I was out running errands on Tuesday this week when I heard a DJ on the radio say that January 2nd is the crankiest day of the year. This made me feel great -- even validated -- simply because someone acknowledged out loud what I had been experiencing all day and didn’t want to admit. When I got home, one quick search on Google and social media churned up hundreds of stories and posts with the #backtowork and #backtoreality hashtags. On top of that, people everywhere are moaning about the extreme cold and the #bombcyclone ravaging the East coast (who came up with that term???). All of these factors have collided in a single week to create the perfect storm of crankiness for most of us (sorry for the pun, I couldn’t resist).
So if you research the cure for the post-holiday blues or the winter “blahs,” you will get all kinds of great tips from psychologists, self-help authors and life coaches. Many of them are definitely healthy suggestions, like spending time with friends you haven’t seen in a while, booking a special date with your spouse or child, or planning your next vacation so that you have something to look forward to even if it’s months away. All of these suggestions can create a spark of hope for those of us mired in the doldrums of the daily grind, endless snow shoveling, and the general emptiness of our homes without Christmas decorations. Let’s face it, most of us are drawn like little kids to the magic of holiday lights, no matter what our age!
But what if the cause of our crankiness right now isn’t the daily grind or the chilly effects of the bomb cyclone? The holidays are filled -- no, that’s not a strong enough word – they are packed to the gills, with constant stimulation, demands and pleasure. During the holidays, we have the best and the worst experiences all the same time. For example, we enjoy the richest of foods (repeatedly!) with the most time-consuming preparation. We see loved ones we’ve missed all year long, but then we have arguments about some long-standing family issue. We shower people with gifts they’ve always wanted, but then we feel disappointed when the same thoughtfulness isn’t returned. You get the idea. The holidays, unlike any other time of year, evoke just about every human emotion at the same time. And then, when they come to a sudden stop, we sit in the eerie stillness with the reverberating ache of life back to normal. Somehow life seems empty now. Emotionless. Boring. In the solitude of our own thoughts, we might even acknowledge that we feel six years old again as the newness of the Christmas toys fades and we have to go back to school… and homework … and the bad lunchroom food.
What dawned on me this morning as I read a quote from CS Lewis is that my foul mood is a direct result of my perspective. Lewis said in his book The Weight of Glory, “We are halfhearted creatures, fooling about with drink and sex and ambition when infinite joy is offered us, like an ignorant child who wants to go on making mud pies in a slum because he cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a holiday at the sea. We are far too easily pleased.”
Ouch. Leave it to Lewis to cut to the heart of the matter. Sure, the daily grind can get old, arduous, stressful, etc. Yes, the snow drifts dumped by the bomb cyclone will cause a lot of back aches. Life can stink. You’ll get no argument from me there. But even in moments of dread or frustration, a perspective fixed not on the situation at hand, but on the bigger picture can mean the difference between a really bad day and just a long one. The true cure for this seasonal crankiness is not found in planning your next vacation, but finding a deep, abiding hope and sense of purpose in the everyday stuff of life. Being on a holiday high is fun, but discovering soul-level joy is eternal. Instead of a reverberating ache in the solitude, this joy pulses with peace, contentment and gratitude. It’s the kind of joy that the Psalmist writes about over and over. “The steadfast love of the Lord is better than life.” (Ps. 63:3) “In your presence is fullness of joy, in your right hand there are pleasures forever.” (Ps. 16:11) As John Piper says, “nearness to God himself is the only all-satisfying experience of the universe.”
Come tomorrow morning, I will likely be shoveling more than a foot of snow off my deck. And in the next few days, I will eat the last Christmas cookie in the tin (if my husband doesn’t get it first). But instead of focusing on my momentary dismay, like I so often do, I’m going to invite the Source of Infinite Joy to remind my fickle heart over and over that the light at the end of the tunnel is real and much bigger than I could ever imagined.
Random musings, heartfelt confessions, and occasionally inspirational thoughts from a hungry soul in pursuit of the One who set the stars in place yet calls me by name.
Get Glimmers in Your Email Every Week!