I've been having a tough time getting into the holiday spirit. That's odd because I spend the other 11 months of the year tamping that spirit down, trying to ignore, deny and smother it into submission, straining not to spend hours pondering which candy cane flavor will fill the paperwhite bowl on the table, whether this is the year I attempt a Frank Lloyd Wright-inspired gingerbread house, and if it's too early to decorate with the 25,000 imported Italian twinkle lights — the ones ordered days after packing away the previous year's decorations.
I have hung lights before Halloween and kept garland up past The Super Bowl, and I am one of those weirdos with an entire closet dedicated solely to winter decorations.
Throw your coat anywhere, friend. Let's pretend I don't have a dedicated hangar for you not because of an obsession but because I am a free and wild bohemian-type person who happens to like nutcrackers.
I'm not religious, but I love learning about various traditions, how they have evolved while hopping around the earth, morphing with time. And in the cold and dark of midwinter, high-calorie foods, hot drinks, bright lights and warm colors are always welcome in my home.
"I've barely started decorating," I told my friend. "Half of the closet stores are still boxed, I can't find my Hanukkah candles and I only have three trees done."
"Maybe you shouldn't throw a party this year," she suggested.
She was kidding, but I hissed at her, making a mental note to put her in charge of parking everyone's cars at the soiree.
Now here I am, surrounded by all six decorated faux trees, a patio Clark Griswold might be jealous of, and a nonstop supply of hot, sweet drinks and warm, spicy foods leaving the kitchen, and my joy has yet to burst forth.
So many people struggle at this time of year because they're alone, but I always counted myself lucky to have found ways to feel happy by myself. All these years, the "Santa just threw up in here"-style of decor has been for my benefit. It bubbled up naturally, expressing itself all over the bathroom and hallway and bedroom and kitchen and living room, in my clothing, my screensavers and my glee while bobbing in and out of aisles at the grocery store while Mariah Carey sings.
I've been sitting here, puzzling for hours — yes, my puzzler is sore — and I honestly think the problem is my newfound interest in the world. I have never paid so much attention to policy and politics and world events as I have this year, and while I've known for years the second I got involved I'd be angry, I could never have predicted religiously reading the news would wreck me like this. I feel naive and spoiled and tricked and hopeless, and the only thing I can think of to do is to keep reading, to keep vetting what I read the best way I know how, to speak up despite the thinness of my voice and to fight hopelessness with action.
If you've been feeling like I have, please join me in donating time, money or resources to various charities that champion solutions. If you also feel skeptical about that, check out CharityNavigator.org — they've checked the fiscal responsibility and transparency of several outfits so we can sidestep the ones that overpay their CEOs or hide money in weird places. Let's do something. Let's foster relief and peace and space in any way we know how. If you can't find your joy either, let's go make some.
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