20 November, 2006

Day Of The Black Dog

I want so much to be thankful. I have more things to be thankful for than I could shake a stick at.

But I am afraid that my Black Dog is rearing his head and issuing a throaty bark.

Counting blessings is easy, and when you have a black dog a lot of times blessings counting serves as a form of whistling past the graveyard. "I can't be down, because I have a freezer full of meat!!!"

I've found that saying the sad things outloud is sometimes better. It's a way of shouting back at the dog, of barking more loudly than he. It's also a way to let people know your humanity and show that all humanity is the same on one level. So why is my black dog howling? What is making him claw at the gates?

Well, for starters, it's the start of The Holidays. Yes, I say "Christmas" when I'm talking specifically of that holiday, but for me the season of the bark starts with Thanksgiving and runs through January 6th. It's my favourite time of year on one level, but on another level it is the time of greatest pain.

I love the holidays, and I love big gatherings of family. Yet here I am, 450 miles from the closest non-spousal family I have. While others are meeting for lovely brunches and Christmas tree shopping with loved ones, I get to hear about it a week later over the telephone. I also get to pretend that buying gifts for my dogs is the same thrilling activity as buying presents for my human children. Have you ever seen a dog's face light up when they unwrap a chew toy? Not the same thing, I think.

In my mind I've idealised Holidays as a sort of Hallmark wonderworld with bright lights and hugs and cake, and then placed myself squarely outside it all. I tend to forget that every holiday in Real Space involves arguments over logistics, worries about money and the stress of ill health. I never humanise any Holiday until it's too late.

So there you have it. The source of my black dog. Maybe now he'll stop with the yowling.


At 10:44 AM, November 20, 2006, Blogger Ivy, the Great and Powerful said...

I understand how you're feeling, although my problems with the holidays are quite the opposite of yours. I've got children for whom no matter what I buy, it is never enough, and family that drives me nuts with their endless requests- "Ivy, you don't WORK, so how about you drive to the Fred's in Murfreesboro and pick me up this one little item".

Or wanting to do things with family, but we all seem to play this "I'm busier than you could ever possibly imagine" game.

All in all, the holidays are cool, I love this time of year, but there's a lot of murk underneath the happiness too.


At 10:52 AM, November 20, 2006, Blogger Sonia said...

wow. great article. I can totally relate to that guy. I like how churchill gave it a name. That's cool...and I can totally see the relevance. It's true...you have to embrace it, and get to know your black dog...otherwise, it rules your life.


At 11:23 AM, November 20, 2006, Blogger saraclark said...

This must be why I thought of you this weekend.

I saw the coolest Monkey planter at the Farmer's Market. Ok, maybe not "the coolest" but certainly the most unusual. He's broze colored and is sitting holding a pot in his lap that you can put flowers in. As usual, I thought about 10 minutes later that I should have taken a picture and sent it to you.

I saw it and thought, "Oh Kat would love that!" Unusual monkeys are hard to find. And he wasn't black either!

At 12:25 PM, November 20, 2006, Blogger Slartibartfast said...

Very good, very good.

My blessed wife, after almost 20 years of marriage, is very patient while I go wallow in what she calls the Valley of the Shadow of Death. (I have to be careful using that phrase because it's also our nickname for WalMart)

I firmly believe that 90% of failed marriages, 70% of unhappy holidays, and 65.2 percent of wrecked lives are caused by unrealistic expectations. I know this because I know me. In the back of my mind, there is always this imaginary clique that "everybody else" belongs to, and they're all having a fantastic time while I'm not, and they're all laughing at me because I'm not in the clique.

Most of my adult life has been a process of trying to convince myself that the clique is humankind, and I am very much in the club. I'm not there yet.

The only thing that ever gets me out of the funk is remembering that Jesus has invited me to the greatest party the world has ever known, and I look forward to dropping all pretension and throwing down with the King.

Here's to setting your Black Dog free.

At 12:55 PM, November 20, 2006, Anonymous nm said...

"I can't be down, because I have a freezer full of meat!!!"

You owe me a new keyboard.

Seriously, have you tried the sitting in very bright full-spectrum light for a couple of hours a day thing? It's supposed to help.

At 2:23 PM, November 20, 2006, Anonymous bekah said...

I dunno, my dogs get pretty excited when they open their presents (with our assistance) on Christmas morning... and my dogs have never pulled out a brand new squeak toy and said, "Ugh, I totally wanted this in BLUE."


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