Tuesday, December 25, 2012

When your holiday is disappointing

We have all been there. Starting as a child, December is one long month set up to leave you feeling disappointed - in yourself, in others, in the way the roast turned out, in the future of humanity.

The hype is almost impossible to live up to.

We had a very quiet holiday this year, by design. We didn't make plans, didn't make an effort, didn't make a fuss. Thanksgiving is always huge, and our Christmas celebration - or lack thereof - is in stark contrast to the crowds and laughter of my favorite holiday. Even thought we planned it that way, and knew it was going to be a quiet day, it was still kind of a strange feeling - to be without plans on Christmas feels......wrong. The truth is that while people can feel lonely or left out at any time, it can be hardest during the holidays. And this is about that.

The holiday blues can begin before Kindergarten, and I'm here to tell you, it doesn't get better as an adult.

Your first taste of disappointment might come as the last Hannukah candle burns out, or when the sun sets on Christmas day, and you are sitting in an avalanche of shredded wrapping paper and discarded gift bags, surrounded by toys and games and clothes and sticky candy wrappers - but not the one thing you really wanted. You didn't know you really wanted it, of course, until you didn't get it. You keep looking around, checking under the tree or behind the armchair just one more time for a forgotten package. Re check all of the gift bags to make sure you didn't miss anything. You didn't.

But of course, the disappointment can be completely unrelated to gifts. I have had disappointing Winter Solstices, too, where the drum circle felt off-tempo and my woolen hood was itching me and I lost my walking stick and a squirrel ate my granola. The bottom line is: this entire season is wrapped up in a pretty bow and covered in twinkling lights and if you aren't shitting tinsel then you are doing it wrong. Right? It really doesn't matter how well you prepare. It doesn't matter how firmly you resolve to have a great holiday, or create a lasting tradition. It doesn't matter how fantastic your Thanksgiving was. It doesn't matter how thoughtfully you shop, or how beautiful your wrapping paper.

The holidays are not necessarily what you make of them. Sometimes they are fantastic, sometimes underwhelming, and sometimes they are a total shit show from start to finish. But ultimately, it's out of your hands, no matter how carefully you have planned - or not planned - the day.

You can still find yourself frantically digging through the attic at 5am for "Santa" wrapping paper that is different from the paper you wrapped all the other gifts with, because you woke up out of a sound sleep realizing that you hadn't done that yet, because someone gave you a pot cookie after dinner on Christmas Eve as a joke HAHAHAHA and the rest of the night got away from you. And there you are, in your underwear, still kind of stoned, crawling under the tree trying to decide which gifts are going to be from Santa, because the delivery guy gave the box with the Santa gifts to your kid - and the box had its contents printed on it. So the kid has known about the big box with the fucking pogo stick in the attic for 2 weeks now.

And then comes the moment when you realize that Santa is going to be giving really shitty gifts this year, and you want to just ditch the entire wrapping ordeal, but you know you cannot do that - your seven year old still believes, dammit. Or at least, she wants you to think she still believes so that she will keep getting Santa gifts - which even at the age of seven she knows are always better than the gifts of socks and new underwear from mom and dad.

And then you put a few things in the stocking - really just items you picked out to fill the space, from the dollar bin at the store. You realize that you have nothing for your stocking or your husband's stocking, so you start emptying the fruit drawer and the pantry into your stockings so they wont be empty. You find a Tupperware of lollipops the kids got for Halloween that you stashed for those nights when you really need a cigarette but don't want to shell out $11 for a pack of American Spirits that will, ultimately, give you a hangover and make you feel guilty. You stick one of those in the top and then wonder how long it will be until you can eat it. Because you really need a fucking cigarette.

And then, after all of that, you are wide awake. You can wait for the kids to wake up. You can call your mother who informs you that the box of gifts you mailed had some broken bits, and missing tags. Your father is gluing the bowl you sent for your brother back together, good as new.  When the kids tiptoe into the living room, they barely look at the gifts - the ones from Santa or the ones from you and certainly not the fucking pogo stick - because they are obsessed with the "farting putty" and the "galactic ooze" in the stockings, which, it turns out, stain fabric and skin and the wood floor.

And then you can field phone calls from well-meaning relatives wanting to know what you got and whether it fits and if you like it and who you are with and what you have planned for the rest of the day. Sometimes you make some shit up just so you don't sound completely pathetic.

And then you can spend the day listlessly playing with your gifts because you didn't make any plans, and asking how much longer until breakfast. Then lunch. Then joining the masses of other people going to the movies, to watch people die in various and sundry ways on a very large screen in stereo so you can hear the very last gasp. Which coincides with the popcorn running out.

And then you can drive around town looking for a restaurant that is both open and doesn't require reservations or a platinum card to enjoy dinner. When you realize your options are McDonalds or Jack in the Box, and you look in the rearview mirror and see your kids looking back at you, you can tell yourself that you are not that desperate.

And then you can give up and go home and eat leftovers and complain about how your new bamboo towels aren't as absorbent as good old terry cloth, and how the fudge is too melty, and your new socks make your feet sweat, and wish someone would bring you another pot cookie.

And you can vow (again) that next year will be different, as you pull on your sweatpants and crawl into bed with a carton of eggnog and a $2 box of chocolates. The day - this day you have been dreading for months - is finally over.



Peach said...

without going into it, I'll just say I empathize, agree with and wholeheartedly second this post. For different reasons, but no less of a letdown. Hallelujah is right. NEXT. xox

Sheri said...

I love you for writing this and just in general. This was the worst Christmas I've had in a decade and there's no logical reason it shouldn't have been the best. It's nice to not be alone in the Bah Humbug spirit.