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Friday, April 12, 2024

Coping with holiday stress

By Ardain Isma


CSMS Magazine Staff Writer

Beneath the semblance of joy, the obsessive happiness and the feverish attitude that surround the Christmas season, lies an unspoken truth: the stress—the unavoidable stress that lots of us can’t get rid of. It is wholeheartedly agreeable that not everyone, however, feels the stress. To some people, it is the one season that should never fade. To others, it brings a feeling of reassurance that their loved ones still love them unconditionally. Among many professionals, the Holiday season is an opportunity to display true camaraderie, and every effort is being made to show it. 

            I personally enjoy the season, and it has been that way for me since I was a child. Although I was raised in a small town where the houses had no chimney, and Santa rarely made an appearance, to my mother, it was extremely important that the Holiday spirit reach our home. New clothes, new toys and special dishes played a major role in making me feel special, like the rest of the children in my neighborhood.

            I never liked Christmas Day itself. I preferred the days preceding it. For me, all the excitements ground in the pre-Christmas activities: the shopping, the church services and Christmas Carroll blasting the airwaves. In the tropics, the wonderland is not snowflakes enveloping the ground and the tree branches while one is contemplating it with awe through his decorating window in a cold, sunny December day. It is rather the place where the green foliage truncated by exotic tropical wildflowers gives one the infinite taste, the everlasting joie de vivre. It is the place where awestricken children walk the streets in the starry night with their beautiful, multicolor lanterns, and worry parents got even worrier as the night progresses while they take safety measures to protect their children from being “eaten” by werewolves.   

            “Watch out for the leprechauns,” my mother used to say each time I was about to exit the door for my routine nightly promenade around the town’s square, playing, chatting and gossiping with my friends. Those unforgettable memories lie deep within my soul, and they sometimes send me soul-searching. If I could only push back the clock and relive them again! But it is a fact of life. Unless one finds the fountain of youth, he is bound to head downward—down the path of aging and having responsibilities of his own.

            When that happens, does Christmas offer the same folly, jolly feeling that it once did? Few people can still say yes, as long as they have few children and they can afford to be at ease with themselves when it comes to money matters. Many, myself included, can now see and live the stressful moments that our parents lived some time ago—moments they could not dare sharing with us. Complex problems are for parents and parents only, for they are the ones who have the mastery, the savvy necessary to deal with Holiday anxieties and all of its other nightmarish elements. Let children be children. They were never asked to be born. Let their Christmas be merry and unforgettable.

            Having said that, it is not only those who have children who suffer from the Holiday fatigue. How about those who are from nuclear families, where every bother or sister, every cousin, every aunt and every uncle MUST make the Holiday shopping list? Sometimes, one prays for Santa to come by with his sleigh filled with gifts so the cultural obligation, this year, could be met with an awesome ease. Otherwise, three paychecks may not be enough to hit the exclusive shopping malls, or the credit cards will have to pick up the slack. Naughty or nice, when one is making his list and he is checking twice, there are people he wouldn’t dare dark from it.  

            That is the spending fatigue that a lot of people would prefer to have instead of carrying the burden of chattered memories of past loved ones. My mother lost her younger sister and best friend the week before Christmas. Since then, the Holiday season brings nothing but consternation, glum and an irreversible melancholy.

            So, I always believe that there is a better way to cherish the Holiday spirit. Instead of embracing the dialectic materialist of wealth accumulation approach preached by a media frenzy, why not giving the holiday season its pure sense of raison d’être: expressing a genuine form of love to the ones that we always carry to the deepest fibers of our souls, but we hardly have the humble opportunity to display it every time. Now it is the time.  

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NoteDr. Ardain Isma is a novelist and chief editor for CSMS Magazine. His latest book “Alicia” was critically acclaimed by all of its reviewers.

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