Before I met The Daver, I loved the holidays. When I say loved, I mean LOVED, the kind of love that implies that I would be happiest in my life if I could stay home, make babies with Christmas, hump the leg of Easter every night, and make sweet (yet spooky!) love to Halloween. It was a time of year that I revered: from the sparkling lights to the tacky blow-up house decorations, I loved it all. In my mind, they could have played Christmas music 24 by 7 by 365 and I would have said nothing aside from “CRANK THAT PUPPY TO 11!”
And while I use my chance meeting of The Daver as a marker for When Good Holidays Go Bad, it’s not really his fault (somewhere, perhaps on a train, he is sitting in shock, mouth agape that I would NOT blame him for something). But with the addition of The Daver meant a whole extra set of people with a whole extra set of restrictions as to when and where holidays could be celebrated.
That coupled with the aging of Ben in addition to the extra set of restrictions that celebrating with Nat’s family implied, meant that the holidays had gone from being something that I just showed up with gifts and cookies for into a carefully orchestrated several weeks in which every spare nanosecond was accounted for.
Our holiday schedule went something like this: drive three hours into Wisconsin for breakfast at precisely 9 AM at specific diner where we all had to eat pancakes and sausage (it IS Wisconsin, arguably the sausage capitol of the world. Or something.), sit for exactly and hour and fifteen minutes with 2 bathroom breaks. Then loop through the upper peninsula of Michigan to climb the warthog infested mountain of snow in order to secure the holy grail of rare beer for XX family member. Stop for gas and bathroom break on way to Arizona to drop of package for other family member who’d forgotten to mail it. At 11 PM, on the way home, finally have lunch at an oasis McDonald’s.
We came back from that first holiday, The Holiday Of The Ghost Of Our Future, and I wept openly for several hours while Dave chewed his nails and paced the floors. We were both just tapped out and exhausted, and as for Ben, he was so overwrought and inconsolable that this ickle expenditure undid about 3 months worth of previous therapy.
And after a lengthy, exhausted discussion we came to two realizations:
1) We did it to ourselves when we stopped saying The ‘N’ Word when asked to participate in holiday this or that.
2) We would not do this again to ourselves or our family. Rather than saying “Yes” to the question of if we COULD do something, we’d decide it based upon the idea that we SHOULD.
So, in an effort to cut ourselves neatly out of any possible inheritance, we stopped agreeing to do everything we were asked to do for the holidays. COULD we do something? Probably. But SHOULD we? Not at all.
The Daver and I have put on our thinking caps and tried just about every combination of Possible Holiday Merriment that would allow us even the slightest hint of joy during a time of year that is supposedly all about joy, and each and every year, we break down and weep openly (okay, this is a SLIGHT exaggeration). It’s just not possible to Do It All and still enjoy the holidays that I once treasured.
And the kicker of the whole thing is this: we run ragged to appease everyone for a good reason. They all just want to see us and spend time with us. ALL AT ONCE. While this is completely admirable (I mean who wouldn’t want to spend time with us? WE’RE FULL OF AWESOME.), it’s also completely unfair this particular year.
So I put my foot down and used the dreaded ‘N’ word yet again. Rather than celebrate Christmas 5 different times (for poor Ben this would now be 7 times, and not a soul is divorced here), I said no.
The kicker for the whole situation is this: while I know that this is The Right Thing To Do For My Family, I still feel guilty about not being able to do it all. I gave myself a pass on all of the normal holiday shit that I love to do (read: cookies and cards and fancy wrapping paper) and am not doing because I’m barely functioning anymore. And yet, using the ‘N’ word this time, is making me feel just terrible.
Like I’ve used the “I have my period” card twice in a month to get out of swimming class.
I guess I don’t get it. Why does doing the right thing for my family make me feel so bad?
How do you guys manage the holidays with all of the assorted obligations–and guilt, let’s not forget guilt–that come as naturally with it as Bing Crosby? Is it something that you just suck up and deal with (thereby making you unhappy) for the sake of pleasing other people? Or have you used the ‘N’ word and decided that the holidays being about family means YOU too?