Van Beek: The holiday adventure |

Van Beek: The holiday adventure

The holidays are a time of extremes. We usually overspend, overeat, overdrink, and overindulge, in numerous ways. We go to events and see people that only emerge during the holidays, because … “we should” — afterward wondering why we “should” all over ourselves every year. 

If we really liked them, we’d see them during the other 11 months!  Christmas (and don’t think you can escape it by celebrating a different holiday) is a time when we force ourselves to squeeze into a Norman Rockwell painting and often spend time with people we can barely tolerate, pretending that we’re having a great time.

Now, don’t get me wrong, there are some gatherings which are truly wonderful events, where we celebrate the gratitude of having such incredible people in our lives. When we realize that there just aren’t that many people we adore, we begin filling in the blanks with others.  It’s those others, that cause holiday tension, and when bored, we begin imagining creative ways of eliminating them … OK, don’t judge.

December can be an emotional rollercoaster. It is unusual in that we are expected to look back and evaluate if we were “naughty or nice” (always a subjective evaluation, which may require a defense attorney), and then we are to make unrealistic promises called New Year’s resolutions, where we are lucky if they last as long as the milk in the refrigerator, but we feel good about them during our unintelligible rendition of “Auld Lang Syne,” where we are to forget “times gone by”… which runs totally contrary to the Santa list-making thing, but comes just before the sour milk episode. 


While we all make fun of those sappy holiday films, we continue to watch them every year (just ask Hallmark). What is truly entertaining is that we actually begin to feel bad, that our own scenarios don’t end with declarations of love. The truth is that while we dream “White Christmas,” we actually live in a “Die Hard” world. 

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Packing millions of people in flying sardine cans is not even the most stressful part of traveling … it’s the airline ticket. How is it that the difference in fare between my ticket and my loud snoring seat neighbor is enough to feed an underdeveloped country? How is it that my phone can get me through security with only an app, but my nail clippers cause a barrage of agents to descend upon us like SEAL Team 6. And, how is it that parking my car costs more than buying it a seat on the plane? Plus, nothing says holiday spirit more than watching a family navigate the check-in lines.  Who knew that you could weigh bags, print tickets, post on Facebook, and feed crying babies … all in one move? 


Doesn’t driving a four-wheel drive car mean that you can go 75 mph on ice, because that’s the posted limit? How about driving at warp speed in the snow while taking a photo of it for Instagram (you’ve got twohands, right?). Or texting about how dangerous the roads are while you’re driving on them, or looking for that piece of candy that dropped next to your seat … critical things that could send you sliding on black ice, right off an embankment. 

However, it’s good that you have that four-wheel drive because it will provide entertainment to onlookers, as they see you are fine, but trying to drive back up that slippery snow-covered hill.  We have thought about bringing food trucks up to Vail Pass precisely for these roadside voyeurs … who, by theway, have crashed into the car ahead of them, while they were laughing at the aforementioned four-wheel drive idiot — hmmm, no comment. 

Social media

How is it that everyone looks great in photos on Christmas morning and I look like I had an encounter with Bigfoot, who by the way, has moved from the Pacific Northwest into my backyard. He only emerges when we’ve been enjoying adult beverages, go figure! Remember, social media is like a trip through Disneyland — it’s all staged. Still, I aspire to dance like that dog on YouTube, cook like the chef on Instagram, and complain while looking great on Facebook. Who says I don’t have a life!

While this column has been written in fun, to provide perspective to the craziness that surrounds the holiday season, there are some who are genuinely suffering. 

The focus on family and friends can highlight the fact that many are alone this holiday season. We forget that in reality we only have a handful of those we can truly call friends — most are friendly acquaintances. Family is a mixed bag of happiness and misery … shhh, it’s a secret, don’t tell Facebook.

We must remember that being alone is not the same as experiencing loneliness. Some welcome the solitude as a respite to the chaos; others equate it with being unworthy of companionship and love. While, we’ve all questioned our worth from time to time, delving too deeply into those feelings can cause a loss of perspective, which can lead to a very dark place, where sadness turns into depression, and the associated pain begins to dominate one’s thoughts. When ending the pain becomes a full-time obsession, it can go too far. Some actions cannot be undone.

Remember, you were born with gifts that no one else can share, and you have an entire community waiting to see where you take them.  

You are not alone. We have all been there to one degree or another, and sometimes it just takes a phone call to help us over the threshold of despair. Here are some numbers to call. 

Extreme risk: 911

Moderate Risk: Colorado Crisis Center (844-493-8255), Hope Center (970-306-4673), Mind Springs (888-207-4044)

For groups, therapists, and other help, visit

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