I’ve caught myself pacing a bit more than usual this holiday season.

For those of you who know me a bit, you know that I already pace a fair deal, more sometimes when I’m talking. I’ve been doing it a lot for the past week or so. It took me until yesterday to figure out why.

Initially, I’d made plans to time-shift the holidays a bit, since “the holidays” now involve me driving several hundred miles in each direction to see family, and doing so is tough enough without also doing a significant chunk of it in New York Metropolitan Area holiday traffic. When I was younger, this would have been easier, but I tire more easily these days. So, we were going to get together a week earlier than we traditionally do among my family and a good chunk of my friends to celebrate. A family health emergency (everyone’s OK now, don’t worry about that, at least) torpedoed that, so we decided to time-shift our get-together again, to early January.

This has created a situation where, for perhaps the first time I can remember, I have nowhere to be and nothing to do related to Christmas, as it’s happening, and yet, the sense memory of the anxiety and anticipation of the event is still unshakably here. I haven’t even been able to positively redirect it toward other things that I need to get done, because most of them involve outside individuals, and, let’s face it, no one’s getting anything done until January 2nd at this time of the year.

Christianity (I’m not a member, but its influence is unfortunately everywhere in my country) and (especially) capitalism have fostered a situation where, even though the holidays are supposed to be times of rest and relaxation, and I’m in a situation that’s ideal for rest and relaxation, my brain simply refuses to believe that I can just take it easy, man.

Before anyone says “It’s not Christianity and/or capitalism, it’s anxiety”, I can tell you that, as someone who deals with chronic and/or acute anxiety every day, this feels different. This is anxiety brought on by institutional conditioning. The only other type of anxiety I can compare it to is “I don’t want to go to school” anxiety, because, like this other stuff, it was anxiety that would not exist without the heavy-handed influence of institutions. It’s a little different beyond that, because fear of school was fear of being in a hostile environment, and this is more like I’ve been trained to run headlong into a different hostile environment, specifically because there may be rewards after I run the gauntlet. (I rarely if ever felt like anything about public school was an actual reward in and of itself, because, at the time, very little of what I was taught there or how it was taught to me engaged, enriched or nurtured me, and very little of how I was treated by teachers and students alike felt like kindness. It felt like I was conscripted into 13 years of boring, ugly cruelty designed to beat the happiness, imagination and individuality out of me, with only the vague promise of possibly going to one of those places where I saw people partying in movies on HBO, albeit at a probable high financial cost once I figured that out, at the end of those 13 years.)

So, here I sit, marveling at the brain I thought was so independent in my younger years, telling me that I can’t relax, because of Christianity and capitalism.

These two forces, working in concert, have embedded this idea in my mind: “You have to be somewhere, though you don’t know where RIGHT NOW, for the celebration of an event that is personally irrelevant to you save for the opportunity to gather with people who matter to you, but before you get there, you have to complete difficult quests you cannot identify in this moment for all sorts of things, most of which you can’t afford, a some of which you will not be able to identify until you see them. Otherwise, the people you love will be DEEPLY disappointed in you.”

I’ll certainly survive it, I have to date, but what an unbelievable mind fuck. It’s some shit out of “The Shawshank Redemption” or something.

I’d end this piece with two words familiar to most of you, but no, it’s really not OK for me to say them right now, no matter what any of the true monsters of this world would like us to believe.