The Lord's birthday sure has a way of making me, and I suspect others, feel like an outsider.
My alienation stems from the false belief that everyone — except me — gathers happily around an ornamented tree with loved ones on Christmas morning, passing out packages and toasting with eggnog. It's as though I should be living a Norman Rockwell-like existence when my life more accurately mirrors "Gilligan's Island" — castaway, lost, marooned.
I identify with Gilligan during this time because, like him, I want to get off the island, but I can't. If you live in the United States, there is no escaping Mr. Yuletide Carol.
I should be filled with good cheer. Joyous. Giving.
But I'm not.
Like the changing seasons, my angst doesn't set in all at once. It germinates.
First I feel dread, which begins to mount shortly after Halloween and lasts through Thanksgiving. This is followed by resentment, which marches on through the hustle and bustle of our consumer-driven celebration. Christmas Day leaves me feeling disappointed in myself for letting it all get to me for yet another year. And finally, relief descends on Dec. 26, when the constant sense of alienation — the overriding emotion — subsides.
My friend Emily captured this frustration a couple years back when she described a holiday train trip from Chicago to Indiana. Some of the passengers were singing "Silver Bells," "Home for the Holidays," and other such blather, which pissed her off.
"Doesn't it occur to them that not everyone celebrates Christmas and doesn't want to hear it?" she said.
Ironically, she does celebrate Christmas, but like me, she doesn't want it shoved down her throat.
So, here's to you, Emily, and all the other Gilligans, who don't want to spend another Christmas stranded on this island. Maybe next holiday season we can head to some uncharted desert isle.