“It’s the most wonderful time of the year…”
Most people reading this know that song, gleefully describing the holiday season as the most wonderful time of the year. (Unless you’ve been brainwashed by Staples to now think of this as a back-to-school song, but I digress…)
Thing is…it’s not always. I have one friend who has gone on social media to tell everyone she doesn’t want to celebrate anything, she hates this time of year, and please don’t try to convince her otherwise. This is jarring to read. Immediately, my Inner Helper wanted to take her by the hand and give a tour of All The Wonders of The Holiday Season. Picking out and decorating a tree, buying and wrapping presents, writing out heartfelt holiday cards, decorating the home, holiday parties with loved and liked ones (and the occasional people in the tolerated, barely tolerated, and actively loathed categories), visiting people you care about, delicious dinners…the movies, the music, the lights!
But then I started remembering things from my childhood. The yelling. The sadness. The loneliness. The drinking. The constant vigilance. Oh, but there were TOWERS of presents. And I remember things in recent memories, like the relative who stopped talking to me again. The stress of shopping for presents and when the hell am I going to find time to wrap them all? And how to I budget for them with bills stacking up? I remember just a few days ago when, just before our third attempt to find a tree, I told my husband that I was close to feeling like I just wanted to skip the fucking holiday, not get a tree, return all the presents, and sleep until January.
For the past 21 years, I’ve been putting bells on my shoes on December 11th until December 25th. Some people love them, some hate them, but you’ll never lose me in a store (unless I’m being playful or having an anxiety attack. Newsflash: bells come off.) Anyway, it’s December 16th and I have yet to put the bells on. Some years, I just don’t feel it.
I also think about the fact that there’s less sun and I feel sadder. And that all the extra pressure of expectations and money and joy and goodwill is so…stressful. This is the time of year where you have to show how you feel…through presents. This is the time of year where we’re reminded on every street corner and in every grocery store to give to the poor…as if they cease to exist the other 11 months of the year. This is the time of year where children’s eyes light up at piles of stuff under the tree…and it all means less as they tear through one package to the next. As Jim Carrey said in his role as the Grinch in the movie with the same title, “the avarice never ends.”
There’s also the fact that there’s been friction between me and my husband. Disagreements, fights, bad choices. The holidays have been notoriously tough for him and his family. Work pressure and frustration on both our parts. This is the time of year where everyone’s getting sick and it seems that my husband and I can’t go for more than a week without one of us being sick.
Visiting people or people visiting means cleaning, or packing, or time taken out of a normal routine, possibly less money, if there’s missed work. And sometimes the cleaning is in the forms of piles of stuff you already have that you have to organize and go through…to make room for more stuff.
After all this thinking, I just started crying. It’s so much. So much to keep track of, to pack into one month, to expect of others and ourselves. I can understand why my friend just doesn’t want any part of it.
And then I read things like one of my favorite musicians having an online concert to raise money for one of her fans who lost everything in a house fire this past weekend. (If you like folksy, bluesy, heartfelt rock – check out Crystal Bowersox. And that concert is for December 16th, 2015) I remember that there is good in this world and to be thankful that I didn’t just lose everything in a housefire. That I am in an apartment that we can pay for, that we have healthcare, each other, a fuckton of loved and likes ones, enough tolerated ones to keep life interesting, a car, possibility for another car, electronics that make our lives possible, and many other things that are good.
Perspective. That helps. I’m not in a bad childhood anymore. I’m an adult and as my sister told me recently, I have more control than I realize. No one fully knows what they’re doing. And yes, I could skip the holidays if I wanted to. That’s anyone’s personal choice. But I do like certain things. So I find time to turn on the movies I like, wrap some presents, fill out some cards, decorate a little here and there, and remind myself it doesn’t have to be perfect. There’s no One Twue Way to do the holidays. Some years will be happier than others, some will be harder than others, and not everyone shares the same idea of what’s “wonderful”.