By Anne T. Donahue
I hate this Christmas. I hate it more than I hate most things, and as everybody here knows: I hate a lot.
But this Christmas is especially bad. This Christmas is based in fear and loneliness and debilitating anxiety, and what’s worse is that we basically all have to lead ourselves through it because the majority of our elected officials are sentient cheese slices who believe small announcements about nothing helpful will make us feel safe.
At this point, I know I’m not alone when I say I’m numb to the fact that everything is on fire. Currently, I’m doing an impression of a normal person who knows how to be alive, slogging through any/all responsibilities and eating cookies for breakfast because fuck you. (Don’t worry: I’m referring only to my enemies, not you, a person I probably adore.) Which, of course, makes Christmas cheer next to impossible. You want me to be merry? To feel joy? To pretend that line-ups in the cold for rapid test kits and booster shots are a good and wonderful thing that is going perfectly to plan? To ignore the compounded grief stemming from two years of pandemic and then some? (Hello, I’m too tired to go into the heartbreak this year brought because this is also what grief looks like.) To celebrate . . . well, anything? No. I cannot. And I won’t! And because I know I’m hardly the only person to be feeling the effects of having one’s head implode and heart ripped out, I am going to do the only thing I know how to do: I am going to pep talk you to no end, because holy shit, I wish someone would pep talk me.
Recognize and respect your comfort zone
If anybody on the planet gives you grief for cancelling plans or choosing to hunker down with your cat, dog, and/or partridge in a pear tree, goodbye forever. Did I even need to tell you this? Probably not, but just in case: you don’t have to do a blessed thing you don’t want to do. It’s a pandemic. Our hope has been extinguished. We are all scared as hell, and we would also like to avoid giving the people we like and love (and giving ourselves) a highly-contagious virus. And get this: you don’t even need to say that to anybody. Your get out of jail free card this year if you not wanting to participate, thank you for the invite. You do not have to tailor an apology, you do not have to suck it up and just go to the mixer, you do not have to do anything that makes your gut light up and scream “what the fuck are you doing?” Survival – mental, physical, emotional – is paramount. Which means you call the shots on where you want your body to be.
Mute the cheer
Bless everyone’s beautiful hearts, but I’m not in the headspace to watch someone show off their interior décor via Instagram, a place I go to for memes and laughs. Frankly, I just can’t see this shit. This year, my mom and I bought a Christmas tree and then left it in the box because we realized that the first Christmas after losing my dad and my grandpa, the tree can go to hell because we just don’t want to deal with that shit. (It’s still in its box, ready for next year if we decide to set it free.) So dial it down. Take the decorations down if you actually can’t bear to see them. Don’t begin decorating at all if the idea is the most tiring thought in the world. Mute the so-happy-it’s-Christmas people because some of them are probably friends, and you can’t unfollow without it being a thing, so make the only compromise you need to. I don’t know who can possibly be truly happy this month/year/season, but I do know that they are not for me right now. Congratulations on your DIY, it looks wonderful, if I have to see anything related again, I will walk all the way to your home and scream.
Minute by minute, just get through it
Today I was blow-drying my hair (glamour!) and I had a revelation: Christmas amidst the grief tornado is simply akin to exams. And all exams ask of us is to get through them. Just go in, sit down, write the damn thing, and move on with your life. And friends, I will be taking that ethos with me as I make my way through the Christmas forest, white knuckling an oversize candy cane that I will use ala Gandalf should any person I’m not expecting come into contact with me. Christmas is but a day. (Shut up, I will not get into Christmas Week right now. The other day (Tuesday) I cried during an episode of Below Deck, so we can agree that my psyche is, well, terribly damaged and I am hollow inside.) It is a day, and it is to be taken minute by minute should that be the speed you require. It is not the culmination of your life, it needn’t define your worth or how much you are loved. It is a holiday. Like May 2-4, but somehow more sad. Holiday movies like to make us think that a good Christmas defines a good life, but movies also allowed for four incarnations of the Joker, so what the fuck do they know? Exactly.
It is a day. A 24-hour window where everything’s closed because life is unfair. It is what you choose it to be, and it’s also allowed to just suck. You are allowed to be miserable and to feel like garbage and to miss the people you’re usually with, or miss the people who aren’t here to be with anymore. You can be bitter, you can be angry, you can be scared of COVID for the second straight year. You can be tired or relieved or made of linguine, warm and bundled up amidst a bed of melted cheese. You cannot do Christmas “wrong” because that’s a sentence that doesn’t make any sense because it isn’t real. You can just get through it, which is your task. And then it will be done, we’ll all be depressed in January, and we can continue to see what fresh hell awaits us.
And frankly, that takes energy. And I hope I was able to amp yours up a little in time for Saturday. If not, join me, a person who is dreading this cursed day so much that I will be spending some of it commenting, “Elf on the Shelf is propaganda of the surveillance state” on anyone’s photos of it. Also, drinking gravy like a beverage, but that’s just my regular Saturday tradition.
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