“We come home, walk in the door and compete for who had the shittiest day.” It was a holiday dinner party, a few days before Christmas, and everyone was tired of hearing stories of crazed and exhausted people. That’s when Fred spoke up. Immediately we all broke into laughter: it was so true. Of us.
What if instead, Fred suggested, we competed to see who had the most light-filled day? We all shook our heads. Where’s the fun in that? People would look at you funny, someone said. Yeah, said another, when someone asks about your day—especially in late December—they expect an insane tale of hilarious misery. To disappoint that social expectation during the holidays would be considered tone deaf. You don’t get it.
On the Sunday after Thanksgiving I heard a pastor say to his congregation at announcement time, “I hope you all had a blessed Thanksgiving with your families. I noticed today that when people asked me about my Thanksgiving I felt compelled to launch into a tale of horrific traffic on 95 between here and Boston. Rather than tell people some of the good things that happened.” He went on to relate one of those radiant moments.
Competing for the worst is the backwards way we establish our bona fides. The busy, crazy people are the most important, the most sought after, the wealthiest with the most places to be, the highest achieving, and so on. People who are not busy, not stressed and whacked out are, what?—rubes? slightly touched?
Quite simply, if you want to compete for something else you have to be comfortable not seeming all that important, sought after, wealthy, achieving. In a word, normal. You may have to hang out with Krishnamurti, who said, “It is no measure of health to be well adjusted to a profoundly sick society.”
I will be watching myself this Christmas, to see, when people ask about my holiday, what story I tell.