I don't get excited about upcoming things the way I used to. I can't remember the last time I was excited that Christmas was coming this early; Mrs. Fungus frequently chides me for not having any enthusiasm, when in fact my ability to anticipate pleasant things is simply more asymptotic than hers: I do not get excited until we're on the cusp of the event.
This year has been pretty craptastic. We were unable to attend the annual $Small_Town_Christmas_Parade, due to work, and because we both work weekends our holiday schedules are pretty cruddy. Add to this the fact that the time off request I submitted in August for the week between Christmas and New Year's seems to have vanished into the ether, and the piles of other asininity swirling around our lives, there doesn't seem to be much to look forward to.
Yet in the hurricane's eye of all the worries assailing me, there is this core of irrepressible joy, the likes of which I have not felt this far out from the holiday since I was perhaps twelve. There is only one possible source for it.
I just don't know why I'm the one who's getting it.
Maybe I am getting it because I need it, and don't realize how badly needed it is. Maybe it's just a gentle reminder that the Grinch cannot, in fact, steal Christmas, no matter how hard he tries; no matter how much he wants to ruin the holiday, no matter what he does, the Whos down in Whoville will still gather in the center of town and hold hands and sing the joy in their hearts, because there is much to be joyful for in a world where God loves you.
In pondering this I keep coming back to the revelation that people who are thankful for what they have tend to be much happier than those who are not. And sometimes it's a vanishingly tiny thing that makes the difference. The other morning I--already wrapped up in my troubles as I drove to work--had forgotten that the Jeep was low on gas and needed fueling, and was just about to make the last turn before the highway, when beep! the low fuel warning light went on and the Jeep called my attention to it with a single second's worth of 1 kHz tone. Just as I was passing the gas station, and soon enough to remind me to turn.
A moment of happiness that fractured the clouds around me and let the light in.
If it had waited until I was on the highway, I would have been slightly inconvenienced by the need to pull off at an oasis and tank up. I would have paid a few cents more per gallon. It would not have ruined my day nor would it have made me late for work. I couldn't run out of gas in the distance I'd have to drive. But that little beep from the dashboard chose that exact moment to occur, coincidentally just as I was about to drive past my preferred gas station, in time to change course, where I have a loyalty card which saves me a few cents per gallon. A tiny coincidence that totally changed my outlook on the day.
My day was still hard: a long day full of dealing with people, some of whom act like drunks with debilitating brain injuries. A hundred stupidities, a myriad of tiny cuts, the need to take half a tab of Xanax to keep the stress-related anxiety at bay. Both Sunday and Monday were pretty bad days (Sunday was the worst of the two) and my weekend promises to be full of chores and errands. Last night I stopped and got gyros for my wife and I; we ate dinner and had intended to retire shortly thereafter, but then found ourselves engrossed in The Pianist and ended up watching the entire movie. I woke up at 6 AM when her work phone made a noise.
And here I sit in quiet joy. Christmas is coming.