An Extravaganza of Heartache

I’ve had a very uneasy relationship with the forced fake frivolity of Christmas celebrations for most of my adult life.

This year will be my 55th Christmas on this earth and I think it’s probably time I sorted it all out for myself psychologically once and for all. Basically the generally recognised concept of a traditional family Christmas represents for me an extravaganza of heartache, not happiness. The main issue seems to be that in my head I long ago internalised a highly idealised, fixed-focus view of how Christmas should be that is truly troublesome for me; a view I dispute and disagree with fundamentally and that has never been my personal desired reality anyway.

My extrovert mum loves (and has always loved) all the surface trappings and trimmings of a traditional family Christmas – the bigger the better. She puts up several different-sized Christmas trees over the entire house, creates Christmas dioramas, adds copious amounts of Christmas decorations all over, and really goes to town with a flurry of festive present-planning and seasonal socialising. Her vision has always been that everyone joins in harmoniously and ‘does their bit’ to help her create and fulfil her ideal dream of a wonderfully happy family life – the more the merrier in all things Christmassy.

However anyone who doesn’t share her overly-enthusiastic view – and ‘anyone’ here historically means her introvert depressive daughter, in other words, me – rather than being left alone in peace to do their own thing is accused of deliberately ‘spoiling Christmas for everyone else’. Yet another nit-picking nail added to my life-long ‘not good enough’ coffin. So it has aways felt to me that my birth family’s one-size-fits-all, over-the-top approach to Christmas celebrations was created as an added challenge to force people-pleasing me yet again to consider others’ desires while ignoring my own personal preferences.

Over the years, as my own children grew up and created their own scattered versions of Christmas after their father and I divorced, it gradually became far easier for me simply to say ‘I don’t do Christmas’ and to withdraw from it all wholesale than to stand up and say to my parents ‘I won’t continue to be party to the painful pretence of perfection that requires the aggressive application of emotional blackmail and behavioural manipulation channeled in my direction in order to create an illusion of familial festive fun for the rest of you at the cost of my personal sense of worth’. Because after all, why spoil things for everyone else…

But surely by now and at my age there should be ample room in my head for many different, equally legitimate ways to spend Christmas? Why in my mind’s eye does it still have to be an extrovert extravaganza or nothing? Why isn’t the offer of peace and goodwill to all men a two-way street in my brain, why should I continue to feel I should always be the one expected to sacrifice my peace and offer my goodwill all the time to make others feel better? What’s wrong with me as a depressive introvert preferring to spend Christmas quietly, intimately, differently, and not necessarily alone – but still being allowed to celebrate Christmas in my own way? And the answer, of course, is ‘nothing’.

I’ve been working so hard this year to try to finally lay that old ‘not good enough’ coffin to rest, and part of that ongoing exercise is to re-evaulate my difficult and decidedly dysfunctional relationship with all things Christmas. So this year I’m going to try to resist the resistance and actively embrace the concept of Christmas with compassion and consideration for my own happiness, and see where my newborn confidence takes me… ❤

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