Am I the only person who feels a sense of panic at the holidays?

Forgive me for this self-indulgent psychological exorcism but, on this morning of brutal honesty with myself, I’d have to say that I do; that I always have.

The high expectations placed upon the emotions…the enforced bonhomie…the relentless desire to please: These things are enough to send me screaming from the room.

As a kid, I had such high hopes for holiday joy that, if I didn’t manage to find the requisite excitement, I would come away disappointed. When did I actually fall out of love with the holidays? It was during my 13 years with K., a time in which my holiday hope and delight were so certain to disintegrate that I simply stopped trying to reach for them.

The irony is that I love giving things to my friends—and not just at Christmastime (although I haven’t nearly lived up to my own expectations in this, lately.) I love the little for-no-reason offerings that can, if just for a moment, change the course of a day.

Perhaps—probably—I am just a child in a cynic-suit. The Christmases I spent with Belinda’s family have been perhaps the most extraordinary in my life. A dark, starry Christmas sky, the smell of pine boughs, the sparkle of a foil garland–they give me goosebumps. Acts of kindness still have the lovely power to make me cry. And I do like buying a tiny potted tree and planting it in the yard when the holiday is finished (the one in the front yard is about 12 feet tall, now.) But the thought of what the holiday requires? Wake me when it’s over.

Do I want this post to be a rallying cry for every holiday-phobic reader? Hell no. Am I chasing the ghosts in the corners? Probably. Now that I’ve confessed all this, I’ve probably cleared a place for the joy to come. With the first package I take to the post office, bound for a place under a beloved friend’s tree, the panic will vanish entirely.

And the bigger question: What does all this icky self-examination have to with writing?

Everything, probably.