Sunday, December 27, 2015

Christmas 2015

Well, Christmas has come and gone. A certain young woman of my acquaintance, who had relatively recently turned 13, relatively recently revealed to me that the result of her recent reflections regarding the holiday has resulted in some remarkable revelations. Sorry, I'll stop.

Now that she's no longer a child, she's noticed that though Christmas still rocks, it's just not the same as it was last year -- when she was still a kid. We had this conversation about a week before Christmas and she remarked mentioned to me that last year at this same time (2014) her emotions had begun ramping up to what by Christmas Eve was what I would've called, when I was her age, a full blown Purple Leptic Fit, or at the very least, a nervous breakdown.

For the Record: When and where I was but a wee lad, several thousand days ago, a Purple Leptic Fit meant the same thing that flipping out or freaking out does now. Googling the phrase will point you to novelist Chuck (Note: Effective illustration of the potential long-term side effects of the plague of moniker malpractice currently ravaging the realm  infecting the culture) Dickens "Great Expectations." However, when I was 12, and living on the Sou-side a Pittsburgh, the only book of Chucks that I was familiar with at the time was the famous novella, "A Christmas Carol." I hadn't read it, I've yet to read it, but I have seen most of the movie versions including the best one, Mr. Magoo's Christmas Carol, an animated musical. Move along, move along, no snobby literary allusions to see here folks.

Anyway... I responded to my favorite trumpet playing, cook, interior decorator, and future lawyer by pointing out, as gently as possible, that unfortunately this was the nature of the beast in question. At some point the magic starts fading and we feel like we're missing something because we're unlikely to experience Christmas with quite the same intensity ever again. However, if we're lucky, we'll have access to some kids still young enough to go as berserk as we once did in the week leading up to the holiday. Better a thrill once removed than no thrill at all. What I failed to point out -- in my defense it was because I hadn't yet read a brilliant article in the Wall Street Journal by a Clare Ansberry that's about believing in Santa Clause -- was that parents go to exhausting and expensive lengths to perpetrate this happy hoax because, "... Christmas often represents their own fondest childhood memories." That, "It signifies the all-too-short time in a child's life when everything is good and nothing impossible." Exactly. Therefore, a good egg, such as herself, can look forward to doing her duty and participating in the hoax for the rest of her life. She doesn't even need to have her own kids to do so.

So of course, this got to me thinking about hedonic adaptation. (It's not you, it's me, I've always been like this.)

According to Wikipedia: "The hedonic treadmill, also known as hedonic adaptation, is the observed tendency of humans to quickly return to a relatively stable level of happiness despite major positive or negative events or life changes."

Now in case you haven't been paying attention, or have an actual life, studies have been conducted, books and articles written, hypotheses and conclusions debated, etc. Fear not, gentlereaders, I'm not about to offer up a lecture on the subject. As is the case regarding the myriad subjects that I, your dilettante about town, am interested in, I'm singularly unqualified to do so. This used to be a source of some embarrassment to me -- the fact that I'm not an expert, specialist, go to guy, or the like  -- as concerns, well, anything. However, one of the many unexpected compensations of getting old, at least for me, is finally figuring out just what it is I'm about, and accepting it. Also, I've found comfort in that bit of folk wisdom that states that an expert is a bonkercockie artist at least 50 miles from home.

Anyway... Notice that the definition offered up by Wikipedia doesn't say that if you win a large enough prize in a lottery or some similar sort of endeavor and realize one of my (and I have reason to suspect many other people's) fondest dreams, F.U. level wealth...

Or, that if you get hit by a bus, and it takes a year or two to successfully(more or less) put Humpty Dumpty together again, that you will be happy. It says that you will "quickly return to a relatively stable level of happiness."

The good news is this phenomenon is widely studied, researched and documented; you can add it to your Facts are Stubborn Things list; you should keep it in mind. The bad news is that if you were miserable by nature before the life-altering event, odds are you will still be miserable after the smoke clears and you return to your stable level. On a side note, I highly recommend that if, "Money is the root of all evil" is on your Stubborn Things list that you cross it off and write: Money has the potential to be the root of much evil or good, but more importantly, the lack of enough money to fund a modest and virtuous lifestyle sucks sweaty socks.

What have we learned Dorothy?

It's not you, It's me.Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Clause. You really should read, or  resuscitate and re-read, a remarkably relevant previous post, my first, The Pursuit of Contentment.

Have an OK day.                                                                                      

©Mark Mehlmauer 2015

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