Crying Christmas

I wrote a couple of months ago about feeling broken at Christmas.  My words proved truer than I had anticipated.  My husband found me Christmas morning, after our breakfast of green frosted cinnamon rolls sprinkled with red sugar, after our gifts, after checking Santa’s cookie plate and his milk bottle, after seeing how the reindeer felt about spinach and broccoli in comparison to their usual carrots, in our bed, crying.  Our Covid-19 tests had come back negative and I had realized that I had been hoping one of them would be positive.  I was dreading the social interaction, the stress of the noise and bustle, the anxiety that any of us might get sick from this one day.  Having Covid-19 seemed irrationally somehow a better option.  Not only was I dealing with the weight of the rest of the day and the drain it would cause, I was also crying out all the guilt I felt that my immediate reaction was to prefer being sick over spending a day with family.  I literally rolled over into my husband’s chest and sobbed out, “what is wrong with me?  Why is this so hard?  It shouldn’t be like this. I shouldn’t be like this.”  I love my family, but it doesn’t change that big family events drain me.  Just Christmas Eve with my two kids and my husband is enough to wear me out.  Adding in additional family units, different expectations, multiple conversations occurring at one time– it saps me.  Others might be rejuvenated by it, but I’m not.  Society tells me I should love these gatherings.  It isn’t that I regret them or that I feel a day alone is wholly and unquestionably better.  But, I’d be lying if I said I was at peace, comfortable, and calm when in attendance.  That’s part of what makes Christmas unbelievably challenging.  Other times of the year, people tend to be more understanding of a person’s need for solitude, for space, for emotional recovery.  During the holidays, that self-care might hurt someone else.  Christmas is unforgiving.  It’s not like a birthday party that occurs once and doesn’t repeat itself for another year.  Christmas celebrations can spread out over multiple days with no respite.  Though I generally feel we should work towards being a more honest culture, it isn’t exactly socially acceptable to answer, “this is overwhelming and I might need to go home now” when someone asks you if you’re ok on December 25th.  Truthfully, Christmas as many people celebrate is for extroverts, but because it’s Christmas, introverts are expected to pretend to be extroverts, no matter the cost.  Just like I don’t know where I’d go to relax or vacation, I don’t really know what I’d want if given the choice to have my ideal Christmas.  I do know that I likely don’t really have the social liberty to express what I might discover if I allowed myself the opportunity to think about what I might need.  When I know that I’ll likely struggle to be happy at Christmas anyway, it seems selfish to ask for something that might hurt others.  In the back of my mind though, I do wonder, would I be happy at Christmas if I let myself make it more about me?  Am I unhappy because I don’t really know what I want or feel like I can’t have it anyway, even if I did know, or am I unhappy because my brain doesn’t work like others do at the holidays?  It’s probably all of the above, and because it’s Christmas, I’ll probably never know.  Thankfully, today is January 1st and smiles aren’t required in January, or at least less are.

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