Tuesday, December 1, 2015

Letting Go (or "Why I will have myself a Merry Little Christmas")

Thanks to following Spandau Ballet on Facebook, I learned that Tony Hadley has released a Christmas album this year.  I'm not a fan of celebrity Christmas albums.  I don't like most contemporary Christmas music and most popular Christmas songs, both traditional and contemporary, have been done to death.  I wasn't sure what Tony Hadley could bring to the table.  Still, Tony Hadley is my long-time crush and the man can sing Row Row Row Your Boat and make it sound like a choir of angels singing.  I considered giving the album a chance.

I took a look at the song list online. To my horror, the second song on the album was my Christmas musical nemesis Have Yourself A Merry Little ChristmasWhy? I lamented.  Why why why does  every singer need to record that song on a Christmas album?  Does any pop singer every consider that not everyone loves songs that are so hokey and maudlin?  I remembered how several years ago when Sarah McLachlan (my favorite female singer) put out a Christmas album and I refused to buy it because she recorded that song. Could I buy Hadley's album and just skip over that song?

Then suddenly, after more than 20 years of finding that song unbearable to listen to, I stopped and asked myself this question:

Why do I continue to let that song have power over me?  Why must I be this ridiculous?

As silly as it might seem to others that I would have such a visceral reaction against a simple Christmas song, there is a reason and a story behind it.  Years ago I was in a situation where I was happy and content, but knew that it would all be coming to an end soon.  The reality of it came crashing down around me at Christmas time, and the song had become a way of triggering it.  (If you don't know the full story, I am sorry but I will not discuss the actual association.)  It was a painful reminder that my life was about to change, possibly for the worse.   People who were close to me, who were a constant presence in my life, were no longer going to be there.

For a few mercifully short years, my life did change for the worse.  I went through a period where I felt more loneliness, depression, and despair than I would ever admit out loud to anyone.  Hearing that song brought back the situation where I was, and contrasted it with what my life had become.  That song just stuck me in that time period.  It reminded me of the people no longer in my life.

I'm a sentimental and sensitive type.  I tend to cling to people and situations, because I try to hold on to something that was good in the past.  I rarely ever admit when a relationship of any kind isn't working for me anymore.  I tend to want to keep people in my life who have indicated by their actions (although rarely in their words) they no longer want to be there.  I was putting out enormous amounts of effort that were rarely reciprocated.  Despite what internet memes and inspirational posters like to tell you, not everyone you care about is destined to be part of your life forever.  People's lives go in different directions; their attitudes and interests change.  It's all part of reality.  If we were meant to be with everyone we were ever close to, we would all marry our first loves and never divorce.  If your romantic relationships can change and end, then it makes sense that other close relationships can end as well.

In recent years I have made an effort to stop wasting efforts on people who aren't interested in staying in touch and start concentrating on and appreciating the people who still want me in their lives.  I think I have a pretty strong circle of people who matter.  I am not in the same position I was all those years ago.  My life is full and happy.  Sure there are people I wish I could see more of, and I sometimes wish I were included in more friends' activities, but sometimes that's as much my fault as it is theirs.  I'm not always picking up the phone and inviting people to spend time with me.  Regardless, I have a job, hobbies, friends, and a husband.  I travel often.  There is no guarantee that any of this will last, but right now I'm living a happy and contented life.  I have no need to dwell on happy times of the past.

That's why I need to learn to stop letting myself be dragged into the past. It really isn't about a song.  It is about me dwelling on a time that will never come around again.  I am mostly over the old days, but there is obviously a little bit of it I can't let go of.  I can't let something so harmless drag me back to a time when I was on the brink of unhappiness.  I can hear the song and think about how things did go bad, but I need to remember how much better they became.   There is just a little bit of my past I need to stop wallowing in. The time is now.

Don't get me wrong though.  I will still hate the song.  It's hokey and maudlin and that will never change.  But in the end I guess it's no worse than half the Christmas music I hear every day.

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