Along the lines of my last post, next month for me is usually a time of reflection, of giving thanks and of remembering emotional highs and lows. My birthday’s two days after Xmas, making it hard on the folks in my life who’ve given me gifts over the years (most years I haven’t received gifts for either). Over the past 38 Decembers (not counting the one starting on Sunday), I’ve been smitten with attraction (December 3, 1985), run away from home (December 8, 1978), been mugged by four teenage boys (December 5, 1983), experienced burnout (December ’87 and December ’89) and betrayal (December ’96), not celebrated Chanukah (December ’81, ’82 and ’83), and have experienced holiday joy and summoned up the resolve to make next year a better one.

I used to think that the period between the end of November and the end of February was the season of miracles small and large. That I could fall in serious like for anyone in ’85 — with my second crush (see blogs from July and September) — seemed almost miraculous considering my sober and emotionally detached self at the time. Surviving my third semester at Pitt after homelessness and financial starvation made my December that year especially thankful. Despite my thesis chair and committee, I was beyond happy about finishing my dissertation and having their approval (even if it meant that my post-doctoral career remained cloudy). But the resulting burnout from two rough fall semesters at Pitt and a long and contentious thesis process also helped me understand why many people get depressed this time of the year. In the end, what do all of the pluses and minuses that make up the highs and lows of our lives really mean at the end of the year?

Although I have sometimes felt like a failure, I’ve come to see December as a month of reflection and rebirth, partly because of my birthday and the month’s significance, and partly because of the things that have happened in my life in December. It’s only a season of miracles if you are willing to see yourself and your survival of the year as a miracle in and of itself. Reflection allows you to build on the successes — no matter how few and fleeting — that you experienced during the year and can sustain you into the next one. A rebirth is your willingness to recognize where you’ve fallen short and determining which parts of your life you’re unwilling to fall short in again.

So despite the colder weather and decline in sunlight, the depression, disappointments and drama that has been more Decembers than not for me, the last month of the year is my favorite one. So many of the stories contained in Boy At The Window are ones that come out of or lead somehow to the month of my birth. Even the relationship that became my marriage began in a December twelve years ago (more on that in a later blog).

For those of you who find yourselves depressed or disillusioned by the storms of life, all I can say is that some of my best Decembers have been ones where consumer-based gift-giving hasn’t happened at all or has played a minor role in the holiday season. I’ve usually given of myself in love or trust or out of faith or need. I’ve found myself making plans for the next year or next several years. I’ve often left myself open for good and new things to happen in my life. Most importantly, I’ve found myself looking back at my past and realizing that I have survived so much and overcome so much more, that anything I face now can’t possibly be as horrifying as the circumstances of my youth and young adulthood.

This isn’t a call to suck it up as much as it is one for all of us to put our lives in perspective. To make this season my season and yours as one of humility and thanksgiving and not so much one of shopping and eating. Take it from me, as an authority on how to make this season mean something despite the lack of money or food, Decembers are so much better when you take the time to put your life in perspective and balance.