I went through the holidays in a funk. No amount of Christmas cheer could bring me out of it. No ho ho ho. No schnapps. No New Year’s merrymaking.
I hope that what happened to me won’t happen to you … unless you’re one of the people responsible for my problem.
At this time of year, our expectations often exceed reality when it comes to gifts and resolutions. For the past five years, I’ve asked Santa for a Schwinn Airdyne exercise bike, but it hasn’t been there on Christmas morning.
Apparently, I’ve been naughty, not nice. Or my loving wife was waiting by the chimney when the jolly old elf came down with my Airdyne and stopped him before he could crawl out of the fireplace.
“Take it back! We don’t have room for another piece of exercise equipment! I told him not to put that on his list, but he doesn’t listen!”
OK, so no Schwinn.
I can get over that. My real problem, however, is worse. It started the first week after Thanksgiving when I began receiving those year-end letters, trumpeting all the award-winning, record-breaking achievements of my family members and friends.
For once I’d like to get a letter that says, “I quit my job because I couldn’t take it anymore” or “Allison flunked out of Yale Law School and is growing marijuana in Yosemite National Park.”
Instead, I get letters that say little Suzi won Nobel Prizes in peace and physics, and when her family went to Oslo for the awards ceremony, they met a publisher who gave 24-year-old Suzi a $500,000 advance for her memoir.
Meanwhile, their nanny took Rufus, the family Airedale — not to be confused with Airdyne — to the Westminster dog show, where he took first place and signed a $2-million contract with Purina to be the poster dog for their new organic, gluten-free kibble and got recruited as the international spokes-canine for PETA.
Don’t you love year-end letters? I’ve lost count of the times I’ve read about teens and seniors who won national awards and athletic championships, while I struggled to get a JV letter in track.
One family took more trips to Europe, Asia and Africa than I made to the town dump. Another guy brought in a few million through his business deals and is going to make a million with the new tax plan. Someone else’s daughter got her second Ph.D. and she’s already developing cures for diseases they haven’t discovered yet.
In all sincerity, I want to say I’m not jealous. Do I sound jealous? Well, maybe a little jealous of that 15-year-old who climbed Mount Everest and the 74-year-old who married a 34-year-old. Other than that, I’m happy for them all. Truly.
Actually, I’d like to receive a year-end letter that reflects the trials and troubles we confront day to day. I don’t want to hear about bonuses, promotions and awards anymore. Listening to all that bragging tires me out. Always remember this: To those to whom much has been given, much is expected. And what is expected isn’t tooting your own horn.
How about a little gratitude and a little humility instead? They are rare qualities in a world intoxicated by self-promotion, self-praise, deceit, and celebrity. Just look at Hollywood, where people constantly praise themselves for their alleged achievements, but despite all the glitz and glamour, if you scratch the surface, you’ll find sex abuse, fraud and hypocrisy. There’s nothing worth envying in their lives.
Anyway, there was one year-end letter that gave me hope for humanity. It was from a woman who has lived a long and full life, and she didn’t say anything about MIT, Olympic medals, Tony awards, Wall Street bonuses, or a new home in the Hamptons.
What she did say was this: “I have many blessings. Last March, I became a great-grandmother to a sweet, precious baby boy. In May, I celebrated my 80th birthday with all my children and grandchildren. … I’m so grateful for my good friends, good health and a very loving family.” We could all learn from that wonderfully humble and grateful testimony.
Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have to go climb Mount Everest.