A Festivus for the rest of us

A magical event happens each year in March, something with which I am afraid far too many people are unfamiliar; a holiday that brings us together and fills our hearts with wonder and anticipation. I am not referring to the overly-commercialized holidays like National Frozen Food Month or Peanut Butter Lover’s Day. No, the event of which I speak is untouched by corporate sponsors (applications now being accepted) and the selfish agenda of political parties and the right wing/liberal media. The event of which I speak is a time in March full of mystery, gift giving, patriotism, family unity, arrogance, and horror. Yes, the event to which I am referring is none other than the 8 Crazy Nights of Rob and Ty.

Calm yourselves. I will provide you with a broader understanding of, and perhaps burning passion for, said holiday with an enthralling, nay–informative, backstory.  The 8 Crazy Nights of Rob and Ty is aptly named for the 8 magical nights that occur each year between March 13th and 21st, during which my cousin, Tyler, and I are the same age. Tyler is one year younger than I (though vastly lagging from a maturity standpoint), but for 8 wonderful nights each year, we are but one age. No longer is it, “This is my younger cousin Tyler. Please excuse his lack of understanding of the broader world. He is but a young child, unfamiliar with such things.” No. During the 8 Crazy Nights of Rob and Ty, it’s, “I am pleased to introduce my cousin Tyler. He is a principal, educating the promise of tomorrow. He is a father and husband. But he is more than that. He is my colleague, my friend…my equal.” Truly, he is the Marvin to my Chuck Berry. 

Apparently I really like Back to the Future.

 

The 8 Crazy Nights began when Tyler and I were roommates in college. One night as we discussed man’s struggle and how we might, we humble servants, ease the burden of our fellow man, we postulated the idea that perhaps we as a people needed more to celebrate, especially during the dreary, arduous days of spring. Perhaps, we might lift our spirits more each year and raise our chins a little higher if there was some significant moment in time that could bring us together as a people, as brothers and sisters. As Tyler’s birthday approached, such a significant moment became clear.

Realizing there were 8 days between our birthdays, 8 days during wich we were no longer separated by the divide of age, we devised a holiday during which others might find renewed joy in life. The plan was simple. Each night of the 8 crazy nights, we would like a candle to commemorate another day of same-aged bliss, which we would promptly blow out, as apartment rules specifically prohibited open flames. As each candle was lit, we would join in a duet of the National Anthem until the flame was extinguished (5-7 seconds). Finally, as a way of spreading 8 Crazy Nights cheer, we would allow our friends and loved ones to present us with a daily gift of their choosing.

The inaugural celebration of the 8 Crazy Nights went remarkably well. We actually had 2 women who brought us gifts each night (I think they had a crush on Tyler. He has hair like a lion).

 

It’s like he can see into my soul.

 

So, each night we graciously accepted our gifts, lit our candles (extinguished almost immediately), and sang the National Anthem. All was right with the world. Until one night, as we were lighting our candle and reflecting on the solemnity of the occasion, we noticed we were one candle short. How could this be? In our haste to bring joy to the world, had we miscounted? No, 21-13=8. The math is sound. Stooping to remedial methods, I began counting the days on my fingers….13, 14, 15…20, 21…OH! If you count Tyler’s birthday and my birthday, there are actually 9 nights (what do you want from me? I’m just a therapist. He’s the principal).

Horror struck through me as it sunk in that this magical time might never come to full fruition. We couldn’t call it the 9 Crazy Nights of Rob and Ty, that just sounds stupid. We thought quickly how we might redeem our new holiday. Then it dawned on us. Of course! It was so simple, obvious even. We would celebrate a Second Seventh Night!

The Second Seventh Night is quite mysterious. No one is quite sure how it came into existence (disregard explanatory paragraph above). All sort of ‘mysterious’ things happen on the Second Seventh Night. Really, anything that occurs on this day of days can be labeled mysterious. Try it out! “I mysteriously didn’t show up to work today.” or “I mysteriously went 15 over the speed limit.” (Legal disclaimer: using such excuses may result in you ‘mysteriously’ being fired, or ‘mysteriously’ getting a ticket.) It’s an 8 Crazy Nights miracle!

Arguably the pinnacle of the 8 Crazy Nights occurs on the Second Seventh Night. Each year, we gather as family and friends via phone to simultaneously watch a scary movie….mysteriously. We aren’t scary movie watchers generally, so we like to go big:

 

Jim Henson Productions. Creating traumatic responses in children since 1982.

 

We pause the movie midway to call each other and discuss key plot twists (Dreamhouse Spoiler alert: The guy can’t tell his right from his left), process important character development, and provide emotional support. When the movie is over, Tyler wishes me a happy birthday the following day, after which the holiday draws to a somber close for another year.

So, there you have it. You’re welcome. You are now encouraged to get on board. Tell your friends. It’s a big holiday with a lot of gift giving, so it’s best to begin preparations in late September. I will update the blog to fill you all in on the movie of that year (I’m leaning toward The Black Cauldron).

Other than arrogance or my own personal gain, why would I tell you about this magnificent holiday? It’s simple. My wife thinks the whole thing is a little dumb, childish perhaps. Though I could present her with pie charts and diagrams defending the legitimacy of the holiday, I must concede there is element of immaturity about it. But it has become a very important holiday for both me and my cousin. If we went the entire year without an email or phone call, I know we will have contact for those 8 magical nights. Are we forcing it? Perhaps. Are we putting more effort into celebrating our own birthdays than anyone around us? Likely. But that doesn’t matter. We have created something that for the two of us (spouses and my brother included) has become very meaningful. It connects us.

On more than one occasion, I have asked one of my clients to say something specific to the other, to actually repeat what I say. Almost without fail, they will turn to me and comment on how it feels stupid to just repeat what I am saying. Or they will talk about how awkward it feels when everyone is watching (everyone meaning me and their partner/spouse). Or they will comment that it feels forced. I simply tell them, “I know. say it anyway.” I know it doesn’t matter. I’m just giving them the words to start what they want to say. If I didn’t force them to say it, it usually won’t get said.

We spend too much time waiting for the right moment. Unfortunately, we often spend so long waiting for the right moment that we have far too few moments. It doesn’t matter if it’s forced. Not everything is spontaneous. Sometimes you need to write down what you want to say. Sometimes you need to create the connection, not wait for the moment to happen. Moments are only as meaningful as we make them. Worry less about feeling forced or fake and create a moment that means something.

How’s that for informative?

Rob Porter, Ph.D., LMFT

Marriage Therapist/8 Crazy Nights Co-Founder, Austin TX