vast majority of us think of it as a time to be with family/friends. I did have Christmas Eve with family and Christmas brunch with friends but most of the day I was alone. The thing is it actually ended up feeling like any other day and you know what- that was a relief. It was just a day off from work and not that different from 4th of July. Perhaps it was being so horribly sick the year before I just allowed myself to have an ordinary day on Christmas day.
I think there might be something to this. Instead of scheduling and planning happiness just allowing Christmas to be more of an ordinary day. That way when the joys of the season come they feel unexpected and give us even more happiness than if we planned them out. I know I might miss out on some things that require planning but I feel I have enough of a routine that I’m not going to really miss out. For instance, I go to Christmas Carol at Hale Theater every year. That’s my routine so it doesn’t require much planning.
The last few holiday seasons have been interesting. In 2012 I was alone, everything in boxes, and getting ready for the move. Things were tough in my family that year and it was a stressful time. In 2013 I got sick as a dog. It was one of the sickest I have been in years. It hurt to breathe and I was so miserable I couldn’t even open presents on Christmas day. And then last year I was alone but had a pleasant simple Christmas (again that felt like a little bit of a letdown because it was just another day).
I know people who say Christmas is better for them as adults than as children. That’s cool for them but definitely not my experience. Like I said, when you are a kid the magic is presented for you (or at least it was for me) and as an adult it all gets much more muddled. I feel like sometimes I end up chasing that Christmas of my childhood and am a bit disappointed when I don’t achieve it.
This year I am going to see my family in California for Thanksgiving but not at Christmas. I am going to try and plan a few things but I am going to try and temper that expectation of happiness and just enjoy the moments for what they are. Sure I will plan some things but the idea of scheduling ‘I will be happy next thursday’ I don’t think works very well. It ends up feeling like a cheesy smile in a school photo- kind of hollow version of happiness. I just want to schedule a few things and if they make me happy that’s awesome!
Do you know what I am saying? Does that make any sense? Have any of you felt a little underwhelmed by the holiday season as adults? What do you think of this idea of scheduling happiness?