I don’t have cherophobia, an aversion to happiness, but may have acquired a mild case of situational phobia, a fear of specific situations. As year-end nears, for instance, I anticipate the special occasions — Christmas, our wedding anniversary on Boxing Day, New Year’s Eve — and admit to feeling slightly anxious. Perhaps it’s because we cannot follow the cherished traditions of our younger years. Or because these days no longer represent coveted holidays; every day is a “holiday” in retirement. Or because Christmas seems to have become overly commercial. Or because expectations of fun and festivity put stress on us to behave in conventional ways.
Birthdays, Mother’s and Father’s Days, Valentine’s Day can also cause situational phobia. Indeed many occasions in which we’re supposed to be happy, supposed to show or be shown love, supposed to connect with family and friends, can lead to disappointment. Our actions or words may not seem adequate.
CONFRONTING SITUATIONAL PHOBIA
- Ignore any noise around occasions. Determine our own way to mark an occasion and pursue it with little regard for what others think or do. These years I prefer to fashion most occasions modestly.
- Live without regret. If we cannot relive the magic of previous celebrations or holidays, don’t rue their passing. Create new rituals appropriate to our circumstances. Flexibility holds the key.
- Recognize the difference between human BEing and human DOing. Inveterate doers — or celebrators — forget to just be, thus compromising their peace of mind.
I have not grown into Scrooge or the Grinch. Many people still eagerly await the arrival of Christmas, for one reason as it offers time off work. And I do not aim to dash their enthusiasm, especially if they use holidays as opportunities to get together with family and friends. I love when Christmas involves presence, not presents!
Rather than succumb to the expected gaiety of New Year’s Eve, Glen, Brandon and I pass a calm night bringing to light our recollections — positive ones only — of the year, while setting no resolutions for the next. We also devise our list of top TV shows for my blog post in January.
As for Hallmark Holidays such as Valentine’s Day? Instead of enacting the cliché of giving flowers or chocolates, we might talk about ways to improve, if necessary, our relationship — perhaps conduct an annual review of it as I suggested in an earlier article.
Having a birthday party is pretty much ingrained in us from birth, but birthdays can cause mixed feelings at this stage. They measure tangibly the passage of time, reminding us how fleeting life is. We may not want to muster the vivacity required for a party. Fortunately for Glen and me, we can usually observe a cherished tradition, begun decades ago in Lennoxville and renewed in recent years in Vancouver and Scottsdale, of going out to a restaurant with friends.
Admittedly a special occasion can serve as a good excuse to do something out of the ordinary. For example, to mark our 20th wedding anniversary we took a Caribbean cruise with a brother and his family. We spent my last birthday in Monument Valley, a spectacular region made familiar through the Westerns of John Ford. For my next milestone birthday I may convince Glen to break out of his triangular flight pattern — Vancouver, Toronto, Phoenix — and explore a destination on my wish list.
Enjoy the imminent holiday season, and fete in a manner of your choice! •