Not feeling terribly merry here; one Friend I care about has been injured in an accident, another has had a bewildering academic setback, another is in administrative mire despite being faultless and at least two are suffering from family disputes. All sorts of draining arguments going on at this end, but now the parents are both moderately smiley, just very tired. (Likely the tiredness contributed to the ire.) All this even though our present-buying has been postponed until the 26th and later. I know there are upsides - not least good comedy repeats on BBC 2 soon - but the downsides are winning right now. (Edited to add: the comedy worked and I'm in a better mood now, but the general point still stands.)
Let's have another crack at the point I tried to make a few nights back.
One more Christmas ritual springs to mind. The '90s saw the ITV network have a morning magazine show, "This Morning", full of consumer features, very light entertainment and overtly housewife-oriented programming. They also had - probably still have - an advice counsellor, Denise Robertson, an expert on psychology and relationships as well as a Catherine-Cookson-esque novel-a-year author. She's local to the North-East so I have rather a soft spot for her; another plus is that she posts Daily Thoughts weekly which is about as close to an online journal as you can expect a high-profile agony aunt to get. If you like what she has to say, you may also enjoy her newspaper column which often treats the same subjects in more depth.
The ritual to which I refer is that on the last This Morning before Christmas, Denise would give the same piece of advice every year; the tone was as solemn as the show ever got. The reason it changed only in expression is that the advice remains true from year to year. If my message is even vaguely close to hers then the repetition has been of use. It goes something a little like this:
Christmas is difficult. It's a time when people feel they should be happy. Of course, people aren't happy all the time; being unhappy when you feel you should be happy is doubly bad. The relentless promotion of Christmas as a family event makes it particularly bad for people who can't be with their families or who don't want to be with their families. Accordingly, if there's ever a time to be particularly kind and helpful, especially to the lonely, Christmas is it. Even token "thinking of you" gestures help, though contact is definitely better, whether by a personal message, a phone call or (especially) a real-world visit.There are three related points that I want to make here, but they're all slightly different.
1) I'm not sure who among you welcome social phone calls. I know several of your phone numbers, but that's not the same thing. Sharing a phone call with someone does suppose a certain degree of intimacy, even if not in a romantic context. (Either that, or they've asked for it for their birthday.) Overseas phone calls are either cheap or free these days.
2) I'm not sure who among you would welcome phone calls when I perceive you're feeling particularly low or lonely and would especially welcome the contact. In a sense, I'd like to be helpful by being someone to talk to, to talk at or to rant at. Of course, it's never that easy in practice; as well as the noble intentions that cheering people up is kind, there are also the equally noble halters of "they don't want to be bugged about it", "I don't know how to cheer them up" and/or "I don't want to make things worse". Sometimes it's not clear whether the worst thing you can do is nothing or to try, fail and make matters worse. The cautious thing to do is nothing, but I'm not sure it's the best thing. General advice here welcome.
3) There are some of you who I perceive, rightly or wrongly, to be a little lonely in the longer term. This is always a dangerous thing to do because my impression could well be mistaken, and a mistake here could be insulting. Nevertheless, there are some of you I'd like to talk to on an irregular but reasonably frequent basis. In practice, this tends to be some of the same group of people I'd like to talk to socially, but it would only be honest to admit that my motivation is a little different.
It would just be awkward to ask people to explicitly state which category they were in, whether in a poll or in private comments, but certainly it's the sort of thing that I think people are better off making reasonably public, to help keep the less-well-connected connected. I welcome people erring on the lots-of-checking, overcautious, just-called-to-say-hope-you're-OK side in my case. (This could also be reasonably interpreted as "insecure attention whore".) Phone calls best, LJ comments good, e-mail welcomed but less effective, IM contact unlikely to work. A good e-mail address for all is on the userinfo; Friends also get the offline contact details.
Two other general concepts that have been rattling around my head recently, though I haven't thought about them too hard in my mind:
A) Always remember that it is only natural that people do like some LiveJournalists more than others, though people aren't often very good at revealing to the people they particularly like just how much they like them.
B) Rants are not precise laser-beam weapons; like grenades, they have area effects. They affect each person who feels themself to be in the target area of the rant, who see aspects of the rant recipient in themself, even if they weren't the intended recipient of the rant.
I wish you all a Merry and have put the Happies on standby.