What I’m Doing Right for Christmas 2016
Christmas 2016 and I’m tired. No, weary. No…. No, let’s call it what it is. I’m exhausted. Muscle, bone, spirit.
There’s always a lot of talk this time of the year about what Christmas really means and what the real reason for season is, whether it’s Jesus or axis tilt. There’s lot of arguing over whether to wish, somewhat aggressively and occasionally belligerently, that everyone have a “Merry Christmas” instead of “Happy Holidays.” I find that most people make the season much harder than it needs to be, and for many people, it’s already hard. There will always be people who grieve that they can’t be with loved ones and the merry-making of others cuts deep as a comparison to and amplification of their own lack of comfort and joy. People tend to be extremely sad or extremely stressed, with a happy few out there, and all of them pressured constantly to buy, buy, buy and worship the gods of commercialism.
I decided several years ago, after I became a single mom, to make the Christmas season as stress-free as possible. Don’t over commit. Simplify. Paper plates and plastic cups work great!
Christmas 2016 is no exception to that self-imposed rule. Make it easy. Especially this year. I’m not sure how much more I can take. I really need it easy. Please. Please?
This year, 2016, was one of the worst I’ve endured in a long time, and it’s not over yet. It was the first year that my word for the year failed me (Joy) and my mantra for the year was hard-won (Level up). It was the year I watched villainous Negan on “The Walking Dead” beat two of my favorite characters to death with a barbed wire-wrapped baseball bat and I felt it was anti-climactic to how the rest of my autumn had gone. There wasn’t enough willpower left in me to even flinch. It wasn’t the most horrific idea I’d witnessed all year, whether in fiction or worse, in truth. So I needed easy for Christmas 2016. Low-key, and easy.
I did two things, just two minor things, to lessen the stress this Christmas.
- Instead of putting up my huge tree with all its ornaments, I bought a cheap-looking stand-up tree, the kind that’s already decorated and you just stand it up out of the box and you’re done. The old tree is too big for me to handle alone and the only family member who wants to help me with it is seldom home, and though everyone loves that tree, it usually falls to me to decorate and later take down. It’s become a burden over the last few years, and the source of family stress. So I bought something more convenient to make life easier for me. I still get my tree but in about hours less time.
- With the exception of my kids helping when they could, putting up lights outside has always fallen to me, even in the years when I had a spouse watching TV inside the house while I was on a ladder outside. It’s another job that no one really wants to help me do or is around to help me do, and it takes hours of my time. Plus, I’m nervous about being on a shaky ladder with no one to watch out for me–with the exception of the old geezer in the neighborhood who likes to watch me from the privacy of his garage. So this year, I put lights on 4 bushes that are easy to get to, and then bought one of those laser light shows. I think they’re cool to have on the back patio during the rest of the year, but they fill in the gaps in my regular Christmas lights out front and it makes life easier.
These seem silly, right? Two minor things I’ve done to give me a tree and lights with minimal stress so I can put my limited time on things I’d rather do and with people I’d rather spend my time with, right?
Instead, I got people telling me how wrong I was. That I should have not taken the easy way out with a pop-up tree. That I was cheating by putting up laser lights. Picture me with a great big frown on my face, blinking, saying, “Um, excuse me???”
I was polite though. Actually what I wanted to say was, “Why does my easy-peasy decorating bother you when it’s all I’ve got the energy to handle this year? Is that ALL you have to worry about this year? You’re not offering to help but you sure have a lot to say. Is it easier to find fault with what I’m doing than to figure out how you’re going to pay the bill that accidentally came to my house? Is it easier to find fault with me than to get your grope-happy husband into counseling? Is it easier to find fault with me than to talk to your kids about the alcohol they’re drinking behind my house? I’m glad you have no problems and my decorating is such a priority.”
But I don’t say anything. All I can do is shake my head.
I’m like most people I know when it comes to Christmas 2016. This was a difficult year in ways that we never expected, far beyond which beloved pop icons died. For me, the first 9 months were daily hell as I fought for something important to me. In the Spring, I was the most fragile emotionally that I have ever been, ever, and would have given up and given in except for one person who got me through it…only for me to see him later lose his mind and turn into someone I don’t recognize. I struggled with a health issue, to change matters so that I could heal it without surgery. I struggled through the resurrection of long-buried childhood abuse, triggered in the worst way by the Presidential election. I avoided family members who just couldn’t shut up about their candidate, and whose comments just added to the weight of childhood memories I couldn’t shake off.
I’m ending the year breathing steadily, tentatively, just getting through it the best I can, with family members I’ll see being few and far between, with an invitation to a friend who’s as alone as I am to join me so she’s not lonely. With the usual sharing of kids with the other side of the family. I cannot miss the fact that I’m “alone” again this year, during a year that began in such a way that I didn’t think it would end alone, one that I thought might end finally with someone sharing my home with me and enjoying the warmth of my heart. It confounds me, yet again, that I know some truly awful people who are never alone, who go from partner to partner to partner, and will spend this Christmas with others doing for them, with all the festivities of family and friends, and never without a lover. It never seems fair. I’ve done the work on myself, and I have my life together, but Christmas seems the appropriate marker to see which of us is spending the season alone and which is not. Not that not being alone is always a good thing. I’ve had a partner sharing my home before, and I put up the tree alone, took it down alone, put up the lights alone, took them down alone, made dinner and shopped, and bought presents for his employees and his family, and cleaned up after his friends’ visit, and I don’t want to go back to any of that. I wasn’t alone but I was too stressed, too unhappy. This can’t be an either/or. It just can’t be.
All I really want for the rest of this calendar year is peace and, if I can get it, joy.
So we’ll see where life takes me in 2017, and we’ll see if I end the next Christmas season alone. In any case, if I don’t have help, I’m sure I’ll still be doing a pop-up tree and laser lights. If that’s the easy way out that offends some people, so be it.