Christmas Day was been a rather mixed up bag of emotions. Indeed, the entire season has been the worst for me in years as I’ve reflected on years long since dead and have come to realize that Christmas is when I learned how to hurt.
It’s no secret that I come from a broken home. It isn’t even a source of shame for me as I realized a long time ago that my mom leaving my dad was the best thing that she could have ever done for me and my brother. I’m a stronger person for what my mom did.
Actions are not without consequences, though, and my dad’s family, most of them anyway, took their frustrations with my mom out on me and my brother. They weren’t physically abusive. They simply chose to ignore us for the most part.
Unless, of course, they could get something out of us. I remember going out of my way as a high school student and working the first time at Wendy’s buying my aunts Christmas gifts and making treat bags for my cousins. The ones I got gifts for never reciprocated the gesture. The main reason given was that they had their own children to buy for, which is understandable. But why ask your teenage niece for something but not get her something in return? Why buy for your nephews, of whom you have more of, but not your niece? And if I complained about it, I was told it’s better to give than to receive. Shouldn’t that standard have worked both ways?
The Christmas season is where I learned to hurt, to really, really hurt, that I only had value if I was being super giving but expecting nothing in return. It took my mother to tell me that I didn’t have to buy for everyone, that there were certain people who I should buy for but everyone else was optional.
The first time I enjoyed Christmas after the divorce was the first time I worked at the first nursing home to employ me. I didn’t buy anything for anyone beyond immediate family and my grandmother. There was no pressure for me to buy, to be anywhere else. It was great. I’d given my grandmother her gift, spent Christmas Eve with my dad and stepmother, and Christmas with my mother.I can’t begin to tell you how great that was, how relieved I was to have that pressure taken away from me, and it was also the year we had to shut the dining rooms down because the majority of the residents had become ill. It was messy, disgusting, but it was still one of the best holidays I’d had in . . . I don’t know how long. Christmases, when I was a kid, were definitely a time to look forward to, before the divorce, but the day after Christmas wasn’t. Anywhere from December 26 through January 1st, if my dad got mad at me, my mom, or my brother, he took the Christmas decorations down as punishment. That changed the first Christmas we had after my mom kicked him out, but the holidays were still rough between the aforementioned greediness of two of my aunts and uncle on my dad’s side and the caught in between two warring factions, thanks to my dad.
It’s been a really long time since the holidays have managed to depress me as much as this year has. By no means is my situation with my family anything spectacular. Wanting our families to like us is ingrained into us, but our families should also be doing what they can to make sure we like them, too. This year, however, has been exceptionally rough as I’ve faced what has been the actual cause for my dislike of the holidays. Add in that I do suffer from depression and anxiety (both of which I keep hidden quite well), add in that I worked two jobs where I dealt with the public, and overwhelmed and saddened doesn’t begin to cut it. Stressed out doesn’t begin to cut it. The two weeks leading up to Christmas itself were extremely tiring, stressful, and worrisome, which led to five days of my nose bleeding. The last nosebleed was my wake up call on how things in my life need to change.
I spent most of my day on Christmas at work lamenting a lot of things. I didn’t want to be at work. I’d mentioned to my mother after checking in on my dad on Facebook (short version: there was a mudslide in the Philippines; my dad had mentioned going there for Christmas to meet his “child” fiance’ (she’s 24; he’s 65 so he’s old enough to be her grandfather) and her eight-year-old son; at least 100 people were killed in this mudslide; given he is my dad, I wanted to be sure he was okay. I was worried) that he’d had surgery. So he’s not in the Philippines. He’s safe, in Michigan, but not talking to me. He hasn’t spoken to me in almost two months, not even to wish me Merry Christmas or Happy Holidays. He once complained that he feels like his children don’t care about him. We don’t reach out to talk to him or anything. He doesn’t know what’s going on in our lives. And, because of the type of family that they are, because it’s somehow me
, I’m the one expected to reach out, to exert myself mentally, emotionally, and spiritually to a person who refused to tell me earlier this year why he was having surgery, that he was more worried about me and my brothers approving of his new soon-to-be bride, when he’s never cared about our opinions before, and we’re expected to be the ones to say, hey, Dad, I’ve got this going on. I’ve done this, too, and I’ve had my dad change the subject to something that was more important to him. It’s like, that’s not why . . . and you just give up. Then there are the family expectations of “he’s your dad, you should . . .”
It’s a two-way street, my friends. If people want to know why I haven’t contacted my dad since I left Michigan in November, I want to know why he hasn’t contacted me. If he feels like I don’t care or won’t care, that’s on him. I can’t deal with his attempts to guilt me into doing things that are toxic. And my dad is toxic. I’ve held on after years of stating I’m done, I can’t do this anymore, I don’t want anything to do with him anymore, all because other people believe that I’ll regret my decision to cut ties with him.
And that may be so. However, he’s not dead, not yet. And it works two ways.
Part of my trigger for my depression on Christmas was me telling my mother about the surgery then getting ready to leave, and she’s handing me this 1.25L of Coca-Cola because she’s gotten us drinks as part of our stockings for Christmas. I hadn’t had any colas for two weeks, it was a little freaky because she didn’t know that I’d quit drinking sodas (again), and I was moved by her efforts. She’s not a perfect mother by any means – I don’t know of any mother that is – but it moved me that she’s at least trying. And my dad has given up. He wants what he wants but puts no effort into getting what he wants, or, if he does, it’s because he’s trapped by the toxicity that is his life.
I love my dad, but I really don’t like him much anymore. I’ve held on because others have insisted and because a small, twisted part of me wants to save him when he doesn’t want to be awakened, when he’s content in the negative ick that clings to his persona, and I can’t do that anymore. I have too much life and positive energy in me to spend it on someone who can’t be bothered to even attempt a small act of kindness anymore.
After a long holiday season working a restaurant and a retail job, I’m mentally exhausted. I really felt it on Christmas. But then I realized I had beauty around me. I was actually surrounded by more people I liked more than I disliked, and I had the makings of my own family. I have my work kids, many of whom are working on improving their lives, on becoming these beacons of hope and positive energy, and who actually believe I’m a wonderful person, who actually see the hard work I put into my life, the efforts I make to be a better person. I am so very grateful to these wonderful young people.
One other thing that occurred to me during this holiday season, another lending factor to my loathing (not depression) of the holidays in general is how in-your-face the holidays have become. If you’re not in the holiday spirit, you’re automatically shamed for it. People don’t always care about the underlying reasons or that they’re even contributing factors for people hating the holidays. We are born into this culture where the holidays are celebrated. As children, we’re taught it’s the greatest time of the year because it’s the one time of the year where we get tons and tons of presents. Our birthdays pale in comparison to this magical holiday of Christmas. Yes, if we have siblings, we have to share the presents under the tree, but, man, our hauls are fantastic on this day. We’re taught from an early to be greedy around this time of year. (Think of the Dursleys from Harry Potter, my friends, and their bully son. That’s what I have seen the holidays become over the years, where threats of you gotta be good or Santa Claus won’t come means little or next to nothing anymore.)
Personally, it doesn’t bother me if people want to celebrate the holidays. What does bother me is when they get shitty with waitstaff or retail workers because something’s not the way they want it or the price isn’t coming out to what they want it to be. It also bothers me when they demand that I be in the same holiday spirit that they are when I’m not feeling the joy of the season because my lack of festiveness makes them uncomfortable. I get it, too, that such people are stressed out. Money is a huge, huge factor into everything going into the holidays, from decorations and presents to travel and baking. I guarantee those who have never worked in retail or a restaurant that those who do are just as stressed out by the holidays as everyone else. But being a dick and demanding that other people be happy and jolly for your sake is a great way to kill any potential joy those people are trying to feel.
If you want to celebrate, great. Celebrate! Eat, drink, and be merry. If you’re stressed out about how to afford the holidays, make a plan for next year. Find ways to destress, be it picking up items throughout the year or taking a lengthy bubblebath or enjoying a glass of wine in a moment of solitude. Destress yourselves, not distress and stress yourself. This year, for Christmas, it was awesome for me because I’d told my mom last Christmas (after she kept repeating herself that she didn’t have a lot of money to spend on gifts) that I’d be perfectly happy with crocheted gifts, and that’s precisely what I got a lot of. That speaks volumes to me because that’s something no one else can replicate, no matter how hard they try. I could give her a huge list for 2018, and I’d make it a huge list of crocheted items, just to see what she could accomplish from now until next December.
Finally, if you’re not into celebrating the holidays, that’s great, too. Because I get it. I truly do. It’s hard to be happy and joyous when our world is plunging into chaos, and we have family members who want to make it a requirement to celebrate. That’s how we hurt our loved ones.
I don’t know what the upcoming year is going to bring. I know I need to make some changes in my life, one of which is great healing on the mental, emotional, and spiritual levels. Dietary changes are also another must for me. I already have my resolution for the upcoming year, which is simply to be a better person than I was the day before. And that means forgiving myself for when I slip but not giving up just because I have slipped up.
In the meantime, it’s Thursday for me, which means getting things done and resting up a bit. Have a great rest of your day, my friends.