DEAR MISS MANNERS: I’m struggling with how to respond to my co-workers this holiday season when they complain about how busy they are. While I appreciate that some people really do get overwhelmed for reasons beyond their control, far too often it’s passive-aggressive bragging about all the family and friends they have.
Meanwhile, some of us have no family besides a parent in a nursing home who’s losing touch with reality. And I know some people have less than that. It can be a very lonely time for some. But it’s not really in the holiday spirit to get snarky because I’m feeling sorry for myself!
GENTLE READER: Unfortunately, many of those busy people are not as joyous as you assume. From what they tell Miss Manners, they are over-burdened with the unrealistic expectations of others -- and often of themselves. And after the holidays, many will be bitterly reporting the misbehavior of that jolly circle of family and friends.
Miss Manners does not mention this to comfort you. Indeed, if you keep comparing your life to others’, you will always be dissatisfied, no matter what your circumstances. The proper way to respond to your busy co-workers is cheerfully to wish them well. And try to mean it. If you begrudge the happiness of others, you will violate not only the holiday spirit, but your own spirit of humanity.
Meanwhile, the classic antidotes for holiday blues are either to take the time that you are not spending on the chores of which others complain to indulge yourself, or to distract yourself by helping the less fortunate. For restoring a sense of self-satisfaction, Miss Manners recommends the latter (with perhaps a touch of the former).
P.S. Yes, Miss Manners knows that any other columnist would diagnose depression and tell you to seek treatment. Aside from the fact that she doesn’t practice medicine, (and wouldn’t diagnose from afar if she did), she believes that emotional reactions to the vicissitudes of life are not always some form of illness, and can commonly be dealt with.