IT’S CHRISTMAS DAY 2016, which is a rather big deal, regardless of your religious or philosophical orientation.
At best, it’s a joy-filled day of significant spiritual significance.
At worst, it’s a day off, but hey, a reason to celebrate is a reason to celebrate.
Now, don’t panic: I have no intention of subjecting you to maudlin mental meanderings about the deep meaning of Christmas and peace and goodwill and family and … tra la la.
I’m not going to do that because pretty much everybody is doing that, and almost all of them will do it better than I would, so why bother?
But I think it is worth pausing for a moment to note that we even got to today. Well, no kidding: This has been, and continues to be for many of us, really bad timing for this whole economic faux pas.
We were supposed to be spending money we didn’t have in order to reciprocate gift-giving from people who spent money that they didn’t have, but no, between health care, health insurance, income inequality and an election that deflated our moods faster than a fruitcake going into the garbage, many folks were, and are, scared.
We were supposed to be cheerfully wiping down our weaponry, preparing for a frontal assault on Walmart, not worrying about a bunch of outlier partisans, who were quick to tell us what’s right and wrong, in spite of their apparent inability to distinguish between right and wrong. And greed continued to get the better of quite a few unrepentant and unregulated capitalists, so here we are: Us vs. them, and not feeling very jolly.
Oh sure, we all did the best we could to maintain and sustain the season: We moved foliage into the living room and adorned it adoringly, and we contemplated and celebrated the traditional images of the season, from manger scenes to an elf with a pituitary problem to innocent little children, quite capable of hacking into the databases of “Toys ‘R Us,” but this year is … different.
This year, underneath it all, a lot of us are scared.
Maybe we’re scared about losing jobs, family and/or friends losing jobs or jobs that are already lost.
Maybe we’re scared about losing retirement investments, family and/or friends losing retirement investments or retirement investments that are already lost, and we’re worrying about that in the middle of a changing climate that might not really be changing, but is sure cold.
Funny thing about heat: It isn’t free.
Maybe we’re scared about health care, always a good thing to be scared about.
Or the future of Social Security.
Or whether that company we retired from is going to do away with our pensions or our health insurance — or already has.
Or maybe we’re just worried about bouncing off of black ice and breaking a hip on the way to the pharmacy to get our refills, so maybe we’ll just do without.
The fact is there’s plenty to be scared about, which has a tendency to muffle the merriment, especially if you’re alone.
I’m not going to tell you that everything will be OK, because I don’t know that it will.
And I’m well aware that I’ve already harangued you with the idea of “hope” as a hobby.
And I’m not going to tell you that there’s help out there, at least for some things, because I’ve been telling you that for better than 16 years and it’s still true.
So what am I going to tell you?
What, exactly, is Mark’s great answer to one of the scariest times in recent memory?
OK, here it is: Fake it.
That’s what I said — fake it.
I, for one, am already sick of hearing “… it could be worse.”
Of course it could be worse. It could always be worse.
But how does that make “this” any better?
Well, it doesn’t, obviously, so let’s all just agree to fake it.
Let’s agree to pretend that all is reasonably well and reasonably normal; that this is a lovely, if cold, holiday season when people find it in their hearts (or wherever else they might keep it) to go out of their way for other people.
Let’s pretend to believe that pretty much everything and pretty much everybody will be pretty much OK.
And let’s pretend to smile, whether we feel like it or not.
Let’s just fake it. What the heck. What have we got to lose?
We’ve got to act some way, so we might as well act “happy,” or something close to it.
How does it help us to keep bringing one another down?
Way too many of us are already “down,” so I’m pretty sure that we don’t need more of it from you.
I know what’s true, and so do you: The fact is, most of us are already faking it, to one degree or another.
And we’re doing that in order to avoid playing the “Angel of Death” to people we care about, and we do that for one exquisitely simple reason: Courage is not the absence of fear.
We want folks to be happy — to feel loved, cared about, safe and relevant.
So, we suck it up and act as if this (whatever “this” is) is the best thing that could be happening.
And you know what?
Other folks are doing exactly the same thing for us, for exactly the same reason, so how many more reasons do you need?
So, smile, for crying out loud. Laugh, hug somebody and pretend you really like whatever-it-is.
What have you got to lose, except the blues?
Look: It’s Christmas Day and New Year’s is coming at us like a freight train, so don’t dissect everything and worry it to death. It’s a day.
So, just for today, try this: Fake it.
Hey, it could be worse.
Mark Harvey is director of Clallam/Jefferson Senior Information &Assistance, which operates through the Olympic Area Agency on Aging. He is also a member of the Community Advocates for Rural Elders partnership. He can be reached at 360-452-3221 (Port Angeles-Sequim), 360-385-2552 (Jefferson County) or 360-374-9496 (West End), or by emailing email@example.com.