Spreading cheer in this season of peace

On Christmas Eve 1999, Haig was 24 years old, and dealing with a breakdown. He has since dealt with depression.

By Nivriti Butalia

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Published: Sun 24 Dec 2017, 8:00 PM

Last updated: Sun 24 Dec 2017, 10:07 PM

The ads and Santa hats will brainwash you into believing this is the happiest time of the year. While I write this, I can see sunlight filtering in through the office blinds. So, in my book, it might be the happiest time in two days in Dubai - all that fog. But year? A colleague on the work WhatsApp group remarked on how hellish it was driving on Saturday night. Hazard lights aren't used every day by car drivers in the UAE. My sympathies to folks whose flights aren't landing or taking off and are thus missing time with families and holidays are being eaten into.
But the point I was making about happiness was this. I've been feeling bad for people affected by the pressure to be happy, just because this is the festive season, everyone has fairy lights up, and malls are outdoing each other in festive décor.
I liked what writer Matt Haig posted on Twitter: "Ways to survive Christmas: 1. Keep a routine. 2. Don't compare your Christmas to the best bits of other people's. 3. Find some quiet moments. Retreat to a bedroom. 4. Read. 5. Do yoga. (Unfestive/useful) 6. Know many feel like you. Come online and find them. 7. Stop shopping."
On Christmas Eve 1999, Haig was 24 years old, and dealing with a breakdown. He has since dealt with depression. He's talked about it in The Guardian in 2015, making mention, incidentally, of the one factor that doesn't help anxiety is "the likelihood of hearing some of the most catastrophically annoying music".
Some of what Haig said made me think of people I know, friends, who deal with depression or who have a parent or kid who is depressed. I don't do New Year resolutions. But I think it wouldn't be bad to put down: more available for people who need a friend.
Yesterday, I went to Mirdiff City Centre for the first time in my five years in the UAE. Not so much an underachievement as a fact, I've just never had to go there. But I might have been to every other mall in Dubai. I've also never been to a mall and played basketball, first visit or not. But Decathalon had a basketball hoop up on Saturday noon, and they were letting walk-ins try their luck. I watched a few people and felt inspired by how no one seemed good. I wrote my name down and waited for my turn. I got, I think 20 tries. I only netted two balls, and felt pleased at even that. Amazing how just a little something unusual about a mundane trip to a mall can suddenly become memorable. When was the last time you left a store thinking you should shop less and play more sport?
Secret Santa games are always fun. A group of people pick a chit with someone's name and get that person a gift for x amount. A budget is specified. We're having ours in office today. Everyone is to turn up in red. Nothing though has been said about greeting people with a Ho! Ho! Ho! My colleague, Purva Grover, has led the charge, and sent mails with instructions. Let's hope no one gets gifted a potato peeler or a pencil sharpener or a bookmark. Or milk chocolate past its sell-by date.
As for the elephant in the room topic (Christmas, New Year), I'm going to go with quoting Stephen King's tweet: "Wishing for you all acts of love and ordinary kindness this holiday season. In the end, you know, most people are good."
- nivriti@khaleejtimes.com

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