Christmas Things

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As whichever two of you it is who read my blog have probably noticed, I haven’t really been writing this month. I always have this thought in my brain that on my vacation I will be particularly productive. I will get all the writing done that I don’t have time for during the rest of the year. I’ll read all the books, I’ll watch all the movies. None of it ever happens quite like I think. I do tend to read more and watch (somewhat) more but never in the way I initially plan.

I essentially never write more.

I suppose that when I am on break, I am looking for an actual break. I work pretty hard during my time in school and I guess it makes sense that when I have time off I don’t want to think as much. Still. It’s always disappointing.

That said, I felt like writing tonight so I figured I would grab the moment.

This has been a remarkably good month. I choose my words carefully there, because it in fact feels pretty remarkable to me.

Christmas 1

I feel like it was in another lifetime that I really loved Christmas. Like truly, truly loved Christmas. I was one of those people who waited every year until Thanksgiving night so that I could finally play Christmas music. I often started my shopping in July. I own — somewhere in a closet — one of those giant, inflatable lawn ornaments in the shape of a penguin, as well as a full set of light-up snowmen for a walkway. Tacky? Maybe a little. But there are things that are tacky and adorable in equal measure.

I know that for a lot of people who come from emotionally traumatizing and abusive backgrounds the holidays can be a major trigger point. I was unusual in this sense. My family was a mess and I struggled with a lot of things, but Christmas was different for us. My mother truly loved Christmas. She was happier at Christmas, and that meant we all were happier. Her lift in mood meant the whole house felt lighter. I didn’t really understand that was why Christmas felt so magical, but I knew that it did.

That really  had not been true for the last few years before I broke things off with my parents. There were several Christmases where things got worse and worse. I felt suffocated just being in the same house with them, I started making plans to spend most of Christmas Day at someone else’s house and one year I was so overwhelmed that I left for their house (an over two hour drive) at 1am just to be out of there. It was, for me, actually one of the more drastic pressures on me as things fell apart. I couldn’t imagine being so miserable on Christmas.

My first Christmas on my own, I was terrified. I didn’t know what was going to happen. I still thought of myself as Someone Who Loves Christmas. Again, maybe that sounds silly, but it was actually a huge part of my identity. It was something people knew about me. And now I was scrambling. I knew I could not spend it alone.

I’ll admit that first Christmas didn’t work out well. I spent it with someone who was not in an emotionally healthy place themselves and I don’t think we did particularly well by each other. I was depressed and anxious. I just wanted it to be over.

Last year I decided it would be different. I would spend it primarily alone and I would just not pay much attention to it. That would be okay. I wouldn’t be frightened of that, I would accept that was what was happening. For years that was one of the worst case scenarios I could imagine — to be alone on Christmas. So here I would do it and I would be okay.

It helped that David and the Superhero were not gone very long last year. They were in fact home until Christmas Day, as I recall. So I did see them some throughout the time. But I spent the day of Christmas watching action movies that had no Christmas theme whatsoever. I made myself spaghetti. I stayed in pajamas all day. I was nice to myself.

I was okay.

Twelve months ago I began to think that maybe this is what I would do for the rest of my life. Maybe I was not Someone Who Loved Christmas anymore. After all, I no longer believed in God so there was no religious element. I had effectively orphaned myself, and my Friend Family (who it should be mentioned, are some of the most wonderful people on this planet, and we have a yearly Christmas celebration of our own within a few days before the actual holiday) had blood family obligations of their own on the actual day. Even with presents, I was starting to feel a little worn on. The whole commercialism aspect, which was something I had never focused on at all before, suddenly seemed painfully apparent everywhere I looked.

When I imagined that as my life, I thought perhaps that wasn’t the worst thing. Perhaps it was okay to change my identity in that way, to change how I related to holidays and such. I thought I’d wait and see.

That was a really long build up for this year, but I felt the backstory was needed. The point is that this year something has definitely shifted. Not just in relation to Christmas but in myself. I haven’t had any emotional breakdowns, no panic attacks or even undue moments of melancholy. I have been remarkably happy and adjusted. I feel relieved, I feel strong, and I feel proud of myself.

David helped me get a tree this year. We were going to put up more lights, on the banisters, in my room. That didn’t happen this year but I am okay with that. I’ll save them, put them away in a Christmas box in the garage. Next year I’ll be living here and there will be less shopping to do. Next year I can plan more effectively, and I will. Right now there is a tree a few feet over from me and it is covered in ornaments, some of which I’ve had for a year, some of which I’ve had for 30. I am happy it is there. It soothes me.

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This is our tree, Ned!

I bought presents for almost everyone this year. I felt effective and on top of it. While they were not necessarily completely required presents, and I wrestled a little with commercialism thoughts, I mostly felt good about my ability to pick the right gifts. I didn’t spend too much. I’ll start earlier next year.

Finally, this Christmas I won’t be alone. I will be spending it with a new friend, L. We have plans to drink and talk, make Christmas ornaments (I am totally positive that this crafting thing will end in failure and I will post pictures of the results), eat delicious things and watch fun movies. It’s a really great plan. It’s going to be our Atheist Christmas.

I spent almost 30 years of my life connected to Christmas tradition. I loved what I had, and it was one of the things that consistently brought me joy. Probably there will always be a few traditions I will love (like buying presents and being able to have some Christmas lights around) but for the rest, I think it’s okay to be flexible. Maybe I won’t know year to year what will happen. Perhaps I am still Someone Who Loves Christmas, but I am just getting more willing to expand what that means.

Christmas is one of the few parts of my upbringing I’m genuinely grateful for. But my mom made the house lighter by being happier in that season. I think I’d rather be happy all year round.

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