I love Christmas. It's the one day of the year I allow myself to indulge in self pity. Not that I don't indulge in self pity on other days, but I do it covertly, and with a sense of guilt. It's only on Christmas that I really let myself go.
The thing about feeling sorry for yourself is that, like most indulgences, it must be partaken in moderation. It's like gooey chocolate cake - take too much of it and before you know it your ego will have bloated and you'll start taking yourself seriously and then you're really have reason to feel sorry for yourself (thus setting of a vicious circle). But the occassional orgy can be stimulating, and besides we're allowed to not have fun sometimes.
Christmas is a great day to be feeling sorry for yourself for a number of reasons. First, it's always a holiday and it's followed by a bunch of other holidays so that there's no risk of your having to distract yourself with work or chores or anything - you can sit back in the luxury of your home and get a full day's worth of moping done. Second, it's the one day in the year when the whole world will cooperate with you, help you feel even sorrier for yourself than you already do. Total strangers will wish you on the street - 'Merry Christmas', 'Happy Holidays' - thus rubbing salt into your wounds. Parks will be decorated with streamers and lights, buildings will be swarming with wreaths and mistletoe, everywhere you go you'll hear some nauseatingly saccharine jingle saying something about snow and sleighs and reindeer. What better setting to feel all blue and melancholy? Third, Christmas is always cold; if you're lucky, it'll be snowing or raining or something, so that the sky will be overcast and the day will look gloomy enough to match your mood, and at any rate there won't be any way that you can go out and get some sun and generally forget about your troubles; even better, all cafes and shops and restaurants will be closed, so that you're pretty much going to have to sit in your room alone. which makes all the moping you have to do so much easier. Finally, Christmas is a great time for special food treats - so that when you get to that point in your depression when you want to fill the hollowness of your life with food there's a wide variety of rum cakes and chocolate cakes and pies and other such delicacies to choose from.
So anyway, here's what my annual gloominess mudbath looks like. First I'll wake up really early in the morning and go out in the biting cold and wander about in the residential areas staring at all the houses where people are still asleep, having partied late on Christmas Eve, and will wake up to family and presents and an afternoon of mellow togetherness. I'll stare at all the christmas lights burning palely in the daytime because no one has got around to turning them off yet, and it'll make me think of my own life.
Then I'll go to office and check mail and confirm what I already know - that no one has written to me today because they all have a life. Next I'll go back to my apartment and listen to Bach's Christmas Oratorio - a Christmas ritual, please note, that I've had to invent, not having any other Christmas rituals that I can indulge in. After the Oratorio I'll move on to other Choral pieces - paying special attention to Mozart's mass in C and Schubert's Lazarus. At some point in the middle of this I'll have lunch, which I shall take great care to make as unappetising as possible (undercooked pasta left to go cold was the menu last year, if memory serves) so that I can then assuage my depression with half a pint of the chocolate ice cream I had the foresight to put by last night. To convince myself I'm bored I will take a nap in the afternoon. If I'm still feeling somewhat shakily cheerful, I'll call a friend who I know is going to be busy, listen to the merry sounds of the party behind her as she tells me she can't talk now but she'll call me back tomorrow. That should be enough. More choral music, then, in the background, while I read poetry - Tennyson's In Memoriam sounds like a promising bet this year; though there's really nothing like Shelley for these occasions - Julian and Maddalo, for instance, or Alastor. Maybe King Lear if it's snowing outside. Let's see.
Somewhere around my seventh cup of coffee I'll switch the music to Jazz. Miles first, say Quiet Nights followed by Kind of Blue. Then, with a subtlety Machiavelli would have been proud of - Louis Armstrong - a few cheerful little numbers and then that glorious trumpet solo on Swing Low Sweet Chariot that will leave my eyes blurry with tears.
Of course there'll be long periods in between when I'll simply sit there staring into space, thinking about all the things that are wrong with my life. If I'm feeling in a particularly inspired mood I'll think about the future, make it as dreary and hopeless as I can. On a really good day I can actually move myself to tears, just imagining how pointless and tragic the rest of my life is going to be, how terrible a waste of those adolescent years that my self-pity alchemises easily into 'the promise of my youth'.
At the point in the evening when the few people still left in my building (almost everyone has gone home. Sigh) are getting dressed up and going out to socialise I'll go do my laundry. I'll wear my most faded sweatshirt, my most frayed jeans. As I head down to the laundry room with my bulging bag of clothes, I'll think of myself as some sort of cut-price Santa Claus. Other people get presents, I'll think, all I've got is soiled underwear.
By the time the dinner hour comes along, I'll be tired. All this self-pity will be starting to weary me out. But I'll persevere. I won't have to cook again, because I'll have made enough in the morning to have left-overs - this will make it doubly depressing - not only because I'm eating left-overs, but because as I heat them in the microwave I can think about portion sizes and how difficult it is to cook for just one person, which will lead logically to the fact that I'm alone and am going to stay that way. I'll pretend that this crummy spaghetti I cooked for myself is actually a TV dinner. I'll wear my tightest T-shirt and sit slumped in position to emphasise my paunch so I can convince myself that I'm fat (not a hard thing to do, btw). I'll listen to every version of Ellington's Solitude that I own. Finally (and this is the piece de resistance) I'll go to bed EARLY, thus putting the official seal on the pointlessness of my existence.
I'll probably wake up all cheerful tomorrow, of course, but as Scarlett would say, "Tomorrow is another day"
Meanwhile, if you're one of those people who haven't seen the light and are actually trying to enjoy today (and yet, for some obscure reason are actually reading this on Christmas Day - loser!) - Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays and Bah Humbug.