This year I found that somehow the holidays were too much and not enough.
I keep thinking I should be reveling in the magic of the season. After all, I have a healthy family including a sweet three-year-old daughter and six-year-old son.
But somehow, day after day of this holiday “break,” I find myself on edge, snappy, stressed, and even hopeless.
I have been doing all the things to get out of the funk, letting myself rest, exercising, even doing a little art. But somehow the sadness creeps through, until yesterday while driving in my car, I finally let myself ask, “What is under this?” I was able to answer—to uncover the rawness beneath the skin of my surface annoyance.
As a kid, I always desired busy holidays with lots of cousins and family and parties like friends had. Instead, our Christmases consisted more of my mom’s boyfriend who, on more than one occasion, decided he didn’t feel like doing Christmas that year.
So, it would be my mom and I sitting alone on the floor, unwrapping the couple of gifts we got each other. We were fairly poor—food stamps, energy assistance poor. My mom worked hard, was stressed, and often unstable and unreliable at her worst. At her best, she was loving and kind and showed deep love. The kind you know is there always but is masked frequently with immature, and at times, scary behavior.
One year when I was in high school, my brother was also deployed to Iraq, adding layers of guilt and worry on top of a bleak moment. This is the Christmas I think of when I look back. The utter despair and emptiness I felt as I promised myself I’d create a happier life as an adult.
I married into a big family and thought that with that came a promise of robust, busy holidays—and sometimes that is the case. But the pandemic added to other life dynamics meant a quiet nuclear holiday this year. I do better with the busy, bustling times overall, but my body and soul still remember the disappointment and sadness that accompanied this season as a kid.
It creeps in and manifests in different ways—tearfulness, grumpiness, disappointment are just the beginning.
A solid, loving parental figure, my grandma, Evelyn, died seven years ago on January 1st. Her place felt like love, relaxation, care, and acceptance. I’ve yet to find another like it—even my own home.
I’m not sure that I will.
I have to keep myself here from writing some sort of “it’s not that bad, here’s the silver lining, I’m so lucky and privileged” section of this. While those things are true and fit somewhere, they don’t fit here.
I have to let myself feel what sits under there—acknowledge the shitt*ness. It might help or it might hurt worse. Probably both, but I can’t move an inch forward without digging into the soft spot.