Marty Babits

The Middle Ground

The Other Side of Christmas

Feeling Bad is Especially Hard This Time of Year

Posted Dec 17, 2014

There are the songwriters that we all know and love—from Paul McCartney to Cole Porter to Carole King, from Stevie Wonder to Billy Joel to Bob Dylan to Joni Mitchell and and on and on. And then there are the songwriters that we would love if we knew their work. They are out there in good number. Occasionally they break through and earn a living making music. Until that happens, if it does, day jobs pay the bills. The person who cuts my hair has a keen eye. After shop hours, he is a first-rate photographer with a tremendous store of what Rudolf Arnheim might call advanced visual thinking skills. New York City abounds with unheralded talent. Dan Smullyan-- master songwriter, blues guitarist, gifted painter and independent recording artist—recently penned an original holiday song, “Somethin’ About This Time of Year,” a tune that moved me and inspired much thought. Sometimes the concept of a song, not only its lyric and melody set it apart.

How difficult it is to be out of sync with the revelers and the carolers, the gift-givers and the party ethos sparkling in red and green. How hard it is to grieve the loss of love or a loved one at this time of year.

Last December, along with others from the Burrucker clan, I was honored to be at Joseph Burrucker’s funeral. Joe was one of the last of the surviving Tuskegee Airmen. He was laid to rest in a beautiful cemetery outside of Hartsdale, New York.

tuskegee airman

profile in courage

And then there is the burgeoning legacy of Eric Garner, Mike Brown and numerous others whose fates have singed, tinged and dulled the 2014 spirit of glad tidings.

Don’t get me wrong. The police have a hard job, sometimes impossibly hard. But cruelty and violence have stained this year’s holiday atmosphere.

It's all part of the other side, the darker, sadder side of our collective American consciousness. Should not America the land of the free also be synonymous with America the land of compassion? Wouldn’t that be something to praise and celebrate with unadulterated cheer?

Back in the world that I work in most often--the world of couples that want to improve their communication and reconnect with the better half of their relationship’s potential--this time of year brings its own special troubles. In this time, not feeling expansive about the state of one’s relationship can create shame at family get-togethers. And shame is probably the most difficult feeling to cope with or modify. Finding yourself unable to celebrate whole-heartedly, not necessarily an expectation all year-round, intensifies loneliness and despair around the holdiays.

If you start on that other side and search actively, you may find something about which you feel grateful. And research indicates that cultivating feelings of gratitude helps mind and body feel whole. Willingness to make the effort to be thankful is important but keep in mind: that doesn't mean that sadness can simply be wished or willed away. It can’t be. It’s got to be worked through. Many put on a brave face and trudge through the merriment that they do not feel. Arriving in the realm of New Year’s resolutions, these partners will finally feel more in their element. My hopes and prayers and best wishes go out to everyone. Especially to those who are experiencing the other side of this holiday!

I have been away from my Psychology Today blog for a while, busy at work on my new book, entitled I Can’t Read Your Mind: Using Three-Dimensional Communication to Make Your Relationship Better. It’ll be released in May 2015 but between then and now I’ll be showing up more frequently right here.

Best wishes to you all. Happy Holidays and sincere wishes for a Happy New Year! Remember, love and good feelings are plentiful yet elusive; I'll be around to help you locate them in the Middle Ground.