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Happiness is… Sometimes Hard to Find

By Mari Christie
December 28, 2021

As a person who suffers from clinical depression and a host of complex trauma, and whose family life is severely limited by choice and necessity, the holidays are not, generally speaking, a cause for significant gaiety. Rather, they tend to be reflective at best and morose at worst, without much warning year to year where things will fall. Forced cheer (like the task of writing a blog post about happiness) just makes things harder.

There is a compulsion, I think, especially around major holidays, to demonstrate happiness in ways that might or might not be authentic. Everyone wants to have the brightest lights, the tallest tree, the most/best presents. We feel we must convene with family, with whom there can be joy, but also tension. And we all but compete to make sure we give gifts at least equal to those we receive. I am seeing less of this as the pandemic wears on, and more genuine emotion overall, and it is a lovely unintended consequence.

This year was particularly hard for a lot of people. Between the (continued) loss of life, the (continued) loss of our sense of safety, the (continued) loss of family members to politics, and the (continued) loss of our traditions and bonds in favor of another year of forced isolation—it was hard.

It was easier for me than most. I have kept a job I love. I bought a condo for the first time. I was able to have a (masked) 50th birthday party during a lull in the pandemic. And I have two wonderful cats who make my life complete all year. But I wasn’t able to see my mother in person for the holiday, due to COVID concerns, and my friends were occupied with their own families, so it was a quiet day at home, with plenty of time for reflection.

That said, the holidays were not a complete wash. I have the largest collection of Christmas music of anyone I know, and I love listening to it in all sorts of combinations. I start on Thanksgiving, and I have it all—from classical to punk rock, silly to tragic, chipper and cheerful and solemn and sorrowful, and everything in between. (For about 10 years, when CDs were still in fashion, I created holiday mix CDs every year as my own tradition—not for mixed company—for which I still get requests…)

I am masterful at finding the right gift for the right person, which is a particularly gratifying superpower this time of year. (This was a good year for that, but with everything postponed for one reason or another, I can’t say in public who gets what…) I do my best to pay attention throughout the year, learning my friends’ interests, likes, and dislikes, which exercise is another source of joy—deeper connection to another human being—and lets me match the person to the perfect gift at holidays and birthdays, that will enrich their life and fit their personality.

Sometimes, finding happiness is difficult. I know this better than most. But sometimes, it is as easy as finding a little thing to bring a small spark of joy, which, if we are lucky, will spark more light along its way. So, as we move into a new year, let us resolve to find happiness where we can, even (especially) if it’s not easy; to eschew traditions that pit us against each other; to sow kindness when it’s possible; and to make authentic connections with other people when the chance arises.  

Mari Christie
Written by Mari Christie

Mari Anne Christie writes second chances for scarred souls. Her book, Blind Tribute, is a multi-award winner in American historical fiction, and she writes historical romance as Mariana Gabrielle. She lives in Denver, Colorado with her two cats.

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