As a self appointed orphan, the holidays are always the hardest mental challenge for me. I don’t have the presence of my once large family of origin.
The burden of magic making for my immediate family falls mostly on my shoulders.
I feel compelled to share traditions, make magic, reach out to those who may be lonelier than me, or who may be hurting. This year though, something shifted. Maybe it’s because my daughter is now an adult and she can logically understand my reasons for not wanting to participate in commercialized hysteria. We didn’t put up a tree or stockings.
We made all of our gifts except for the few essential items we gifted each other, things we knew we needed.
Even at my business I went out on a limb and formulated my holiday marketing around normalizing a difficult relationship with this time of year, sometimes validation is the best way we can comfort one another. I used honesty around some of the difficulties we all face around family, expectation and gift giving. I opened up my space as a safe place to hide out even if just for an hour. I appreciated every person who came to classes with a knowing look in their eye,
as if we were about to be sucked into a fun house at the fair, one that we’ve visited frequently and although it seems fun we know the price we pay for each jolt of surprise and “fun”.
I made sure to regularly post encouraging messages on my social media, “you don’t have to participate in anything that taxes your mental health”. I knew I wasn’t the only one who “gasp” hates this time of year. It just reminds me of loss, loneliness and rejection. I’d rather skip it, to be honest. Don’t get me wrong, I love the spirit of giving, the ways people come together to help eachother out.
But this time of year idealizes family togetherness and for those of us who don’t want to be together with our abusive families it is an inescapable reminder that we don’t have what “everyone” else has.
As strong as I am and as much as I know I don’t have to buy into those narratives, the holiday season is a reckless dive into inescapable pressure to be happy. I did all I could to avoid as much as I could. But inevitably there were a few events that I had an obligation to. Parties, family gatherings, and ofcourse shopping at the mall.
I am usually impressed with my super human ability to keep myself safe and comforted in the face of difficulty, but the holidays are no match for me. I still ended up sitting alone in my car on Christmas at midnight, crying.
Not like a sad little tear kind of crying, this was full on snot rolling down my face ugly crying – and you know what? I need to. I needed to fully acknowledge how painful, empty and mentally taxing the holidays are for me even if everyone else loves them.
Part of the recipe for my holiday survival is allowing myself to feel it all. The discomfort, the anxiety, the fear, the anger, the sadness and yes, the grief.
I let myself drink wine, I eat foods that I normally avoid even if they upset my stomach, I give myself permission to disrupt my strict sleeping schedule so that my brain can explore the full spectrum of what I am feeling. I sleep in, with warm blankets. I let others bring me warm drinks, I let my friends know that I am low. They check in and I check in on them. I also let go of any obligations to show up for anything that I don’t have to. I take time off, and I am ruthless. I let my staff know that unless the studio is burning down I don’t want any contact, my brain needs to shut down from thinking about certain things.
I do all of this so that these ghosts don’t haunt me all year long. I do it so that I can be free, sometimes. And I do it to comfort myself, to validate myself and to keep myself healthy in a difficult time.