Ah the holidays. Joy oh joy oh joy.
I have not quite been in the spirit this year. I feel guilty about that because I’m a Jew raised by a Catholic who converted to Judaism, hence major genetic and cultural coding for guilt. I feel guilty because there are people who have just buried their children and loved ones…others who have lost homes from the storm. How can I be out of the spirit?
However or why, I just am. I of course managed to sequester those feelings enough so that I could enjoy and not damper my daughter’s Christmas and Hanukkah. She’s not quite two, but she knew Santa was bringing her presents and understood enough about Hanukkah to know that after we lit the menorah she would get a present. I certainly didn’t want to be the one to extinguish her joy. I managed to get her to Santa a second time after she cried during our first attempt. (The second attempt was much better.) I took her to light displays, had a Hanukkah party, and brought her out to see almost all of her family on a few different visits. I did what any mother would do: I squelched my feelings and moved on.
On Christmas Day I felt this despair that I couldn’t exactly put into words. Hormones had something to do with it, but I just felt as if all the holiday luster and expectations were just too much to really deal with. My own feelings about a multitude of issues seemed to just rear its ugly head. Work, life, money, family, etc. I also started to experience what I imagine is a post-traumatic stress response, triggered by discussion of babies; in particular, I received a card with a friend notifying the world that she was having another baby…this after having quite a few people ask me what my intentions were for expanding (or not) my family size really shook me. All of a sudden,I’m noticing multiple triggers reminding me of my last pregnancy. From smells to television shows, these “triggers” bring on a feeling of incredible loss.
I can’t help but think to myself how maybe this wouldn’t be so bad if it weren’t Christmastime.
Hanukkah is not really a major major Jewish holiday, but thanks to when it falls, it’s become bigger. Still, Hanukkah is a slow tease with dispersed pressure. Christmas is an intense all-day orgy, ending abruptly . For those of you who would prefer a drug comparison, Hanukkah is a slow toke of a joint, while Christmas is a 24 hour coke bender–it builds up with excitement all month long, only to end in a short day or two day’s period. You’re left with the rush over and instead, a bunch of stuff to put away, pounds to physically deal with, and acid reflux from eating too much.
We can’t help it. We log on to social networks. We call or text our friends. We compare what we have to what others have. Who can afford more gifts. Who can’t afford gifts. Whose families and in-laws are amazing and have these intimate and wonderful holiday bashes, while others have no one or dread seeing whomever they have to see.
The holidays act as this brief snapshot of what is happening in your life. Are you broke? Single? Divorcing? Wealthy? Married? Are you alone, or surrounded by a joyous group of people?
It’s not the most wonderful time of the year for many people. Christmas is a time of loss, loneliness, stress, and pain. Most people know this, yet no one talks about it. No one says to a total stranger, “Merry Christmas. I hope you’re not experiencing too much stress or depression due to the holidays. I hope you don’t feel totally inadequate. I hope your wallet isn’t severely suffering.”
No, we all act like everything is just dandy, and sure, of course we are just so jolly we can’t even contain our happiness.
There’s nothing wrong with Christmas cheer, if only it were for the original intention.