Well, I've come out the other side of my annual Christmas depression. It's an odd thing, which I've realized gets both a little worse and a little more manageable every year. Which is to say that I feel the pain and isolation more profoundly each year, but also become better at expecting it, planning for it, and living in it when it comes.
During that time, work is the thing I feel increasingly peaceful about. I have been in this church long enough that I know how it's going to go, as much as you know how things are ever going to go. This year one of the youth fainted during the first Christmas Eve service. In the second one, the candles were lit three songs too early. Everything was still okay. So it goes.
Everything else during Christmas is pretty much crappy. But it's become a predictable crappiness. I will feel lonely. I will start to wonder if I should be more intentional about seeking out a partner. I will remember the year's failed attempts on that front and feel hopeless, hurt, and angry. I will decide to resign myself to being alone, and feel both desolate and powerful at the prospect. I do not have to accept consequence; I can decide. Then I will remember that my self-definition as single is probably the greatest contributor to the Christmas loneliness, and become annoyed at it, and wonder what to do about it, and feel stuck because when I try to change that self-definition, I end up surrounded by emotional black holes and grass-is-greener types who are already attached to someone else. I will miss my family, even while realizing that I don't particularly enjoy them at holidays, and that I'm so busy and exhausted with work that they wouldn't enjoy me, either. I will feel self-pity at the scarcity of gifts I receive, and guilt for my selfishness and materialism - because the joy of a Calvinist Christmas is at least a small dose of self-flagellation. Which is fine, as I don't really do guilt the rest of the year.
Anyway, I emerged from The Annual Funk just in time for a friend's wedding, thankfully, which involved a lot of hanging out with my favorite snarky, boozy clergy women, and feeling the messy happiness of seeing one of our formerly single-girl flock get paired up. Then I did my standard New Year's thing: got all fancied up, went to see some friends' band play at a big masquerade ball thing, remembered that my life is actually pretty fabulous, and greeted 2012 with sparkly hats, noisemakers, champagne, friends, and joy.
A new year is inevitably a time of evaluating life, remembering the things that have gone well and not so well, contemplating the things that need change, and planning for the future. I've been somewhat resistant in the last few years to planning for my future in any specific way, but it's beginning to feel like time for that sort of thinking. It's time for me to apply for that D.Min program that I've been bouncing around for a couple of years, so I started that process today. It's also time for me to let go of some things I've kept on the table as options. It's time to say to my seminary self that academic study is not currently enough of a priority for me to consider a Ph.D or a faculty position as likely possibilities in the foreseeable future (although notice how I'm not ruling it out absolutely...). That was the dream of someone who was in denial about being a minister, and I'm not that person anymore. It's time for me to realize that I am probably not ever going to be (or want to be) neutral enough for denominational staff. All that means that I need to do some serious planning and preparation in moving toward being a senior minister someday, which also involves some personal life caution that isn't exactly a hallmark of my existence. Time to grow up, or something.
So, with these goals and the usual assortment of semi-resolutions - exercise more, get healthier in general, stop being a sucker for dimples - I enter 2012. What an interesting year this promises to be!