For the biggest chunk of my adult life, I’ve been pretty ambivalent about the holidays. Since I’m an atheist, there’s no particular religious significance associated with the season. The biggest deal for me now is that–funerals excepted–it’s pretty much the only time my whole extended family gets together. And in all honest, even that is only so much of a pull…
When I lived in San Francisco, I almost never went home for Christmas week. My parents were pretty understanding about this; it’s really the most miserable time of the year to travel. I usually made the trek in January, when things calmed down. Sometimes I had a small gathering in SF with friends but I usually never made a very big deal out of the day.
Things changed a bit when Mark and I coupled. He was really into Christmas and liked to decorate and go all out with the presents, a trend which escalated when we moved back east. I was surprisingly good at mustering enthusiasm; it seemed to get him really excited and I have to admit I enjoyed waking up and sitting in the basement by the fire opening presents after years of being alone on Christmas morning. It brought back a little of the childhood excitement. But it was still more his holiday than mine, really. Left to my own devices, I probably wouldn’t have made as much of a fuss.
Mark was also more inclined than I’d been to visit his parents at Christmas, so every other year I found myself making that cross-country holiday flight I’d managed to avoid for so long. And yeah, that produced a certain dread every year; I’d have preferred to make that trip pretty much any other time of year.
We spent Christmas of 2010 in California as well. This one was different, though, because Mark wasn’t going to be coming back to North Carolina with me. We weren’t officially splitting up at this point, but it was obvious the end was near. So basically I spent Christmas watching my marriage disintegrate. That kind of sucked. Later, I’d also recognize that this would have been my last chance to spend a normal Christmas with my parents. That kind of sucked, too.
Christmas of 2011 continued this cheery trend. It was my first “single” Christmas in a decade. And just a couple of weeks before, we’d put my mom into Alzheimer’s care. So she was a mess, my dad was a mess, and I was a mess. I’d never really cared less about the holidays than I did this year. It was a nightmare and I was incredibly relieved when it ended.
Last Christmas, I decided I just didn’t care anymore. I determined that I would do the bare minimum necessary to get through the required festivities. This was the year that Christmas officially became an obstacle to overcome and an annoyance to ignore as much as possible. I bought no presents. I avoided the music and the decorations. I skipped every damned bit of it that I could. Yes, part of this was a function of the pretty major depression I was dealing with, but I think it was also a recognition of the fact that Christmas hadn’t mattered very much to me for years and was really not worth the effort anymore.
And I’m pretty much still there this year. Since last Christmas, I’ve lost my dad and my mom has deteriorated quite a bit. If I didn’t feel compelled to make an appearance with her at the family gathering, I’d leave town for the week and probably have a much better time skipping the whole damned thing. It’s not the depression speaking anymore. In fact, part of me is really excited at the prospect of eventually being able to look forward to the last week in December as a vacation rather than dreading the chore it has become in the guise of a holiday I don’t celebrate. Does that make me sound awful? If it does, I don’t really care.
Bet you figured that out already…