Amber Lisa has a question: “Why does Christmas seem to drive so many of us BPers absolutely nuts?”
Amber Lisa goes on to say that she “sort of inherited crazy Christmas syndrome,” triggered by memories of Christmases past, featuring a father who would flip out this time of year. Amber was responding to my post, Sharing the Holidays with a Loved One. The one thing worse than being alone on the holidays, it seems, is sharing it with family. Donna has a nice way of framing the issue:
My Mom is blind to the fact none of us are having a good time at Christmas. She just wants to preserve the old traditions, but can't do it herself anymore. So I am conscripted to carry out her instructions. As in, "I TOLD you to keep stirring the eggs or they'll burn." Or, "It's not Christmas when that star you made when you were 8 years old isn't on top of the tree." We lost the star years ago, but every year we go through the star thing again. Reminds me of that old saying: A fool is someone who keeps doing the same thing, expecting different results. It ain't gonna happen.
My Christmas issue is the stress and anxiety of trying to meet what I think are my adult children's expectations of my role in their Christmas and the Christmas of the grandkids. Plus, the added guilt of my suicide attempt before the holiday season in 2009. That December I felt like I owed them the perfect Christmas Eve dinner and celebration at my home and it has become the tradition now.
What could go wrong with that? Read on:
It is fraught with anxiety, social awkwardness, drama (my oldest daughter and my daughter-in-law are feuding), the ugly fact that their father is no longer invited or wanted at what used to be our family holiday, juggling all of the cooking, having enough money to buy them all gifts and making sure that they have all been "equally" gifted, the dynamics that my new husband brings to the gathering, and our dog, Sam, who turns into a fireball of excitement with all of the people in the house ...
Of-Two-Minds acknowledged she will be taking an anxiety pill that day, but maybe she won’t have to next year. It seems she got talking with a colleague, who also hates Christmas, who advised that ...
... I do what she does - just pick out the things of Christmas that I do enjoy or can handle and skip the rest. She doesn't Christmas shop, send out greeting cards, or host a family dinner. She makes cookies with the grandkids, buys gift cards, and has dinner at her daughter's house. They don't stay for long, and then she and her husband leave town for a little vacation, wiping the "dust of Christmas" off their shoes as they go.
Sounds like a plan. Dinner at someone else’s place. Just bring cookies. Leave early. In the meantime, two of our readers stressed the need for keeping the holidays real. From Alfredo:
Christmas for me is the celebration of being alive and of being human, of being able to feel and be emotional and see the beauty that is life.
Does not matter if you feel awkward or find it hard to celebrate. As long as we are happy and our heart is in the right place that is all that we need. But even people who are alone can enjoy their Christmas or their own version of Christmas. Christmas is for everyone ...
And from Margaret:
For me, the Celebration is all about Baby Jesus. Going to a Christmas Eve Service, with the decorations, meaningful hymns, great choir and organ music.
In the meantime, there is the practical matter of surviving a family gathering. According to Willa:
I have enjoyed Christmas more, the less I try to do, and the more I stretch it out over a season. Remember your recovery basics - moderation in food and drink, enough sleep, keeping the energy level in check.
One thing that worked well for me this last Thanksgiving - plan ahead and communicate a fail safe plan. I told my wife before we went to the relatives' that I might go upstairs and get away from the crowd for a while. I did so a couple times, before I was a wreck, preventive maintenance. Since we had already discussed it, she could answer the questions, "No, she's okay. She's just taking a break." She wasn't worried, the family was reassured, and I didn't feel like a freak.
In response to Willa, Tabby mentioned that her family tends to roll their eyes and otherwise go on a war footing at the thought of having to make even the slightest accommodation. Willa acknowledged to Tabby that not everyone in her family is so understanding, either. Nevertheless, to maintain wellness she needs to set boundaries. Otherwise, “I have to stay away.”
The last word goes to Amber Lisa, who advocates sanity first:
I actually did learn how to think myself out of the crazy Christmas syndrome. It was a conscious choice. One year, 2008 to be precise, I decided, I will enjoy Christmas! And I did, I had a blast. The key - and this is critical - do not get caught up in the commercialism of it. Make a plan, a small plan and build on that. Be creative! Make your own tradition.
Published On: December 14, 2012
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