Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Distancing Myself

Although the poet says "April is the cruelest month," in my experience, December bears that distinction. Every year it becomes harder for me to bear the expectations, the obligations, the commercialization, the frenzy that surrounds the holidays occurring in this last month of the year.

In my childhood, I adored Christmas - especially the tree. I was enthralled by the concept of bringing a real tree into the house! My dad and grandfather struggling to straighten it in the red metal stand, my mother and grandmother shouting directions - "over this way!" "No, it's leaning forward!" "to the right a little more!" - until finally it was secured, and we could hang the ornaments. Each one of my favorites would could out of a little nest in it's plastic container, and I could carefully hook the skinny metal wire over the tree branch. Once the ornaments were hung, the multi-colored lights casting a rosy glow over the room, I would get my favorite book and blanket, curl up under the tree, and read until bedtime.

Of course, the food was wonderful at Christmas time. My grandmother, a true Southern cook, always filled the house with smells of pies and cakes, baked ham, roasted turkey with her incomparable homemade cornbread stuffing...it's no wonder I had to buy my clothes in the the "Chubby" department.

My childhood Christmas' were idyllic - at least in retrospect. I wonder if the adults in my family felt as harried and cynical about the season then as I feel about it now. I hope not - I like to believe in the image of a simpler time, when life was less driven by consumerism and greed.

I blame my husband for the way my feelings about December have changed - or at least, my husband's family. My in-laws were two of the most difficult people I have ever met. They were argumentative, pessimistic, and generally joyless. Yet they had this "thing" about holidays - the family was supposed to be together, even if "the family" was fractured, dysfunctional, and miserable. I rarely enjoyed Christmas - or any holiday for that matter - after I met Jim.

Even though they are no longer in the picture - my father in law long dead, and my mother in law lost in her own demented world where holidays no longer exist - the holiday season is fraught with too many unvoiced obligations and expectations. They weigh on my mind and heart, collecting steam like an avalanche, as the days of the month roll by.

In recent years, I've been distancing myself from December, backing up to the periphery of the month and peering in at all the hype and hoopla. I procrastinate all the December duties as long as I can, somehow hoping that the spirit will strike me before the stores have sold all the good gifts, and I've let all the postal deadlines pass.

I would like to be able to throw myself into the preparations for this season, to have high hopes and glorious expectations. I want more than anything to have one shining moment during these December days when I feel at peace. But, I can't bring myself to step closer, to bridge that distance between me and December.

So here I am, on the outside looking in, a wallflower at the December dance.

Biding my time 'til it's over.

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11 Comments:

Blogger deirdre said...

I sometimes feel the same way about Christmas - fractured family, too much rushing, too much commercialism. I used to love, love Christmas and am sad that's changed.

I hope you find your shining moment, that it surprises you with all those remembered joys, if even for just a little while. xoxo

12/12/2007  
Blogger jzr said...

I usually feel the same way Becca, but this year I'm getting into the spirit ... not the hype! I'm giving homemade gifts or gifts of donations to good causes, not going near any mall and just generally trying to be as serene as I can possibly be. And it's working!!

Hope you can find a way through it all and enjoy it too!

12/12/2007  
Blogger bella rum said...

I've had a difficult time with December for many years also. It's hard to believe it, but last year and this one have been easier in a way, because other responsibilities have come forward. It made it necessary for me to release some of the December obligations and obligations is what they have become.

I bet your parents did enjoy it more because they lived in a time before Christmas became so huge. The expectations were lower. The gifts were simpler.

There's no way we can live up to that "Christmas card image." We're only human.

I hope you can find a little peace and a moment or two of pure joy before it's all over.

Having said that, I'm a big fan of the New Year. New beginnings have always appealed to me.

12/12/2007  
Blogger Tammy said...

I felt similar to this until this year. I wanted Christmas the "old" way just once in my new house. I made it happen and let obligations be darned.

We'll talk next year as I probably will go back to obligation hell.

BIG HUGS

12/12/2007  
Blogger June said...

Well said! Trust me when I say you're not alone in these feelings. I admire (envy?) people who bother to decorate their houses and the fun of it all is seemingly alive and well...or is it? Perhaps their decorating is one more obligation they feel they must do. It's all become too much for me. I go to a Christmas Eve service and then a Christmas dinner at a Chinese restaurant with friends. The end.

12/12/2007  
Blogger Writer bug said...

I'm sure there are a million people who feel the same way you do. I wonder if creating a new tradition would help--even if it's just making sure you have time to sit, read, and drink tea in front of the tree once a week? Or maybe Christmas just isn't your thing anymore. That's fine too! I think it's trouble whenever anyone--society, family, ourselves--tell us to feel a certain way.

12/12/2007  
Blogger Inland Empire Girl said...

What an honest post. It is hard in our "Christmas frenzy" world to put that in writing. I especially liked your closing. About a year ago I had a major meltdown and with the help of my therapist began to decide what I really wanted to do and what I was "supposed " to do. This year is calmer and more simple so far. I also love to focus more on winter decor and celebrating in January when I put up snowflakes, snowmen, and glittery white. It helps me get through the dark time. Just take your time and do what feels right. Be good to yourself.

12/12/2007  
Blogger Inland Empire Girl said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

12/12/2007  
Blogger Michele said...

Aaaawww, Becca, I feel so sad for you ;'(

I understand what you're saying though. It seems the true Christmas joy is overrun by greediness and people that will plow you down to get to that item on the shelf behind you.

I remember holidays in my grandma's kitchen. Like you recall it seems now like those times were so much happier, simpler, and so filled with holiday spirit that was just infectious!

I pray a Christmas miracle happens for you... one that will put that special love for Christmas back in your heart where it belongs ;-)

Your blogger bud whose been missin' ya,
Michele
Writing the Cyber Highway

12/13/2007  
Blogger Tori said...

Becca,
I read this post after writing one about the same sort of feelings last night. I love how the blog world unites so that I don't feel like I am the only one that feels a certain way.

12/13/2007  
Blogger paris parfait said...

Sometimes I feel sad at Christmas - I think many people do, particularly with all the commercialism, expectations and obligations. It's exhausting and takes away from the true meaning and spirit of Christmas.

12/18/2007  

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