I have a theory that many of us are our shittiest selves at the holidays. Our mental illnesses seem to be inflamed. We stick our feet in our mouths more. We lose patience in lines and behave badly to strangers. We drink too much. We fall into the same tired, ugly arguments with our loved ones that have made our family gatherings shitty for eons. Maybe it’s just me, but talking to others, I think I am not alone. It’s like, all that joy and love and togetherness is just too much stimulation. There’s too many holiday events to go to, too many presents to wrap, too many people wanting a piece of our time–it’s too much pressure. TOO MUCH.
Last year, I finally said I had had enough and put my foot down. I realized it had been years since I had actually enjoyed Christmas. I was trying to help everyone around me have a great holiday, not wanting to let anyone down. Almost all our family lives in town, so everyone wants us to come over for a family event, which means multiple family events at Christmas time. And the kids seemed happy, and our parents seemed happy. But I was finding that every year I dreaded Christmas more and more. I was letting myself down, I guess. And I was getting angrier and more stressed out and more overwhelmed every year. Which made me my shittiest self to the people around me.
So, I called my parents and I said, “We’re not doing Christmas with you. It’s not that we don’t love you, it’s that I hate Christmas now and I hope by dialing it waaaaaaay down, I will learn to like it again.” My parents were understanding, and sounded genuinely concerned about me when I told them this, so they didn’t give me grief about our choice. My big sister was even more understanding, I think her response was “good for you for taking care of yourself and your family.” (She kinda kicks ass. What do I mean, kinda.)
And that’s why we had a very quiet Christmas last year. We didn’t drive all over town to 100 different holiday parties in December for all the different wings of our family. And on Christmas Day, it was just the four of us in our PJ’s, enjoying each other and the gifts we had received and watching A Christmas Story over and over. It was pretty damn awesome and when people asked me how it was, I told them, “It was FANTASTIC. BEST CHRISTMAS EVER.”
I can’t even begin to tell you how many of our friends expressed jealousy at our lovely quiet Christmas. Like, honestly, I was surprised how many people, of all ages, are doing the Christmas rounds out of a sense of obligation instead of because it brings them joy. Actually, it seemed to me that the world was made up of a mix of people who really DO get joy from all the hustle and bustle of the holidays, and they are always happy to squeeze one more sleigh ride into their holiday schedule–those folks were shocked that I would want to be alone with the Hubs and the Kids on Christmas–and people like me, who were pretending to be the first people and wondering why they found no joy at the holidays.
I guess what I am saying is, if you feel like you aren’t your best self at the holidays, and you aren’t finding your joy in celebrating them, you aren’t alone. And this Christmas, my wish for you is a family as understanding as mine about my need to de-stress my life, and the courage to tell the people in your life that you love them, but you are going to dial it down for the holidays from now on.
Happy Holidays, you guys!