The holidays are my husband’s favorite time of year. He loves decorating, shopping for gifts, wrapping presents, and seeing people’s faces when they open what he’s gotten them. He loves Christmas trees, Advent calendars, Christmas stories, claymation specials; any thing Christmas related- he’s on it. He refers to Christmas movies simply as “Christmases”.
“Do you want to watch a Christmas?” he’ll say and usually make hot cocoa or some kind of seasonal drink.
This year, he has instituted the celebration of the 12 days of Christmas, which lead up to the Sunday of Epiphany (the liturgical celebration of the wise men coming to see Jesus). We will bake a King Cake and hide a baby figure in it, I’m sure.
I am not like him. Holidays make me anxious and feel more depressed than usual. I am learning to relax and enjoy myself, but sometimes I just can’t do it, I can’t- Christmas.
I know that, sadly, more people feel like me every year than feel like Doug. He is a rare and curious creature, and I am continuously confused by his fascination with me.
Regardless, a lot of us feel more and more like the holidays are a giant parade of plastered on smiles and over spending; a long stretch of tireless activity meant to please someone else. But whom?
Whom are we trying so hard to please?
Family? Friends? Co-Workers? Eager Children? Santa Claus?
Who is asking us to show up, to perform, why do we feel pressured and coerced?
I know that my family loves me no matter what day it is. I have loving parents, siblings, friends, and a spouse. But, why do the holidays make me so sad?
I know that personally, they feel like a giant highlighter brushing across years of terrible holidays. The older I get, the more painful the memories become. The more I realize the dark shadows above the times where it was seemingly a matter of life and death to show up, perform, and look happy. The glitter of the holidays did little to cover up the horror of the rest of the year and little to sooth the tensions that sought to rip me apart. The eggshells I walked on got thinner around holiday time. Things were, in fact, worse.
One year, I was raped on Christmas Eve and I honestly expected Santa to save me.
I have to make a conscious effort to focus on the here-and-now. I am making new, better, memories. It is difficult to be glum around Doug any day of the year, but sometimes the joy the season brings to my husband stings. How can something make one person so rosy-cheeked-happy and make another person so dismal?
It isn’t a matter of “pulling myself up by the bootstraps” it’s hard work that isn’t to be taken lightly.
Redefining this time of year is difficult even if you have little ones to distract you and cookies to bake and parties to attend.
I guess where I’m going with this is simple, make time to be sad. You don’t have to be a sugar plum until the second of January.
You have permission to grieve loss or suffering, no matter the season. You don’t have to put on a show for anyone.
But also, make time to be distracted, to lose yourself in the season, to make new memories, no matter how difficult it was to get out the door- or even out of bed.
The holidays don’t have to be awful forever. But it’s okay if they’re awful for a while.
If anything, at midnight on New Year’s Eve, toast to your survival.
Congratulations, you made it out alive enough.
Tree photo credit: <a href=”https://www.flickr.com/photos/madcitycat/3123664163/”>cathyse97</a> via <a href=”http://photopin.com”>photopin</a> <a href=”http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nd/2.0/”>cc</a>
Champagne photo credit: <a href=”https://www.flickr.com/photos/ackdoh/8586226215/”>ackdoh</a> via <a href=”http://photopin.com”>photopin</a> <a href=”http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-sa/2.0/”>cc</a>