Friday, December 23, 2005

So, Christmas...

I hear it’s all the rage this year.

The streets are lousy with last-minute shoppers, and with mountains of snow still waiting to be hauled away--and more listlessly falling--they are no longer streets but thin, clogged arteries. As each day passes, the mood of the city becomes steadily more frantic, and there isn’t an Ativan in sight.

I am, I have decided, sitting this one out. I have politely declined to visit my mother, who is, miraculously, still alive, and my brother, who is already going off his meds. My father, for his part, has elected to spend the holiday with his girlfriend’s family in a town I’ve never heard of. I did not ask for, nor did I receive, an invitation to join them.

It occurs to me that this is the first time my family will celebrate Christmas completely apart. I tell myself it is for the best.

Free of family obligations, I plan to spend the holiday season sequestered in my apartment writing my synthesis paper, a scholarly obligation I have avoided for entirely too long. Although hardly festive, I suppose it is one of the more productive things I could do with myself during this slow spasm between years. It is also, for me, akin to leaping off a very large cliff.

As every graduate student with a therapist knows, avoidance is a rational response to stressful situations. For example, when confronted with a cliff, it is perfectly reasonable to think, “Nuh-uh, scary, not gonna do it,” and not to proceed. In fact, you would be quite foolish to do otherwise. It is a cliff, after all, and you, being human, don’t much care for them.

The problem is, you are still standing on the edge of a very large cliff, staring dumbly down into the abyss. You are, ostensibly, safe, but you remain utterly consumed by the abyss. For some reason, you don’t turn back, nor do you avert your gaze. You could, if you really wanted to, but you don’t. Instead, you just stand there, like an idiot, scaring yourself silly as you endlessly ruminate on what lies ahead.

The strange thing is that, in time, you get used to it. You learn to live with the edge and all that it brings: the unsettled stomach and the jaw that aches every morning and the constant, nagging sense of guilt that pervades everything that you do and, if you’re not careful, everything that you are. You learn to live as a coward frozen to the edge of a cliff that wasn’t even really a cliff before you made it into one.

In any case, I think I have finally reached the point where I would rather fall ten thousand feet to the jagged rocks below than spend another minute contemplating the fucking abyss.

Wish me luck...

PS. James—I’ll see you on the way down.


Aaron said...

Merry Christmas, Vila!

I wish I had read this advice years ago, but it's still a good reminder to face my anxiety every day.

Nike's slogan will not work for everyone, but it's appropriate for my case. Soon, I'll only be a part-time hermit.

Best of luck with the scholarly obligation.

bob said...

I always hope that, if I wait long enough, someone else will build a good solid abyss bridge.

Good luck, Vila, and Merry Christmas!

Vila H. said...

Hi Aaron,

Thanks for the well wishes. Keep this in mind--it can and does get better. Eventually.

Merry Christmas.

Vila H. said...

(Laughs.) And a Merry Christmas to you, Bob. Maybe we can get Santa's elves working on that bridge?