Sunday, May 19, 2013

Manufactured Holidays

UPDATE: This post also appeared on the Huffington Post website on May 16, 2013.


This past Sunday was Mother's Day in the United States (it is celebrated in other countries, just on different days). It certainly is a lovely thought (according to Wikipedia):
Mother's Day in the United States is an annual holiday celebrated on the second Sunday in May. Mother's Day recognizes mothers, motherhood and maternal bonds in general, as well the positive contributions that they make to society. Although many Mother's Day celebrations world-wide have quite different origins and traditions, most have now been influenced by the more recent American tradition established by Anna Jarvis, who celebrated it for the first time in 1907, then campaigned to make it an official holiday. Previous attempts at establishing Mother's Day in the United States sought to promote peace by means of honoring mothers who had lost or were at risk of losing their sons to war.
Absolutely lovely sounding.... Sounding.

As the recent reality is that Mother's Day seems to have become nothing more than a commercialized, manufactured guilt fest -- as well as a peer pressure competitive guilt fest. It's all about how much you can spend to show how much you care -- as if money is the only measure of emotions; it's also all about how much you can talk up your mother as the best of all mothers in comparison to what someone else -- posts on Facebook.

(And yes, I am absolutely guilty of all of the above.)

In all that, it is not actually lovely. It's frustrating and annoying and depressing. And it's all that several -- and several more -- times over if you've lost your mother.

My mother, the artist Karen Laub-Novak, passed away on August 12, 2009. A week before my birthday, and two weeks before her own birthday. She lost to cancer, but the cancer never won: until the very end, her humor remained -- always one of her best characteristics.

It was her belief and humor that first turned me off to Mother's Day. While we would still acknowledge it, her attitude to me was that we did so, "because why not take advantage of an excuse to go out to dinner?" Not because she cared about it. She once snarked to me: "What? I need a day to remind me I'm a mother? As if the pain in the ass that you can be, doesn't remind me all the time? A day -- one single day out of 365 -- to thank me and show appreciation for all I do? As if I'm only a mother for one day, not on the other 364?"

That's just it. It's lovely to think about making a point of acknowledging mothers, but we should be doing that every day, not just when Hallmark -- or Congress -- says that we should. Just like every other "manufactured" holiday, such as Valentine's Day. We should be acknowledging our love every day, not just on one day.

So while I greatly appreciate all the friends who reached out to me on Mother's Day, I have to point out that I think of and miss my mother every day. If there are days that are especially hard, it is not when Hallmark says I should feel bad, it's when I do: my birthday and her birthday.

To be honest, Mother's Day is meaningless to me, representing (obviously, since I'm in the middle of a rant about it) nothing more than forced, false, money-purchased emotion, rather than the real thing. I am happy to acknowledge it and celebrate it for others, but I can't help but want to say (scream) "What? I need a day to remind me how important you are? A day -- one single day out of 365 -- to thank you and show appreciation for all you do? As if you're only important for one day, not on the other 364?"

So I try to spend every day thinking of and feeling grateful for the amazing people in my life. No, I don't send gifts to them every day or take them out to nice dinners every night or even talk to them every day -- or post on Facebook about them every day.

But I do try to think of them, to reflect upon what they mean to me and what they have done for me, and say some little murmured words of thanks. Nothing major or impressive or even Hallmark-worthy. Yet still worthy, vey worthy. The best part? How great I feel when I do this.

Try it. You'll like it.

Which means: know what these manufactured days are for in my mind? Beyond a reason to pull out my soap box yet again? Nothing. Absolutely nothing.

And that is actually lovely sounding.

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