There are some people (and I think of my Mom when I say this, because she's an awesome Christmas nut), who are abundantly happy, excited, joyful, cherubic and celebratory the moment a sniff in the air of the impending holidays comes around. They will start singing Christmas songs the moment Thanksgiving dinner is polished off, the turkey limp and sad in the middle of the table. The tree may even be up BEFORE Thanksgiving! (Here's lookin' at YOU Mom)....
But what if the moment the commercials start and the music shows up, there you are in Target, perusing the houseware section YET AGAIN when you just came in for a box of Tampax.... and a pang of dread punches you in the gut? What if awful things have happened to you during the holiday season and no matter how far you've come, what you've accomplished or how long it's been, the holidays just....SUCK for you?
For me, chilly air and the breaking out of decorations reminds me of lying face down on my bedroom floor for two days, crying and vomiting my innards until I couldn't move.
Carrying a hardy little embryo in my belly while I could barely eat and my hair started falling out from pure depression. Anxiety that was so debilitating I made medication errors at work in the emergency room because I literally could. not. function. And nobody knew a thing, they probably just figured it was my turn for a spin on the crazy train.
From Thanksgiving to New Years, almost every single awful thing that has ever happened in my life, happened in those five flipping weeks. My grandmother died December 11th, in front of me at age five. My grandfather died November 21st, in front of me, at age 13.
My other grandfather, God bless his funny, sarcastic self, was thoughtful enough to pass away in the summer. He must have known it may have put his eldest grandchild over the edge.
Almost every single time I was not the ex's primary love interest (like what I did there?), I found out in this same time period. It got to be like, a big "screw you" to you, holidays. You are terrible.
Christmas for years as a burgeoning adult was a massive financial strain because I was raised on big Christmases and BY GOD IN MY MIND THAT HAD TO CONTINUE, I DIDN'T NEED THAT LOBE OF MY LIVER ANYWAY. (Five ER night shifts in a row don't exactly make you a pleasant human to be around--when you were around--either).
And now, here I am with this blessed, blessed life. My husband is the most gracious gift I could have ever imagined, my children are healthy, happy and just plain awesome little goobers, my job is one I could do forever, I love it that much. My parents are retired and happy and live close by, I have the best in-laws anyone could ever want, I have JESUS, for heaven's sake and am in love with my God, and He with me.....(even when I say a sampling of words found on George Carlin's Seven Dirty Words in my blog posts, I'll bet! Yay, God!)
And yet I have not shaken the anxiety that creeps up from somewhere visceral and takes over erupting in all-over chills, the lack of enthusiasm and bitter sadness I fight, the overwhelming stress that punches me at random moments.
I can walk in a Walmart and maybe the set up of that Walmart reminds me of the one that I was shopping in when (insert tragic event here) was going on, or like the one across the street from the cemetery my grandparents are buried in, and I'm back there emotionally.
Or the air is just the right temperature--cold enough to make me remember a conversation where I was told to talk a mistress out of an abortion (Dude--I was totally living a Lifetime Movie ya'll--) while I stood in my yard, shivering violently and staring at the blinking Christmas lights of my neighbors, in my pajamas, so my son wouldn't hear me. Wondering if that was what other Moms were doing that particular night. My guess--probably not.
And although I would certainly go through it all again to know the present joy, as I've said many times, it is damn hard to snuff out the leftovers of being shaken a bit.
And so I let it be. I might cry a minute over the struggle to rebuild my self-confidence that got blown to bits. I'll say thank you to God for dismantling a lonely existence to rebuild it into something I thought I'd never have. Or revisit the day my Nana died and recall that I had fought with her and yelled at her in my five year old voice (though I told her I loved her and kissed her goodbye). And so I sit in my car and grieve her again, 34 years later.
It's my holiday experience, I'll do what I want.
And then, I think of all of the Christmases that have been so joy-filled and wonderful; the majority of my life, and how that started again last year, the happy out-edging the anxiety for the first time in a long time. I was able to start sitting in quiet moments looking at the lit tree again, like when I was little, and let my mind take inventory of an already adventurous and full life.
For some of us, the holidays will always have an undercurrent of not awesome. Some of you are alone, and miss the days of family Christmases years ago. You chalk it up to just another day. Some of you are surrounded by people and feel isolated and alone, maybe bearing some hurt from the past. Some people are with big families but it's not all sunshine and rainbows and you leave there feeling small and unimportant because Aunt Bonnie said something shitty again.
(This is where celebrating Festivus comes in quite handy---break out the pole and prepare to unleash in the Airing of Grievances portion).
So all I can say is, YOU AREN'T ALONE IN IT! If you have to call it "just another day" or "just another season", then so BE it!
Take inventory of your blessings, donate blankets to homeless people. Love people (not the shitty ones--just do that from afar with a long, sharply fashioned stick if you must--you know, a little poke and say "well, glad you didn't die even though I think you often are a terrible person") and focus on the Reason for the Season, Mr. Jesus Himself, who isn't ever going to let us down, even when we're super mad and blaming Him for the stuff that was never even His fault. Grieve if you need to. Punch the Hallmark Channel and it's sappy stories in the face. Or ignore the holidays and everyone else and get tanked on Stella wine while wearing no pants and binge-watching Friends (but don't you dare fricking drive). Whatever you have to do to persevere.
And remember that January is just around the corner and everyone can stop acting like wackjobs (or their tapered-down version anyway) for 10 blissful months. We'll get through it.
Make your Merry!!! Whatever it looks like! I'm totally there to high-five whatever it is (just don't kill anyone and also say no to drugs).
We're all in this together, and in the wise words of one Mrs. Ellen Griswold:
Love and Blessings, no matter what.