This holiday season I’m putting a concerted into being more social. I spend a fair amount of time thinking about the irony of teaching about the human social imperative and the struggle many of us have to be social. I know a lot of other anthropologists who have similar issues, in which we are seen as being very socially inclined but must practice it as an art, indeed, one that we spend our careers studying. Socializing generally makes me feel better about myself and overall lighter and more fulfilled, yet my perpetual tendency is to withdraw. Sometimes withdrawing is a relief, when I need to gather myself, but it also often feel like hiding a rotting. The winter holidays are a particularly difficult time, which I used to attribute to the weather, though I’m not sure that is valid anymore, since it’s generally fairly warm in the South, where I live now.
Validating my effort, I feel really good about the time I got to spend with family and friends over the Thanksgiving holiday. We drove to Indiana the day before Thanksgiving, in time for my kids to make pies with my mom. I was pleased we made it there in plenty of time for that. My sister and mother did great jobs on Thanksgiving dinner, and my sister impressed us again by toughing it through cooking and serving with a medical malady that had her in for emergency dental surgery the day after (last year was a kidney stone in the ER in the middle of the night but back home in time to finish the turkey). And it was great to to see my cousin Chelsa and her family for a few hours on Thanksgiving day as they made the family rounds.
On Friday, we went to see my grandmother in the nursing home down near Brazil, IN. Chelsa rode down in the car with me, my wife, and kids. Chelsa is 12 years younger than me, and, until her father died a few years ago, I hadn’t seen much of her in many many years. It has been good to reconnect with her these past few Thanksgivings, but this was the longest conversation we had ever had. We talked about our fathers (who were brothers) and the different perspectives we had on many of the same stories of our childhoods. It was really really great, and I’m so pleased to have had the opportunity to learn how much I like my cousin and enjoy hanging out with her. Our grandmother has Alzheimer’s, and we have very different relationships with her, which was also interesting and something I had never spent any time thinking about.
Chelsa is a personal trainer, so I invited myself along to her workout on Saturday, which was near my parents’ house, then got her to show me some workouts I could do to rehab my body after my foot surgery last year threw my gait off.
I spent the afternoon watching the Ohio State v. Michigan game, then the first half of the Iron Bowl with my dad before heading over to see my friend, Elizabeth Rowe. Of course, Alabama scored both winning touchdowns in the 3rd quarter while I was in the car, so I effectively missed the best part of the stupid game. But it was great to see Elizabeth and meet her boyfriend John. Elizabeth is one of the original members of the Human Biology Writing Group I am part of (started as well with Michaela Howells and Hannah Wilson and currently comprising me, Michaela, Cara Ocobock, Marc Kissel, and Katie Smith). We met at a workshop for early career scientists to improve our writing productivity at a Human Biology Association in 2012 in Knoxville, TN. Elizabeth has been living in my hometown for a few years, but this is the first holiday I’ve managed to get together with her, and I’m so happy I did. John made some yummy pizza, and we sat in the kitchen eating and talking and, before I knew it, 3 or 4 hours had passed. I can’t wait to do it again and bring them to my parents house or go out on the town with our whole families.
Holiday socializing, mission accomplished. And satisfying that biological imperative does feel better. Huh.