Holidays and the meanings they once held (Topic#032)

Drawing of a dog carrying a candy cane

Drawing of a dog carrying a candy cane. Drawn for my parents’ Christmas card this year.

I am on clonazepam again tonight, so I don’t know if I’ll make it through this post. Clonazepam is my nighttime anxiety medicine that also helps me to fall asleep and suppedly has an 0ff-label use of helping with restless leg syndrome, which I have. It’s also one of the few anti-anxiety medicines that doesn’t leave me with a hangover feeling the next day, so I like it. This marks the second time I’ve used it in over a month.

Holidays. How did they get to this? What meaning did they once hold?

When I was a child, Christmas was the pinnacle of holidays. I had so much anticipation and excitement wrapped all around it. We hung stockings by the fireplace, although I was never sure if they should be near the wood stove or the more decorative fireplace. Only a couple of times did my brother and I place out cookies and milk.

Personally, I thought it was stupid because Santa was going to have access to SO many cookies by the time he reached our house, there’s no way he’d want even more. But I figured I’d eat whatever was leftover the next morning.

Christmas time was special for me. The lights were special (except any green lights, which scared me thanks to horror/scary movies). The little, fake tree with the lights was special. Hanging up the same ornaments on the tree each year was special. But the most special of all was the music. My whole family would gather around the piano and play and sing Christmas carols. Somehow, that included, “Those Were The Days”. My mom and I could play/sing that one over and over and over again and it was very special for me.

I slept downstairs, in the room next to the fireplace. Sometimes, my brother slept downstairs with me, too. Before I fell asleep, I would stay up for long periods of time, praying (remember, I was not raised to an organized religion. I had built up my own religous/spritiual beliefs and they were extremely strong and meaningful to me). I prayed. I meditated. I sat in peace and joy, watching the patterns of the Christmas lights strung sloppily around the walls (I was not a perfectionist about hanging them up). I’d watch the tree lights. It was peaceful, private, and wonderful. Although it would be hard to fall asleep, I slept soundly and never heard a thing. Somehow, presents were deposited in the room by the fireplace.

It was terribly exciting but also, I did not feel I deserved any presents.

We always spent the day together as a family. We had a special breakfast and lunch, courtesy of my mom. We nearly always went on a ski that day. It’s part of the tradition. For dinner, we often either ate at our neighbor’s house or had the neighbors come to our house. It was wonderful and peaceful. Sometimes we played card games after dinner.

MARRIAGE. Marriage. At first, we tried to preserve our own traditions and meaningful times. We struggled between attending his parents and my own parents. On our first year together, I think we tried to hit both at different times.

I haven’t yet mentioned that holidays stress my ex out very badly. The first holiday didn’t work for me. Splitting between two families was too stressful and hectic and left no quality time for either location. So we decided to alternate. One year here, the next year there.

But something changed and could never go back to how it was before. Holidays became more of people walking on eggshells, people making small talk, people just trying to get along. The meaning was lost. It was just a meal or a ski and the pressure was high and the stress was palpable. Nobody could relax into the old way of being. It was just different and tense and stressful.

I could no longer connect spiritually. I couldn’t have a moment in silence to pray and contemplate the Christmas lights and the tree and the peace and solitude and personal meaning of it all.

That was all gone for me. I greived for a while but after several years had given up. For me, holidays became meaningless aside from just another meal with the family, which was fine. But no special significance or meaning.

I tried to do some reasarch on my own; study religions-of-the-world on my own, but the feel was gone and it was just a ball of grief and giving up. It because just another day.

In one of the final years of the marriage, I did suggest we make our own holiday traditions — have our own dinner and find our own way. But that did not go over well, because certain parents could not forgive our absence. We were controlled by my in-laws, literally (in more ways than just that).

How could I connect in any spiritual way when spending that time with a family who spent most of the time with raised voices, getting angry with the children and each other, and being very particular about the food (not eating anything my husband brought, which was very hurtful. Granted he CHOSE to disrepect his mum’s decision to stop eating bell peppers and cooked with them anyway. So). It’s all so complicated.

The worst part was how stressed my ex got around holidays. He was almost on the verge of panic (aka rage) at all times. I remember once we were driving home from a dinner and his car was making this annoying clicking noise up in the dashboard somewhere. It had been doing it on and off for months. But on this night, he just lost it and started punching it hard. It didn’t change the clicking of course, but he did damage his knuckles. And lost ever more trust and respect from me, sadly.

So now? I don’t know what to think of holidays. Mostly, I feel they are a time to get through rather than to relax and enjoy. I’m scared of the potential things that could happen. People get drunk here and could say things they should keep private. There’s going to be a lot of people at this upcoming meal who have never met each other, and there’s always the chance that they won’t get along.

I have one dish I’m going to prepare. I’ll buy the ingredients tomorrow afternoon (our main dinner isn’t until Friday). People are arriving already. My aunt and my brother both arrived today (and my cousin arrives soon). And already, I was not connected to reality when my brother came in. Not for any particular reason, but I was fixated on the fact that the dog I was walking had a TICK in her skin, and I got so absorbed into that that I failed to notice that my brother had just come down the train steps and was standing beside me!!! What a welcome from me. “OMFG IS THAT A TICK?!” Yes, it was, and had obviously been there a long while. Even though I groomed her just the other day and didn’t notice any lumps at that point! So what the heck.

So we are having a meal tomorrow with some relatives I’ve never met, and the main one on Friday, with many people I’ve never met.

So I need to come up with something positive to focus on. First of all, the food is going to be amazing. Second of all.

I’m stressed because That MFing Topic came up tonight. I was with my aunt in the dog area, helping to clean and vacuum the whole area, in case of ticks. When we finally finished that, I went upstairs to see my uncle and my brother sharing That Topic!!!!!!!!!!!! Is there any point anymore? And they were about to go Upstairs to their own private party. Thanks a lot!!! I know, I KNOW, I am being so ungrateful. Just be grateful I’m allowed to live here. I don’t have to be included.

Included in things that I MYSELF STARTED but you’ve forgotten about that and now don’t allow me to participate. But you showed my brother! I’m not allowed to tell a SOUL but you went and showed my brother behind my back.

Yeah. Fucking topic. I’m SO so done with this. The jealousy, the pain, the feeling SO left out and pushed to the outskirts and left alone and ignored and forgotten. That’s what comes up in me. It isn’t rational, but it’s there. This topic is going to cause me nothing but pain. It has to stop. I MUST come up with a way to be at peace with it and accepting of it.

What you told me was “ours” and were so excited about, you later tried on your own while I was still at work, and did that again and again and again, and then when I finally swallowed my hurt enough to inquire about it, you declined sharing and said it would not be healthy for me.

It’s feeling like I am a brainless child, unable to make my own decisions about myself and my health that bothers me.

BUT, to calm the FUCK down, I have to remember, I’m the one who came here falling to pieces. I’m the one prone to mental illness.

But if I was going to live a life where other people decide for me what I can and cannot do, I may as well have stayed married. I may as well NOT be trying to start a new life for myself as an independent-ish adult.

BLAH. Sorry for the dump of negativity. I’ll bounce back again; I always do.

Back to the positives to focus on and get me through! First, the food is going to be amazing. Second, my brother is here and I can talk with him. Third, my cousin will be here and maybe I can get to talk with him

and maybe he’ll invite his friends at some point too, and I can talk with them again. Lastly, family. Acceptance. Be at peace. Try to just listen to others talk. Just listen and be present. Go down and pet the dogs as needed.

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