Searching for peace with the Christmas season

Don’t even talk to me about Christmas decorations, Christmas music and Christmas parties before Novemer 25th. I’ve been feeling blows to the head by the holiday behemoth since before Remembrance Day and I’m already tired of it.

It’s expensive, it’s fraught with expectations, how-tos, obligatory receptions, parties, gift-giving, specialized appetizers, too much booze and fake cheeriness.

Bah humbug.

No really – it is a great big commercial free-for-all, the one time of the year when our self-control (in spending and eating) and discipline (in getting exercise and taking care of our inner selves) is challenged. Big time.

I know some people just love Christmas (er – the holidays…) and I say good for them. I’ll gladly attend at least some of their parties and have a good time. I’m grateful for their hospitality and the fellowship it affords. I’m not averse to connecting with loved ones and having fun.

However, for me this is the most stressful time of year. I take consolation in the fact that I’m not alone (but contrary to popular belief, there is no spike in suicides this time of year).

I’m worried I am expected to return the hospitality and I just don’t work that way. For me, as a single gal prone to depression, the holidays are a minefield I must navigate. As a person who’s got three children, one grandchild, too much debt and one income, it’s difficult and exhausting to live up to the seasonal expectations.

In previous years I had an automatic Christmas fund savings plan set up at work, but then I changed jobs in March. Had I only read this article in July – “just a little bit of forethought right now can save you a ton of time, effort, cost, and heartache this December,” and worked through this holiday tracking sheet. I pride myself on being organized – but unfortunately I wasn’t that prescient this year

It’s not just the expense, it’s the stress of not living up to the big happy family myth. I stopped visiting my parental units at holiday time years ago – why deal with family drama when it’s cheaper and easier to get together at a less stressful time of year?

In fact, there is a picture somewhere in my mother’s possession of a 12-year-old Tori on Christmas morning curled up in my new beanbag chair with a new book, completely oblivious to everything else going on around me.

Truthfully, I’d rather just hole up somewhere by myself, read a book by a fireplace, pump Pinkham’s Christmas Cantata through my iTunes to my heart’s content for a couple of weeks until it all blows over.

So I’m of two minds about going back home to Saskatchewan for the holidays this year. the best part: I get to see my grandson! Besides, the timing seems convenient – it’s the time of year when work slows down, school is out and nearly everyone takes off anyway.

On the other hand – I’m anxious about it. I’ll travel on the busiest airline day of the year, navigate Regina streets in the middle of winter, compete with a large “coodle” of Grandmas and Grandpas surrounding little Oliver that includes two ex-husbands. Yes two – they’re both, along with their Significant Others, very involved in my children’s lives, and then there’s my daughter’s husband’s family. It’s a good thing for my daughter and grandchild and we all get along great. But still – there’s a reason I’m not married to these men anymore, right?

That’s a a lot going on for someone who would rather curl up with a book and enjoy the quiet in the midst of chaos. Maybe I will get that Kindle for Christmas after all … and whatever happened to that beanbag chair?

Sometime between now and Dec 23, I’ll have to reach some kind of detente with Christmas, at least for this year.

“Terrified” Christmas photo by Rumpleteaser; “Christmas Story” leg lamp photo by Kevin Dooley, both licensed under Creative Commons.