Why Holiday Movies Save the Holiday

I’ve noticed a trend with each holiday season which I’m not proud of: I start over-wanting.

Things are good, and I certainly have just about everything I need and most things I could ever want. So why do I feel my wheels spinning and turning fruitlessly in a muck of dissatisfaction?

Believe it or not, I think I’m overdue for some screen time with my holiday favorites to get out of my funk. Why? Because those classic, bittersweet, laugh-through-tears holiday flicks often remind me of two things: I’m glad for what I have, and I’m glad for what I don’t have.

Die Hard is one we watch each year (my husband’s self-declared favorite Christmas flick). No, really – as much as I pulled an extreme eyebrow raise when he first suggested his stance, I was ultimately convinced. It’s Christmas-time at Nakatomi Plaza when shit goes down for John McClaine, and we relish each and every line. We also consider that life could be far worse: my husband and I are happily married, which means he doesn’t have to worry about traveling across the country into a fish-out-of-water setting where he winds up battling terrorists with C4 and a machine gun (“ho, ho, ho”) while quipping his way through filthy air ducts. We’re able to laugh through the action and get nostalgic over the shoulder pads and hairstyles while appreciating how far we’ve come.

Love Actually is my favorite must-see of the season and I shall never be swayed from that trench. I love the diversity of the storylines and characters, watching them each experience highs and lows in their lives based on their own situations and dysfunction. Jamie wastes his love on a cheating hosebeast, but ultimately finds it again with Aurelia: you should see the looks my husband and I give each other as they repeat each other’s thoughts in different languages while falling in love. Watching Karen struggle with Harry’s flirtations and possible affair with his secretary brings both of us to quiet reflection (ok, I go straight to the tears while my husband rubs my shoulder) about how precarious a marriage and family can be through a series of fairly simple choices. Daniel and Sam? GAH. That’s my favorite story of all – though I think my husband digs Billy Mack and his producer Joe the best – because of the loss and gain both experience so vividly.

See? Even while I’m reliving these scenes of fiction in my mind, as fictional as they are, I’m carried out of my own ridiculous dissatisfaction and reminded of what there is to be thankful for… even if it IS just a movie we watch each December. We all have our thing(s) that help us reassess and recenter; this month, mine just happens to be a couple of movies. Yippee-kye-yay, because love actually is all around.

I’ll Lasso The Moon

I’d like to dedicate this year, and in particular this holiday season, to a guy who is the darling of Christmas movie lovers and has been one of my favorite personas in fiction.

It has been a few years since I’ve viewed the movie, but it doesn’t matter since I have it memorized.  From the inaugural scene depicting star constellations “blinking” at one another to indicate their conversation about a single soul on the planet Earth to the final wink directed heavenwards as an entire community sings Auld Lang Syne in unison, I have the entire film of It’s A Wonderful Life memorized.

Down to his unmistakable twang of phrase and deafness in ear, I adore George Bailey and all of the triumphs and struggles he owns in that film.  That might make me a bit worthy of ridicule, but I’ll take it.

Lately my life has been less than wonderful.  Yes, I know – no one ever said life would be easy or idyllic.  While I have always been an optimist, I always have at least a toe on the tundra of reality.  But even my optimism has had a tough line to tow in the face of a slew of medical issues this year, living in a home that isn’t mine, being constantly strapped for funds, trying to balance my family life against work commitments, and generally feeling like I’m losing more of me with each passing day.  While I will grant any inquiring minds that some of my issues are most definitely white people’s problems, some of them are a bit grander and formidable to my general outlook and faith in myself.

But here’s the thing:  I feel that in these past few weeks another force has been at work with the specific purpose of juxtaposition.  As badly as I feel about my current state, it seems that every day I am presented with an unmistakable “it could be worse” scenario:  families homeless during the holiday due to fires; a local father who opted to take his own son’s life and then his own; a woman losing her sister on Christmas night due to a car accident; an amazing couple missing their chance for parenthood this time because of an adoption falling through; a woman having to watch her mother struggle each day for her life without clear explanations; a man visiting an adult day care center in Marietta with a former employer whose brain and vitality are slowly losing to Alzheimer’s; a mother struggling to provide for her children while they all escape from an abusive father/husband; and on, and on, and on…

George Lassos the Moon

This day I literally bow my head in deference to the lives touched by these real-life stories, and I realize that much like my fictional friend George Bailey… I really have had (and have) a wonderful life.  There is so much to be thankful for, in spite of some hardships and chronic problems along the way, and if I have to lasso the moon or pocket some petals to get my groove back on, I’ll do what it takes.  Toe in the tundra and glass more than half full of that rosy outlook.  And yes, you can call me “George.”