Listen. I'm not one to ever come out against presents. I love sea turtle calendars just as much, if not more than the average person, but I really need society to get the hell away from me with this whole "let's be jolly" thing.
This is not the most wonderful time of the year. Not for many of us -- not even for most of us, I'd posit. As a season, a hunk of time to endure, it's not even on the same spectrum as "wonderful." Far, far from it.
That stated, if Christmas and/or Hanukkah and/or New Year's and/or Kwanzaa and/or Chrismukkah and/or any other manifestation of this season is your thing, hey, I'm not here to judge. Do you. Enjoy yourself. May dancing snowflakes rain down upon you, may you find yourself next to some slice of hotness under the mistletoe, may you not burn yourself on the menorah as you take all of the latkes gleefully to the face.
But for my part, I'll be decking no halls. I'll not be tuning in to watch Rudolph or crafting any snowballs. Hell, I won't even give your Love Actually thinkpiece a read.
You see, I can't. Because I'm currently constructing and taking up residence in some intentionally Christmas-free catacombs in my mind. It's not that I am a living Scrooge who hates the holidays. I am no curmudgeon. It's just that the second I hear some tone-deaf carolers droning on about some diminutive drummer boy, this little compartmentalization-tastic house of cards I'm inhabiting starts shaking, falling apart. And I fare better when I more fully inhabit a land where the holiday season isn't present.
I don't hate the holidays; I'm pretending they don't exist.
Sure, there are no reindeer here in my little catacomb. I can offer no tinsel, no tiny flashing lights. Not even a scant good tiding. But for me this is a needed respite, a happy little shore to wash up on, free from costumed Santas tinkling bells and people getting trampled at Best Buy. There's no Bing Crosby, but you can be damn sure there's some Beyonce. (There is always Beyonce.)
Why such adamant resistance to the holidays?
A number of reasons, really. Admittedly, I don't like rules or instructions I haven't signed off on --arbitrary ones the most. So society instructing me, pressuring me, one inane Santa ad after another (the classic M&M one constituting the rare exception) to buy shit or wear this or send cards, is like a dude on the street telling me to smile. Getting in my face about being all rah-rah holidays feels like the noxious remark that I should "smile, sweetie!" I'll smile if I feel like smiling -- and *hint* it's never when I'm being told to do so by a stranger who's policing my body on the street.
Similarly, enforced "cheer"? Nauseating. Especially when it's just not-so-subtly-wrapped consumerism being foisted upon me in the name of "love" or "family" or "celebration of the season" or something. I'm all about celebrating and cherishing the people in my life -- I just don't need to massacre and decorate a tree to do it.
More than all that, the truth is that the holidays are painful. They are a pressure cooker, and any cracks -- or gaping holes -- that exist in our mental soundness, our ties to others, never fares well under this pressure, I find.
For me, as childhood fades further and further away in my memory, the whole holiday ordeal grows increasingly contrived. We are told to celebrate something. Macy's? Time off work? Each other? But in the process of all these celebrations, we tend to bump up against each other, exacerbating old wounds, possibly even adding salt to them. What was a mere carpet burn breaks the skin under this supposedly "jolly" duress. And a mandated dash to a crowded mall for gifts is no ointment. No number of books or wine openers or blankets or adorable kitten calendars is going to heal us.
There's too much loss for some of us. Too many missing seats at the would-be celebratory dinner tables.
And this is for the people who can manage to get out of bed at all. Because let's bear in mind, for some -- eviscerated by physical or mental ailments -- there is no way to get to the table. For others, getting to the table has no point, for there is no one else seated there. Others still? Have no table at all.
So for those racked by grief, illness, loss, those crippled by the injustices of the world, those cut off from loved ones, who just don't feel like engaging with the antics of this frantic season, I offer you respite on my little island. There's no eggnog here, but nor will anyone force an elf hat on you; there is a zero tolerance policy against forced gay apparel donning of any kind. In fact, nothing here is forced, contrived or artificial.
And this is exactly the most meaningful gift I feel I can offer: an announcement that the holidays are hard on me -- in a real way. That the coming days I approach with gritted teeth and a girding of my loins and nary an ounce of giddy anticipation.
I write this because I want to ward off shame. Silence invites shame in and shame is kind of like the giant Kool-Aid Man, it comes in, fucks up buildings and ruins perfectly good parties, leaving a path of destruction in his wake.
And there's enough destruction out there. So hang your shame on a hook at the entrance of the catacombs and come away with me if you need to. And if you can't make it, at least know I see you, I know you're there plugging away, just trying to make it through; I'm right there with you.
I won't close with a pithy comment about the benefits of wine during the holidays. Alcohol is not self-care, much as I've used it as a crutch in Decembers gone by. Nor will I close with an attempt at a hilarious zinger about family dysfunction. Because the last thing the world needs is more discrediting or trivializing of real angst and hardship.
So there will be no nice little bow to tie up my thoughts on the season. Just my casting a vote that if we must use packaging of any kind in this season of wrapping, trappings, and ribbon, let's bag the whole ordeal -- and try to be more compassionate to ourselves and each other all year long.