December 1, 2012

Anticipate the Beginning

Thomas Greenfield, M.REd., M.Ed., LPC, LADC
The Express-Star

— Christmas time is here! (In case you haven’t noticed).  Many stores had already started decorating for Christmas back in October.  Of course, it’s the time of year when more people buy more things than any other time.  Retailers are getting the jump on one another, preparing for “Black Friday,” which by the way is almost becoming “Black Thanksgiving.”  Anticipation.

In our house, Christmas became a countdown of days with one of my children in particular.  It’s such a magical and special time for families, especially children who cannot wait until Santa Claus comes to town.  Anticipation.

Several decades ago, Carly Simon made a popular song that became a catchy tune for a certain brand of ketchup.  Advertising the thickness and richness of this tomato goop, the song said, “Anticipation…is makin’ me late, is keepin’ me waitin’.”  All the while that poor hungry soul waits in agony for the ketchup to finally drip from the bottle onto his hamburger and fries.   

Anticipation is sometimes very difficult, especially when we are waiting for something pleasurable to arrive.  What could be more pleasurable than Christmas, when we look forward to the cold, crisp days with a warm fire.  We cannot wait until family, who perhaps traveled from far away, show up at our doorstep with grandchildren and lots of luggage in hand.  We wonder if this year will bring the envied white Christmas which happens all too rarely in Oklahoma.  We look forward to giving and receiving meaningful and useful gifts.  

However, anticipation presents some difficulties we may not realize, difficulties that lead to what is known as holiday depression.  Stress and anxiety increase during the holidays.  Traffic jams, long check-out lines and bustling crowds tend to increase anger, stress and hopelessness.  

Furthermore, between the times of Thanksgiving and New Years, we tend to “gear up” for the holidays and even find the stress to be tolerable because it’s Christmas.  When all is said and done, families go home and it’s back to the regular grind of life as usual.  Human nature once again proves emotional high points are usually followed by emotional lows.  When that which we have so looked forward to is history, there is an emotional let-down.  

How do we cope with this emotional swing?  Many will cope by increasing drug or alcohol consumption.  Many tragically and sadly do not cope at all and choose to end their life.  The spring time, particularly February is the month when most suicides occur.    

Keep in mind that anticipation is not the culprit.  Anticipation is where we find hope.  But, rather than anticipating the events such as the holidays and birthdays, which are merely days on the calendar that come and go, I suggest we anticipate a lifestyle of healthy relationships, activities and habits which last a lifetime.  Anticipate, during the Christmas season of gifts and goodies, the giving spirit which can be practiced throughout the year.  Anticipate during the Christmas season weekly or monthly activities with the family that promotes fun and togetherness all year around.  Anticipate a healthy routine of physical and mental fitness which benefit us every day.    

More than two thousand years ago, many anticipated the birth of The One who would save a nation.  That day came and went and is now a special day that we celebrate as Christmas.  However, that day marked, not the end of anticipation, but the beginning point of a whole new way of life, a life of giving, service and eternal life.  The Light says, “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life. For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved” (John 3:16-17 NKJV).  The Light can illuminate for us (if we allow it) anticipation of peace and a life of fulfillment and purpose.  Anticipate a bright future that doesn’t end with Christmas and New Years celebrations, but rather begins. Anticipate as you let The Light guide you.